April 24 – Making Peace

Thursday April 24, 2014 Easter Thursday

“I massaged (Utash’s) neck, and got his circulation going.”
Deborah Hughes

“I looked out the window and saw that the boy had been hit, so I threw on my coat and ran out there,” said Hughes, who is retired from the St. James Nursing Center in Detroit. Hughes also made sure to pack her .38 caliber pistol. “You have to carry a gun around here,” she said. “This neighborhood is terrible. I don’t walk around without my gun. “I saw the boy all by himself, crying,” Hughes said. “His father was in the store. He came out, and I told him, ‘I’m a nurse; don’t touch him. Let him lay there.’ The baby was crying so hard, and I talked to him and tried to calm him down.

“About that time, I saw (Utash) get out of his truck; he came running up saying, ‘Oh, my God, tell me he’s all right. Please tell me he’s all right.’ He was hysterical.” The crowd that had gathered suddenly attacked Utash, Hughes said. “He was screaming, and they were beating him, and kicking him,” she said. “I said ‘Please don’t hit him anymore,’ and they backed up. Everybody cleared the way and gave me room to work on him. Nobody cussed me; they didn’t attack me. They just let me do what I needed to do.

“I massaged (Utash’s) neck, and got his circulation going. He woke up and started swinging and kicking. By this time, the EMS came, and me and the EMS driver tied him down and put him in the ambulance.”

Hughes shrugged off claims that she’s a hero. “You just have to do the right thing,” she said. {Detroit News April 8, 2014}

In this urban moment, the lives of Steven Utash, some angry young men, and a retired nurse who live on that street intersected. Two weeks later their intersection unfolds as larger than themselves; their moment has become a moment asking for the attention of the city and its metropolitan area. UDM, by our research and teacher-student conversations is about the business of paying attention to the human condition, and understanding events from a range of perspectives. The poet Denise Levertov offers one in her hard-edged poem, “Making Peace.” It helps to read a poem out loud. And more than once.

Weather.com says more clouds than sun today, April showers (that bring the flowers that bloom in May) much of Friday, peeks at the sun later in the day.

Blessings on us employees and on our students during finals week.


John st sj


Making Peace

A voice from the dark called out,
`The poets must give us
imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar
imagination of disaster. Peace, not only
the absence of war.’

But peace, like a poem
is not there ahead of itself,
can’t be imagined before it is made,
can’t be known except
in the words of its making,
grammar of justice
syntax of mutual aid.

A feeling towards it,
dimly sensing a rhythm, is all we have
until we begin to utter its metaphors,
learning them as we speak.

A line of peace might appear
if we restructured the sentence our lives are making,
revoked its reaffirmation of profit and power
questioned our needs, allowed
long pauses . . .

A cadence of peace might balance its weight
on that different fulcrum; peace, a presence,
an energy field more intense than war,
might pulse then,
stanza by stanza into the world,
each act of living
one of its words, each word
a vibration of light–facets
of the forming chrystal.

Denise Levertov “Breathing the Water”


“I massaged (Utash’s) neck, and got his circulation going.”
Deborah Hughes


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April 23, A spring workday

Wednesday, April 23 – The Back Bay in April

During the 1980s and early 90s I was a visiting faculty member at MIT’s Science, Technology and Society Program 5 times. I lived in a down-at-the-heels Jesuit set of row houses on Newberry St in the back bay. Most of those years preceded the march of well-to-do young people to our end of the Back Bay but there were destination places around. One was Charlies, a fine Irish Pub at the end of our block. Winter in Boston can be as tough as winter has been here. So, when the ice on the Charles River breaks open and daffodils appear, you feel like dancing, like noticing simple things with eyes prepared for delight. “Trudging” isn’t the word for walking in the height of spring.

A simple thing happened at the end of the work day on April 20, 1983. On April 23, 2014, Weather.com predicts gusty winds, lots of sun and crisp air, a little on the chilly side . . . . like an April moment thirty one years ago, on a perfect Spring day..

Enjoy today. Maybe we should remind our students to be glad — in the press of exams — that they didn’t choose a party school for their college.

john sj

Meeting at Rush Hour

A gust of wind
sent the metal street sign for Charlie’s Tavern
skittering fifteen feet up Newbury Street,
an unlikely sailboat
escaped, perhaps, from the Charles.

The clatter and improbability
set us both free.

She looked twenty two,
blond and lovely,
going the other way
and no doubt equally homeward bound.

In our sudden bemusement
at the sign’s startled venture
our eyes touched.

Then, the wonder.
We grinned.

Delight at our moment’s kinship
freed us from fear
from strategy and burden.
She flashed fire at me
and I, no doubt, at her.

A moment’s celebration quickly passed–
rare and winsom beauty,
breathed through two human forms
filling us with awe.

We went our ways with no word spoken,
both journeys blessed.

April 20, 1983


UDM campus, April 27, 2006


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April 22 – “fullness and ripeness, time and energy, loss and endurance”

Tuesday April 22 — Three Cairns – sculpture

This little boy exploring a large stone egg got me wondering the way art should.  Two artists here, the sculptor and the mom w camera.  So I emailed his mom back asking about the egg.  She’s a close friend living in La Jolla, CA:  ”it’s a sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy, called “Three Cairns,” in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art; my son calls it the ’egg rock’.”


I found an explanation on the website of the Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation (http://dsmpublicartfoundation.org/public-art/three-cairns/) .  Just below is their great picture of the central cairn  at the Des Moines Art Center.   “Cairns,”  Public Art tells us, are “stone structures [or markers] that identify a place of great importance. Their dry-stone construction represents an engineering feat as well as artistic creativity. The process of shaping and stacking the stones into a simple oval shape is challenging and intense. The form symbolizes fullness and ripeness, time and energy, loss and endurance.”   The Foundation also tells us that this is the largest project in the Western Hemisphere by British artist Andy Goldsworthy.

Des Moines Art Center

The photo, by Doug Millar, shows the central cairn at home among Iowa grass and trees.  Goldworthy’s placement of the two hollow-out stone frames isn’t random.  One points toward New York, a matching cairn outside the Neugerger Museum of Art; the other points west to the San  Diego Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla and the cairn my friend’s son showed off for us.   The limestone for each comes from long before its physical home was inhabited by people calling their place “Iowa.”

Lots going on here.   Not one place but three, not three places but a continent, not one time but millennia, all crafted with the precise skills of a contemporary worker of stone.  I like to imagine the work we do at the university like that.  These are exam days, demanding precise thinking and some memory.  But, our Mission Statement reminds our students, the point is not the exam or the grade; the point is a lifetime of their citizenship in a world that is vast and beloved of God.

Looks like spring rains today, encouraging grass and flowers and trees to do their thing.


john st sj

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April 21 — a patch of old snow

Monday April 21 — Spring’s a-game

Easter dinner 60 miles from campus on the farm of Professor Mark Paulik, his wife Helene, and their two children, plus another family (+ smaller children) with splendid food good drink, love and conversation. Six hours, in and out of the house, contemplating pastures where organically raised cows were doing their thing and the children ran and played around the farm yard. The air was beautiful; 74º and sun-soaked breezes. After a while I strolled around the outside of the house taking it all in. That’s the moment, for me, when winter ended. I don’t care whether we get some overnight frosts or another snow storm; winter ended yesterday out there at the farm.

One of many things I love about a serious winter, along with biting winds and swirling snow, and the shape of trees with each tiny leaf-less branch clear against the sky, is its ability to make me long for spring. For me, yesterday was the turning.

What might make a good short poem for today when we return to work? I found an 8 line poem by master poet Robert Frost.

Happy Spring to you.

john sj


Today’s post: “A Patch of Old Snow”

There’s a patch of old snow in a corner
That I should have guessed
Was a blow-away paper the rain
Had brought to rest.

It is speckled with grime as if
Small print overspread it,
The news of a day I’ve forgotten —
If I ever read it.


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April 17 – “quick-eyed love”

Thursday April 17 – The Last Supper

In the Christian tradition the Last Supper is celebrated on this day. It’s about a meal, and about the sacredness of hospitality. Last year Pope Francis shocked the Catholic world by celebrating Holy Thursday in a detention center and including non-Catholic prisoners in the ritual of the washing of the feet (including Muslims and women). For many Catholics this was a breath of fresh air; for many it was shocking. Challenging hospitality.

Is it harder to welcome or to allow myself to be welcomed? Being welcomed expands my world according to the people whom I allow to welcome me. A long favorite prayer poem, dating from the 17th century, says for me how important have been the women and men who have found ways to make me welcome when I doubted my place in their place and their lives. That’s what makes me life larger. For you too, I’d bet. Here’s the poem, by George Herbert.

Blessings today.

john sj


Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked anything.
‘A guest,’ I answer’d,’ worthy to be here’:
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear
I cannot look on Thee.’
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes but I?’
“Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘who bore the blame?’
‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste My meat.’
So I did sit and eat.

George Herbert 1633

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April 16 – weariness – Mahalia Jackson

Wednesday of Holy Week – April 16 – “that I might know how to speak to the weary”

The days of Holy Week take the four mysterious Songs of the Servant of God from their places in Isaiah to give them a home in the heart of the liturgy for these days (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday). Today’s 3rd song reminds that our weariness appears where we live close to the ground and from our hearts. The days of Holy week take human violence and temper it into grief and weariness of heart, a profound resilience may be especially needed as this hard year winds toward final exams.

from The Third Servant Song:

“The Lord God has given me
a well-trained tongue,
That I might know how to wpeak to the weary
a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning
he opens my ear that I might hear.” Isaiah 50:4-6

Have a blest day.

john st sj


Today’s post “Precious Lord”

Wikipedia tells us that Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey (1899-1993) wrote “Precious Lord” in response to his inconsolable grief at the death of his wife, Nettie Harper, in childbirth, and his infant son in August 1932.[4]” It was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s favorite song and he often invited Mahalia Jackson to sing it at civil rights rallies. At his request, she sang it at his funeral in April 1968.
Here is a five minute version sung by Jackson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=as1rsZenwNc

“Precious Lord, take my hand,
Lead me on, let me stand.
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.
Thru the storm, thru the night,
Lead me on to the light.
Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.

When my way grows drear, precious Lord, linger near,
When my life is almost gone, hear my cry, hear my call,
Hold my hand lest I fall;
Take my hand, precious Lord, Lead me home.”


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April 15 snow boots

Tuesday April 15 snow boots & John Dunne (1929 – 2013)

Another of the moods of Spring — a day or two to take off dancing shoes and pull back on snow boots. Time for a little fortitude, though surely not the most demanding bravery our lives require.

Tough weather during the run-up to final exams brought to mind a short saying written by John Dunne, a legendary faculty member at Notre Dame. His books were not particularly long which I found helpful because I often took a long time to find my way into the theology he created, not because he was dense or dull but because his surprises astonished me at every turn, sometimes 2 or 3 surprises in a single paragraph that might absorb my attention for an hour.

Today’s post is technically prose but it rewards reading and re-reading, out loud like a poem.

The daffodils will burst into color by Easter, want to bet?

john sj


God is not “how things stand”
“How things stand” is not God
God is not domesticated by how things stand
God leads on an adventure.
God is wild.

John Dunne


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April 14 – The Servant of God

April 14, Monday of Holy Week The Servant Song

Isaiah 42: 1-4

Here is my servant whom I uphold
my chosen one wih whom I am pleased
Upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
no making his voice heard in the street.

A bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench
until he establishes justice on the earth.

I began learning to teach, a 24 year old kid, at Holy Rosary Mission on Pine Ridge in South Dakota. My life daunted me pretty much every day. So much I didn’t know about teaching, or about Lakota culture, or about the violence of Western culture as it dismembered Lakota culture over a century and a half. One of my jobs in that 7-day-week boarding school was to take care of the K-8 boys from their various bed times until they left the dormitory for school the next morning, c. 110 boys ages 5 to 14 in double and triple deck bunk beds. I took the K-4th graders up an hour before the older boys, got them ready for bed, tended scrapes they had acquired through the day, and told them a story once they were in bed. As they fell asleep, I walked among the bunk beds. I understood that some of these beautiful children would not make it into a durable adulthood; and some would, no knowing which. It broke my heart to see them sleeping in a safe place within an unsafe world. During those nights these 2 lines from Isaiah befriended me.

A bruised reed he shall not break,
a smoldering wick he shall not quench

I began to imagine that The Servant of God about whom Isaiah spoke would not be frightened off by the violence of our world. It’s one reason why I love Joy Harjo’s poem about the coming of spring after a terrible winter in a racist prairie town. I posted “Grace” on September 30 and repeat it today because “Grace” reminds me of The Servant Song.

This week makes high holy days for me. I imagine the days and their prayers anointing the campus while we do the works to which we are committed: research, teaching, mentoring, ministering to wounded places in our city.

Have a good week.
john sj



I think of Wind and her wild ways the year we had nothing to lose and lost it anyway

in the cursed country of the fox. We still talk about that winter, how the cold froze imaginary buffalo on the stuffed horizon of snowbanks.

The haunting voices of the starved and mutilated broke fences, crashed our thermostat dreams, and we couldn’t stand it one more time.

So once again we lost a winter in stubborn memory, walked through cheap apartment walls, skated through fields of ghosts into a town that never wanted us,

in the epic search for grace.

Like Coyote, like Rabbit, we could not contain our terror and clowned our way through a season of false midnights.

We had to swallow that town with laughter, so it would go down easy as honey.

And one morning as the sun struggled to break ice, and our dreams had found us with coffee and pancakes in a truck stop along Highway 80, we found grace.


I could say grace was a woman with time on her hands, or a white buffalo escaped from memory. But in that dingy light it was a promise of balance.

We once again understood the talk of animals, and spring was lean and hungry with the hope of children and corn.

I would like to say, with grace, we picked ourselves up and walked into the spring thaw. We didn’t; the next season was worse.

You went home to Leech Lake to work with the tribe and I went south.

And, Wind, I am still crazy.

I know there is something larger than the memory of a dispossessed people. We have seen it.

Joy Harjo




Joy Harjo

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Sumer Is Icumen In — more versions

Friday  April 11  Feedback

I touched some good nerves with Thursday’s post.  Here are some other great versions of Sumer Is Icumen In.   No 1 from a close friend in London, UK.  No 2 from a friend in Detroit.  No’s 3-5 I collected from YouTube.   Lots of variety in the way this 1000 year old song is sung.  I don’t have a favorite.

1)        Richarfd Thompson  2012

2)         Opening Ceremonies Olympic Summer games  1972, Munich

3)         Tens Clar, rama medieval del Ensamble Arsis   December 2010

4)         The Hilliard Ensemble

5)         Ensemble Pfeyffer

I hope you like them.
I hope you have a great weekend.
I hope I have a great weekend
I hope the Tigers have a great weekend

john sj

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April 10 – Sumer is icumen in

Thursday April 10 –  singing in Spring

This 13th century song of spring  [a Rota http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rota_(music)], can remind 21st century city dwellers that Spring’s awakening has made people a little crazy — playful — for a long time.

Here’s a 2 minute performance by Centre County Chorus in 2012, not in Middle English but still lovely.

And here is a Middle English version found at this link:  http://www.pteratunes.org.uk/Music/Music/Lyrics/summerisicumenin.html

Sumer Is Icumen In

This song is remarkable for being ahead of its time. It is a cannon in four parts sung over a two part “foot” or bass line, itself a cannon in two parts. This makes the whole song a polyphonic composition in six parts at a time when the most “advanced” music was in two or three part polyphony. The music with performance instructions was in a manuscript, originally in Reading Abbey.
Svmer is icumen in
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweþ sed and bloweþ med
and springþ þe wde nu.
Sing cuccu!
Summer is a-coming in
Loudly sing cuckoo
Groweth seed and bloweth mead
and springs the wood anew
Sing cuckoo!
Awe bleteþ after lomb,
lhouþ after calue cu,
Bulluc sterteþ, bucke uerteþ.
Murie sing cuccu!
Cuccu, cuccu,
Wel singes þu cuccu.
ne swik þu nauer nu!
Sing cuccu nu, Sing cuccu!
Ewe bleateth aft-er lamb,
Calf loweth after cow,
Bullock starteth, buck farteth,
Merry sing cuckoo!
Cuckoo, cuckoo!
Well singest thou cuckoo,
Nor cease thou never now!
Sing cuckoo now, Sing cuckoo!
Sing cuccu, Sing cuccu nu!
Foot (or Bass)
Sing cuckoo, Sing cuckoo now!

Weather.com says sunny early, rain beginning mid-afternoon, high of 66;  sounds like a good road and sidewalk rinse.  Breezy too.

Blessings on your day,

john sj


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