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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April 9 – ” . . . at spring mending time . . . ” R Frost

Wednesday April 9 — Robert Frost, “Mending Wall”

Lots of spontaneous conversations about shoots emerging from the ground, hints of early blossoms, the last bits of winter snow shrinking visibly. And observations about the way snow operated like a broom and dustpan, gathering debris that begins to be the only sign of once mighty piles of snow. Spring rains have been good to us in Detroit, not too hard all at once, not too much heat all at once. Whispers of melting sounds, flutes but not trombones.

Robert Frost is famous for many poems and “Mending Wall” s one. Read it like the script of a short play; imagine listening to its sounds. Gradually it becomes clear that the two neighbors are divided by more than their stone wall.

Have a lovely spring evening.

john sj







“Mending Wall” (1914)

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen ground swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
ANd makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyong the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”


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April 8 Noticing

Tuesday April 8

I am posting Tuesday’s poem from a friend’s home in Charlottesville VA. About 20 of us gathered for a Memorial Service remembering our friend, mentor, and pioneer historian of technology, Thomas Parke Hughes. Tom died at 91 about 2 months ago (Alzheimer’s). His family wanted the service in the old chapel on the University of Virginia campus where Tom did his undergrad engineering degree and a Phd in European history. April 7 & 8 were days that worked out.

Today we gathered in the engineering school to talk about our encounters with Tom. The room was full of memory and love, and humour and admiration, and loss and gladness. I would have come even had the service and the conference been lousy, because of what Tom means to me. They were both wonderful. He challenged me, encouraged me, opened opportunities for me, and stuck with my during a 7.5 year phd program.

Tom lost his wife Agatha in the middle of one night in 1997 when she sat up in bed, said “my head hurts,” and died. Sitting around in a large seminar room each of us told stories about Tom, and Agatha. I don’t think any one of us had heard all those stories before; wisdom, laughter, tenderness.

One of my friends on the U VA faculty, Jack Brown, invited me to stay with him and Wendy, his wife. I am writing from their kitchen table. When you travel if you find yourself sad when you prepare to leave it’s a good sign. It means you got there. I am feeling a good sadness now. I will miss these people from my professional academic life. Even so, I’ll be glad to get back home Tuesday afternoon.

Have a good day.

john sj


Today’s Post

A friend introduced me to the poet, W S Merwin, born in 1927. All sorts of recognition for his poetry. Makes me wonder how I’ve missed him all this time.

Going too fast for myself I missed
more than I think I can remember
almost everything it seems sometimes
and yet there are chances that come back
that I did not notice when they stood
where I could have reached out and touched them

this morning the black shepherd dog
still young looking up and saying
Are you ready this time
~W.S. Merwin


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April 4 – Red Wheel Barrow

Friday, April 4  - Stories everywhere if I slow down a little

William Carlos Williams, a practicing MD who studied at my alma mater U Penn, died in 1963 at 79.  I don’t know who said that he  ”worked harder at being a writer than he did at being a physician, but excelled at both.”  No matter;  it’s a good line.

Perhaps his most quoted poem, “XXII” opens a place that evokes the smell of chickens and  spring rain..  No action here;   the rain has already fallen, no one tends the chickens, no one uses the wheelbarrow.  Action distracts, the poet seems to say.  ”Stand still.  Look”.  Wheelbarrow does its work much like American contemporary Charles Sheeler’s still-life photos and massive factory-scapes of The Rouge.   Like “Wheelbarrow” these freeze a moment.  ”There are stories here; wait for them.   But while you wait, stand still.”

I had not thought of the Red Wheelbarrow in a while but the mist this morning got me thinking about William Carlos Williams.  A blessing for early Spring.

We are rounding the bend toward the end of the term, lots of stories lived since January by our students and our selves, lots of stories waiting to happen.

Have a good weekend.


john sj



so much depends


a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white


["The Red Wheelbarrow"] sprang from affection for an old Negro named Marshall. He had been a fisherman, caught porgies off Gloucester. He used to tell me how he had to work in the cold in freezing weather, standing ankle deep in cracked ice packing down the fish. He said he didn’t feel cold. He never felt cold in his life until just recently. I liked that man, and his son Milton almost as much. In his back yard I saw the red wheelbarrow surrounded by the white chickens. I suppose my affection for the old man somehow got into the writing.[4]

William Carlos Williams

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April 3 “a long-overdue summer”

Thursday, April 3 “a long-overdue summer”

Don’t mean to be irreverant with this post but I got busy and didn’t have time to find a poem. And I thought this little piece from Crain’s Detroit Business is not without merit. Esp on a day that, once again, does not incline one to imagine dancing among flowers and bees; more today about being glad not to have put winter coats/hats in summer storage yet.
Have a good day.

john sj


“In Detroit, it is as much about the promise of a long-overdue summer as it is batting averages and ERAs.
Don’t get me wrong, the Tigers are poised to make a nice run this year, if they can shore up the bullpen.
But ask Detroit’s bar and restaurant owners what they care about, and they’ll tell you a different story.
To a lot of them, Opening Day is about increased beer sales and the much-needed revenue that comes with it. And it’s about the crowds of thirsty fans who were out in droves this morning, some hitting the bar as early as 7 a.m. It was a welcome sign of things to come.
This has been a long, hard winter for all of us in Michigan, but spring is coming.

Crain’s Detroit Business April 2

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