Dec 18 — 2nd O Antiphon – O Adonai

Thursday December 18

I am writing today’s post by candle & oil lamp light as DTE takes the first steps toward a renovation of UDM’s McNichols electrical infrastructure.  When power goes out,  the building goes quiet — no compressors,  no fans — remarkable how those sounds of living with an electric light & power grid come to feel natural.  The stillness inside the house allows sounds from outside to get some attention, traffic from Livernois can whisper and be noticed so that it is not only sirens that reminds us that we work in a city.   While writing this at 7:40 power returned to our building, compressors and fans return to their duties and so do we.

Robert Frost writes about dim light as an essential need.  Here is his poem, posted to celebrate a morning begun with batteries, candles and some stillness.

Robert Frost “The Literate Farmers and the Planet Venus”

Here come the stars to character the skies,
And they in the estimation of the wise
Are more divine than any bulb or arc,
Because their purpose is to flash and spark,
But not to take away the precious dark.
We need the interruption of the night
To ease attention off when overtight,
To break our logic in too long a flight,
And ask us if our premises are right

Have a blest day,


john sj

Die 17 Decembris

Today’s Post:  “O Adonai”

To listen to the Antiphon sung in Gregorian Chant  —>

Malcolm Guite is a poet and singer-songwriter living in Cambridge. He is a priest, chaplain, teacher and author.  (

December 18: O Lord

O Adonai
Unsayable, you chose to speak one tongue,
Unseeable, you gave yourself away,
The Adonai, the Tetragramaton
Grew by a wayside in the light of day.
O you who dared to be a tribal God,
To own a language, people and a place,
Who chose to be exploited and betrayed,
If so you might be met with face to face,
Come to us here, who would not find you there,
Who chose to know the skin and not the pith,
Who heard no more than thunder in the air,
Who marked the mere events and not the myth.
Touch the bare branches of our unbelief
And blaze again like fire in every leaf.

~Malcolm Guite

Malcolm Guite

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Dec 17 — The O Antiphons of Advent begin

Wednesday December 17  — “It is the 3 strange angels . . . “   D. H.  Lawrence

D. H. Lawrence, of Lady Chatterley fame, wrote poetry as well.  Here is an Advent prayer if there ever was one.

“What is the knocking?
What is the knocking at the door in the night?
It is somebody who wants to do us harm.

No, no, it is the three strange angels. Admit them, admit them.”

Late December one year ago the Detroit bankruptcy had matured into grinding uncertainties;  surely for the c. 32,000 Detroit citizens whose futures looked harrowing — would their pensions, the magnitude of their underfunded status becoming obvious by then, be chopped down to $0.75 on the dollar?  Surely for the Detroit Institute of Arts — would their world class collection of treasures be gutted by hungry creditors?  Surely for the city — would Detroit lose any shot at a turn toward fiscal integrity if the bankruptcy went sour — any shot at rebuilding its bus system, its computer system, its water system, its neighborhoods, because the creditor process stripped the city clean until it resembled a carcass instead of a vital place in which people love to live?

I noticed in yesterday’s Crain’s Detroit Business, an article observing that Bankruptcy Judge Stephen Rhodes and, doubtless, Mediation Judge Gerald Rosen, had jawboned down the city’s legal bills from the most complex city bankruptcy in US history and freed up another $25 million that could go to pressing needs — like buses or computer systems or the neighborhoods, to go with the $1.7 billion fund already set aside as part of the Grand Bargain for those same rebuilding purposes.  No mistake about it,  Detroit still packs wounds and has a long list of rebuilding projects —>  but they are projects, which, like the phase one of the rebuilding of Livernois just outside our McNichols Campus, are starting points with believable futures.  Last year’s knocking on our doors in the night of fiscal threat begin to look like D.H. Lawrence’s three strange angels.  It is a very Advent emotion to risk some rejoicing of a future reborn in a still demanding world.

Yes, gun-wielding violent people can still slaughter 132 innocent children as did the Taliban yesterday, just as other Taliban tried to murder Malala, Nobel Laureate champion of girls who risk their lives to attend school.   Yes, Detroit’s neighborhoods require daily courage to build on a miracle of cross-race and cross-politics mutual risk-taking through all this year of 2014.  Like the birth of every child, the birth of hope emerges into the world bloody and exhausted . . .  but pulsing with life.

So the O Antiphons sing to us.   I hope you enjoy them each day until Christmas Eve and recognize as you listen to their centuries-old Gregorian Chant that millions of women and men and children have listened before us.

N.B.  We will post each antiphon on its day so you can look on this list from today (Wednesday) on Thursday,  the ordinary post-day Friday, as well as Saturday and Sunday and into the days before Christmas.

Have a blest day,


john sj

Today’s Post  December 17  — “O Sapientia”  

“O wisdom, coming forth from the Most High, filling all creation and reigning to the ends of the earth; come and teach us the way of truth.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

O Sapientia,
quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter,
suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom

To listen to the Antiphon sung in Gregorian Chant  —>

DHLawrence― D.H. Lawrence, Complete Poems of D. H. Lawrence

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Dec 12 — UDM Employee Recognition Party at 3:00 pm

Friday Dec 12  —  “Intimate knowledge of the many blessings received”  Ignatius of Loyola

It’s almost 5:00 am in Western Nevada.  I come here each December for a few days with my sister Midge and Jim, taking time to breathe family air and savor our long kinship, what St. Ignatius calls “intimate knowledge of the many blessings received.”   He meant, I think, that we humans never exhaust our awareness of the depths in our loves; they remain capable of surprise life long.

It’s 8:00 am on UDM’s campus where, says, the sun just rose from nearly its farthest southern place on the compass, over the corner of Calihan Hall. predicts a short sunny day for today’s final exams and exam grading, and for this year’s UDM employee recognition party in the still-new ballroom.   One of the costs of finding this family time is missing the party I have come to love.  About 3:00 pm ET, I want to send some blessings over the Rockies, across the Great Plains, and over Lake Michigan to Livernois and McNichols.

Just as I typed that “I will send some blessings . . . “ line, a Terri Breeden poem came to mind.  She is probably getting the kids ready for school about 500 yards east of her Mom and Dad’s home where I sit with coffee and laptop.    I love her flint-hard language, especially when she and I give each other real hugs, in the same place this one time of the year.   “Prayers that Mean Something” comes from her “Grandma Hilde” series.   My mom died in October 2005 at age 102.  I don’t know how old she was when Terri wrote this poem.   I’ll ask her when I see her.

Best to read the poem out loud, with pauses.

Come 3:00 pm I will be thinking of UDM employees in our Ballroom and wishing I was there . . .   and savoring gladness that I live and work at Six Mile and Livernois, proud of the mission of the university in the city of Detroit and grateful that I share it with many women and men on this list.

Have a blest day and a blest weekend.


john sj

ps         Today is the feast of The Lady of Guadalupe, an anointing for millions of people who live in the Western Hemisphere.

I’ll be heading home early next Monday so the list takes a day off.    Back Wednesday.

Today’s Post — “Prayers That Mean Something”

Grandmother loans out guardian angels.
She is generous with them, always
has an extra. I suppose she’s been
collecting them, maybe inheriting them,
one every five years or so,
from loved ones gone.

If my need is truly great, she sends two or three, or
one of her best, my grandfather’s
or her own. She
grips my hand, without
fragility, tells me,
“You are good” and
it means just that.

When Grandmother says she’ll pray for something,
it is wise to have faith. For her,
even wishbone wishes come true.

Her prayers are long,
include every grandchild by name.
She prays, “Dear Lord, for what is best…”
and it is not less to be one
of so many grandchildren, for
her prayers have strength.

And she prays,
“Dear God, thank you that I still am able,” as
she hangs wet clothing between
two trees older than she, but
less gnarled.

And I, without any gods, pray too, pray, dear god dear
god, dear

that she still is able.

Terri Breeden

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Dec 10 – Malala Yousafzai and Catherine McAuley

Wednesday December 10

Today is Human Rights Day.  The Nobel Peace Prize was presented several hours ago in Oslo to Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi, two fierce advocates for children, in particular the right of all children in the world to an education and to be free from sexual and manual labor slavery.   I just listened to Malala’s 11 minute acceptance speech, the version;  the link appears below as today’s post.  Usually I write these posts aiming at a c. 3 minute read.  I hope you take the time, when you have the time, to click on this link and listen.

While I listened I felt as if I were in the 19th century listening to Catherine McAuley, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy or, better, that Catherine is speaking now in the 21st century, a source of grace and courage for many people like Malala and Kailash.  For me her single most important teaching appears in Original Rule, Chapter 2.   Best to treat Catherine’s saying as a poem.  Read it out loud,  pause in the middle; pause at the end.

“no work of charity can be more productive of good to society, or more conducive to the happiness of the poor, than the careful instruction of women” 

Catherine McAuley, Original Rule, Chapter 2

Today’s Post:    Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance – Malala Yousafzai  December 10, 2014

Have a blest day,


john sj

ps. Today’s New York Times article  “Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi Receive Nobel Peace Prizes” can be found at

pps.   Detroit was declared out of financial emergency today.  Much more for our city to do but it’s a big milestone.

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Dec 8 — About the word “yes” Hafiz (Sufi) and St. Paul (Christian)

Monday December 8 –  “It was always yes”

For years and years this passage from Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians has stirred my soul.  When I lose track of it for a time and find myself grinding away and looking at my life with sardonic know-it-all aloofness, and then think to treat these words like a poem again, the words turn me toward playful attentiveness and a grateful heart.   Today, what led me to 2nd Corinthians was a weekly feed called “A Year of Being Here.”  Readers of this list have benefitted from quite few poems that I met there.   In this week’s set of seven I found the 14th century Persian poet, Hafiz  (

Many people find that the stately procession of sunrises toward their northernmost Solstice point at the shortest day of the year wears on them,  too many dim and dark minutes per day.  Sometimes pockets of bright light from tight beam lamps help treat the dark as holy; but sometimes gloom settles in and saps the power of imagination.  Poems like Paul’s and Hafiz’s help a lot.

Days of darkness for sure;  best watch your language and read the poems out loud.

Have a blest Monday.


john sj

p.s.       I used Paul’s poem on the card we made for my father’s funeral and then, 25 years later, for my mother’s.

Today’s Post # 1  Hafiz  “Every Movement”

I rarely let the word “No” escape
From my mouth
Because it is plain to my soul
That God has shouted “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
To every luminous movement in existence.

Today’s Post # 2  Paul “Always Yes”

The Son of God,
The Christ Jesus that we proclaimed among you . . .
was never “yes” and “no.”
With him it was always “yes.”
And however many the promises God has made,
The “Yes” to them all is in him.

“Every Moment”  — Text as published in I Heard God Laughing: Renderings of Hafiz (Sufism Reoriented, 1996). Purported to be translated from the original Persian (Farsi) by Daniel Ladinsky.  Please note that Ladinsky’s “translations” are controversial, considered by many to be less Hafiz than Ladinsky himself.

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Dec 5 – UDM Students – Thursday night vigil at The Rock

Friday December 5  —  “Our students reminded me to keep on loving a hard world in a hard time.”

I don’t know when The Rock landed in it’s famous place on campus;  50 years ago? more?   No matter; The Rock has carried paint brush wielding student group statements all these years;  some messages playfully silly,  some Greek-pride statements,  and  lots and lots of other student statements.   It may be that in my 34 years at UDM I have never been so proud of UDM students “painting the rock” as last night between 10:30 and 11:45.  About 80 people, mostly students but maybe 10 old folks like me, gathered on a cold night to pray and pay attention to what has come to be called  “excessive police violence.”  Trevor Martin, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice,  and Eric Garner had many companions less well known in current media whose names the students read in prayer.

Yesterday, the US Department of Justice released a multi-year study of the use of force by the Cleveland Police Department.    I heard a first news story yesterday afternoon, that called the DOJ report “scathing.”  Today’s New York Times article ( ) includes these two summary paragraphs:

The city’s policing problems, Mr. Holder said, stemmed from “systemic deficiencies, including insufficient accountability, inadequate training and equipment, ineffective policies and inadequate engagement with the community.”

Continue reading the main story

Justice Department officials had been saying for weeks that the Cleveland inquiry was coming to a close, suggesting that the timing of the release of its findings was not related to the outrage prompted by the Rice killing. On Thursday, Steven M. Dettelbach, the United States attorney in Cleveland, said the investigation, which involved a review of nearly 600 encounters involving police use of force from 2010 to 2013, did not include the shooting of Tamir.

Readers of this blog know well this searing national question and its partison passions.   As I stood in the circle of mostly students holding candles around The Rock, what impressed me most was that they were addressing the wave of ugly news sweeping the nation the way UDM hopes it’s students and employees will engage hard realities.  Universities  commit to a bedrock respect for people with whom one differs, to patient sorting out of the tangled moments of human behavior, for betting on the long haul rather than the short violent fix.   It is a demanding moral code.  UDM, in its statement of Catholic identity underscores this commitment with a theological belief:  that God approaches the human condition as one whole, leaving no one and nothing out, from a starting point of affection rather than suspicion.  At our best, UDM people respect this immense challenge as sacred reverence for God’s love of the mess of humanity.  On good days I am proud of how we do that here,  proud of the 30,000+ people who came to our 20+ clinics last year,  proud of our stated commitment to the heart of the city of Detroit.  On bad days I get cranky about those same realities and look for a club to settle my disagreements at least in my fantasy life.

By this measure, last night at The Rock was for me a very good day: the soft spoken reverence of the student speakers called me to love the world as it is and to build out from that love.  For the 80+ of us, last night’s hour was a sacred vigil, not a rant.   Our students reminded me to keep on loving a hard world in a hard time.

Thank you,


john st sj

Today’s Post  The Prophet Habakkuk

“For the vision still has its time
presses on to fulfilment, does not deceive
if it comes slowly, wait,
for come it will, without fail.”

Habakkuk 2


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Dec 3 — Apple Dropping into deep Early Snow

Wednesday December 3 “Stories of fatigue and doubt”

The further north you live, the steeper the decline of light as the sun’s angle toward the earth casts longer shadows over shorter patches of daylight. What we call Winter around here is as much about the thinning of the light as it is about ice and cold. As I walk around campus running M&I errands these days after Thanksgiving Break, I hear stories of fatigue and doubt. And grief. Perhaps that’s why the Christian Advent poetry brings captivity and fear close together with outrageous hope and promise. Several Swedish friends who live a little further north than I do, have designed their homes with small pools of bright light backgrounded with dim spaces. Learning from them, I try some of the same where I live.

Today in Detroit:         Sunrise 7:45    Sunset 5:01    hours of daylight    9 hours 16 minutes
Today in Stockholm: Sunrise 8:22    Sunset 2:55    hours of daylight    6 hours 33 minutes

Maybe the jagged self-doubt today’s poet finds while watching the last frozen apple fall into an early snow bank is part of what helps us recognize some necessary balance: no doubt, no new discovery; no fatigue, no joy, no discouragement, no place where soul friends can love us.

Today’s a short poem; best to read aloud, with a couple pauses and a moment of stillness to end the reading time.

Thomas Merton wrote once, perhaps in the teeth of our doubts:

“There is no way of telling strangers they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

Have a blest day,


john sj

Jane Kenyon: “Apple Dropping Into Deep Early Snow”
Posted by Phyllis Cole-Dai on Nov 24, 2014 12:00 am

A jay settled on a branch, making it sway.
The one shrivelled fruit that remained
gave way to the deepening drift below.
I happened to see it the moment it fell.

Dusk is eager and comes early. A car
creeps over the hill. Still in the dark I try
to tell if I am numbered with the damned,
who cry, outraged, Lord, when did we see you?


“Apple Dropping Into Deep Early Snow” by Jane Kenyon, from American Poetry Review (online edition, March/April 1985).

Art credit: “Apple in the Snow,” photograph by Roger Lynn.

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Dec 2 — An Advent angel — Bill Pauly sj (+ November 29. 2006)

Monday December 2  “imagine grief as the outbreath of beauty”

The Advent Season began yesterday.  Readers from last year may remember that these 3+ weeks leading to the Christmas feast run deep in me.  Since late childhood I’ve kept a precious family gift on a shelf in my room, a Hummel titled “Advent Angel.” The angel shields a candle flame that gutters in the wind, taking care for Advent’s privileged time of stillness and inner attention.    Each year, I take the angel off its shelf and put it in the center of my room’s prayer space.  This angel shows some wear from a half-century of living where I live; a few decades ago I broke off the tip of one wing.  Close inspection shows a pretty good glue job, certainly enough to take whatever would be its current market value down close to the ground.  Me?  I love beautiful gifts that acquire some history of dents and bruises.

Today has a second focus in my life.  Last Saturday, November 29, was the anniversary of Bill Pauly’s sudden death at 59 of a heart attack while taking a lovely sabbatical after years of demanding pastoring on the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation in western South Dakota.  Before Pine Ridge Bill was pastor in a South Milwaukee Hispanic parish. Bill is a soul friend and I miss him at especially at this time.   Bill loved beauty,   and hospitality,    and play, and sacred stillness.  He stays in my memory and imagination as another Advent figure.  He did not fear grief or fatigue.

Bill introduced me to the poet Mary Oliver.  There’s a lot of him in “Wage Peace” and a lot of Advent too.

Welcome to these last days of Term One.


john sj

Today’s Post – Mary Oliver – “Wage Peace”

Wage peace with your breath.
Breathe in firemen and rubble,
breathe out whole buildings and flocks of red wing blackbirds.
Breathe in terrorists and breathe out sleeping children
and fresh mown fields.
Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.
Breathe in the fallen and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.
Wage peace with your listening: hearing sirens, pray loud.
Remember your tools: flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.
Make soup.
Play music, learn the word for thank you in three languages.
Learn to knit, and make a hat.
Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,
imagine grief as the outbreath of beauty or the gesture of fish.
Swim for the other side.
Wage peace.
Never has the world seemed so fresh and precious.
Have a cup of tea and rejoice.
Act as if armistice has already arrived.
Don’t wait another minute.

Advent Figurines

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Nov 26 — Thanksgiving and the Ferguson verdict

Wednesday November 26       “. . . transform opposers into friends . . . “

No classes today so campus gets to decompress and let the buildings and infrastructure rest a bit.  Same with UDM employees.  I’m slipping in this off-regular cycle post to remind myself, and the 1655 readers enrolled on the “Work Day in Hard Times” list, that the gratitude we celebrate this week does not mean that we go temporarily blind and deaf to the wounds of our world.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s invocation of “the beloved community” —  taken I believe from the American Pragmatist philosopher Josiah Royce — makes good Thanksgiving Day reading.  It invites us to invite to our family tables those enraged by and those who defend the Ferguson Grand Jury.   Dr. King was right when he implied that as a nation we are nowhere near finished with violence.

He was right too, to stake his hope in “the beloved community.”

Happy Thanksgiving;  I hope you get to put your feet up and breathe a little.

See you next Monday.


john sj

Beloved Community

“But the end is reconciliation;

the end is redemption;

the end is the creation of the beloved community.

It is this type of spirit and this type of love

that can transform opposers into friends . . .

It is an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return.”

MLK 1957


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Nov 24 – “Think of Others”

Monday November 24 –As you conduct your wars, think of others . . .  (do not forget those who seek peace).

I encountered Mahmoud Darwish this morning as I looked for a poet new to me, and perhaps to many of you.   I love “Think of Others.”  Darwish, a compelling Palestinian poet, died three days after surgery on August 9, 2008.   Knowing that the surgery carried a risk of death, he chose August 6, the anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bomb,  as a way of making his death  a poem of the Palestinian people should he not survive the surgery.  The author of the Wikipedia article explains this way.

“Mahmoud Darwish died on 9 August 2008 at the age of 67, three days after heart surgery at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas. Before surgery, Darwish had signed a document asking not to be resuscitated in the event of brain death.[54] According to Ibrahim Muhawi, the poet, though suffering from serious heart problems, did not require urgent surgery, and the day set for the operation bore a symbolic resonance. In his Memory for Forgetfulness, Darwish centered the narrative of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and 88 day siege of Beirut on 6 August 1982, which was the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. A new bomb had been deployed, which could collapse and level a twelve story building by creating a vacuum. Darwish wrote: ‘On this day, on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bomb, they are trying out the vacuum bomb on our flesh and the experiment is successful.’ By his choice of that day for surgery, Muwahi suggests, Darwish was documenting: ‘the nothingness he saw lying ahead for the Palestinian people.'”

Strong poetry, a poet friend liked to say, chooses every word carefully; the result is flint-hard and tender language, opening the reader to grief and delight, sometimes so close together that they touch.   Is “Think of Others” a lamentation or a caress?

Best to read the poem out loud.  If you have time the video will deepen your experience.

Have a blest day,


john sj

Mahmoud Darwish: “Think of Others”

Posted by Phyllis Cole-Dai on Nov 21, 2014 12:00 am

As you prepare your breakfast, think of others
(do not forget the pigeon’s food).
As you conduct your wars, think of others
(do not forget those who seek peace).
As you pay your water bill, think of others
(those who are nursed by clouds).
As you return home, to your home, think of others
(do not forget the people of the camps).
As you sleep and count the stars, think of others
(those who have nowhere to sleep).
As you liberate yourself in metaphor, think of others
(those who have lost the right to speak).
As you think of others far away, think of yourself
(say: “If only I were a candle in the dark”).

The original Arabic:

فكِّر بغيركَ

وأنتَ تُعِدُّ فطورك، فكِّر بغيركَ
لا تَنْسَ قوتَ الحمام
وأنتَ تخوضُ حروبكَ، فكِّر بغيركَ
لا تنس مَنْ يطلبون السلام
وأنتَ تسدد فاتورةَ الماء، فكِّر بغيركَ
مَنْ يرضَعُون الغمامٍ
وأنتَ تعودُ إلى البيت، بيتكَ، فكِّر بغيركَ
لا تنس شعب الخيامْ
وأنت تنام وتُحصي الكواكبَ، فكِّر بغيركَ
ثمّةَ مَنْ لم يجد حيّزاً للمنام
وأنت تحرّر نفسك بالاستعارات، فكِّر بغيركَ
مَنْ فقدوا حقَّهم في الكلام
وأنت تفكر بالآخرين البعيدين، فكِّر بنفسك
قُلْ: ليتني شمعةُ في الظلام

Darwish“Think of Others” by Mahmoud Darwish, from Almond Blossoms and Beyond. Translated from the original Arabic by Mohammed Shaheen. © Interlink Books, 2010.

Art credit: Video created by Tamim Fares and uploaded April 4, 2011. Music by Secret Garden. Note that this video uses a slightly different English translation of the poem.

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