December 10 dates I remember

Monday, December 10, 2018

Over the years on my birthday, Dec 10, 1939; I’ve noticed some dates — one birth – Emily Dickenson in 1830, 3 deaths, and the Nobel Peace Prize award today in Stockholm.

Here are three death anniversaries:

1910 – Red Cloud,   Lakota war leader; until Vietnam I think, the only war leader who formally defeated the U.S. military (signed a treaty of surrender;  later broken alas). Our Jesuit grade and high school on Pine Ridge takes its name from him: “Red Cloud Indian School.”

1968 – Karl Barth,   one of the great Christian theologians of the 20th century  (from my Roman Catholic theological perspective, of the same theological stature as Karl Rahner).

1968 – Thomas Merton,   died while visiting Asia, it seems that he accidentally electrocuted himself while taking a bath: faulty wiring in an electric fan.   Merton has had the greatest influence on me of all these.  Think of his one paragraph prayer as a poem that would reward reading, with pauses, several times.

Have a blest day.


john sj

Today’s Post

Thomas Merton “Thoughts in Solitude”

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.


January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968

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Dec 7 – Pearl Harbor . . . . Dom Helder Camera, Advent Journeys

Wednesday  December 7
“. . .  cares for weary companions . . . “

Back home from 3+ days with my sister Midge and her family in Carson City.  Out the window we had some lovely snow + a couple mule deer & several large raptors (I think perhaps a golden eagle).  Here at home we have a lovely dusting of snow and hints of sunshine.

This morning I fished from 2015’s Advent posts and found Nov 30, 2015’s note on Dom Helder Camera, a saint in my book and worth a re-read.  Yes, it is also the anniversary of Pearl Harbor.  Whenever I read this saying, this sacred old man stops me still with his delicacy and his flint-hard courage.

Have a blest weekend.

john sj

Today’s Post – Dom Helder Camera

“It is possible to travel alone, but we know the journey is human life
and life needs company.
Companion is the one who eats the same bread.

The good traveler cares for weary companions, grieves when we lose heart,
takes us where she finds us,  listens to us.
Intelligently, gently, above all lovingly, we encourage each other to go on
and recover our joy
On the  journey.”

February 7, 1909 – August 27, 1999


p.s. Advent often reminds me of one of the saints in my life.  Here’s a meditation about Dom Helder Camera I wrote early in Advent two years ago.

Dom Helder Camera was archbishop of Recife and Olinda from 1964 to 1985 during military dictatorship in Brazil.  He interpreted Catholic teaching with a consistent, fierce attention to the violence of systems maintaining brutal poverty.  He made serious enemies.   It is said that some of them hired a hit man to remove him.  Like the professional he was, the hit man stalked Dom Helder for some time, learning his habits, seeking a place and time apt for killing.   In the process, he listened to him speak a number of times until, one day, he fell at Dom Helder’s feet, weeping, and begged for the grace to change his profession and his life.   When he walked this earth, Dom Helder’s presence engaged the world’s wounds.

This unblinking attention to the violence of poverty was matched by legendary playfulness.  Here is one story among many, this one I witnessed.  Once Dom Helder was speaking to about 1500 people who sat on the St. Louis levee overlooking the Mississippi River (by the Arch); in the middle of the talk, a helicopter took off right behind him filled with tourists taking a ride with a bird’s eye view of the river and the city.   It made enough of a racket that it was impossible to hear what the Dom Helder was saying.  He paused, turned around to the helicopter, and gave the tourists a puckish little wave.  When the helicopter got a little farther out on its trip, he turned back to us.

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Dec 3, 2018 – – Sheer bravery, women and men, 1921 and 1980

Monday, December 3, 2018
“.   .   .   .  and wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again”

Some days offer anniversaries of blunt courage and beauty.   The stillness of strong poetry makes a wise response.

Richard Wilbur wrote “The Writer” in 1921,  2 years into the rolling shock waves from WWI’s chemical warfare horrors that twisted the bodies of maimed soldiers returning from Europe.  Way too often, they did not find jobs waiting to honor their broken bodies.  The first half-decade of post war was rough with fear and rage, with sometimes savage contempt for immigrants or for fellow citizens with whom one differed; all these pressures made for hard times, not unlike the years in which we live now.

Richard Wilbur, today’s poet, recognized in that precise moment of history, the sheer beauty and wonder of young people risking a lot while learning to write.  Writing is brave, the poet tells us, especially unfinished writing.

Have a blest week.  I will spend four days with my sister Midge and her family in Carson City Nevada;  back Friday.

john sj


Today’s Post    “The Writer”  Richard Wilbur

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.

But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which

The whole house seems to be thinking,
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent.

I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash

And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark

And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,

And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,

It lifted off from a chair-back,
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.

     richard wilbur  March 1, 1921  –


p.s.  On this date yesterday, December 2, 1980, four American women, Maura Clark and Ita Ford (Maryknoll sisters), Dorothy Kazel (Ursuline sister), and Jean Donovan a single young woman were raped, murdered, and buried in Salvadoran shallow graves by out-of-uniform Salvadoran soldiers. Their murders evoked a response in the U.S. that galvanized opposition to U.S. funding for the Salvadoran military.  

Brave women.


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Nov 30 – “meadow-down is not distressed for a rainbow footing it” – gerard manley hopkins sj

Friday, November 30   –    the  last day of November

I’m crazy busy today but a GMH can stand by itself and bless anybody.  Who knows what intuition led Hopkins to this metaphor – – a skylark’s wild explosions of energy and what happens when all that free spirit gets caged — skylark caged, a human being caged . . . .  “day-laboring-out life’s age.”  The cage does not define the lark, nor do daily burdens define the person.   Our campus is approaching final exams; lots of hard work and lots of worn down students, faculty, and staff.   This afternoon’s low-in-the-sky sun, pale & delicate can anoint our fatigue.

It helps when reading Hopkins, to give his word play a practice run until you get the cadences right and until you give his word choices a chance to startle your imagination and make you smile.

Welcome to December,


john st sj


Today’s Post:  “The Caged Skylark”

As a dare-gale skylark scanted in a dull cage

Man’s mounting spirit in his bone-house, mean house, dwells—

That bird beyond the remembering his free fells;

This in drudgery, day-labouring-out life’s age.


Though aloft on turf or perch or poor low stage,

Both sing sometímes the sweetest, sweetest spells,

Yet both droop deadly sómetimes in their cells

Or wring their barriers in bursts of fear or rage.


Not that the sweet-fowl, song-fowl, needs no rest—

Why, hear him, hear him babble and drop down to his nest,

But his own nest, wild nest, no prison.


Man’s spirit will be flesh-bound when found at best,

But uncumbered: meadow-down is not distressed

For a rainbow footing it nor he for his bónes rísen.

G. M. Hopkins, sj   1844-1889

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Nov 28 – a medley of short, long-loved poems & sayings

Wednesday, November 28

How to explain what catches my attention when beginning the day by asking to notice what wants attention just now?   Today’s post surprised me completely. A hint showed up yesterday when a 4” x 6” card fell out of a book I hadn’t opened in a while. This saying of D. H. Lawrence has stopped me in my tracks more often than I can count.  So I took it out of that book and gave it a visible place near my laptop work station.

This morning, I saw it again and followed a hunch about today’s post.   I sought out a file with the label “Poems-Prayers I love.”   Today’s post is the result, a medley of short sayings that have opened my inner attention when I notice them.  I stopped at five.

Best to read them separately, out loud.

Have a blest Wednesday, half way into this work week.


john sj

Today’s Post

What is the knocking

What is the knocking at the door in the night?

It is somebody wants to do us harm.

No, no.  It is the three strange angels.

Admit themadmit them.


D.H. Lawrence: “Song of the Man Who Has Come Through”


******     ******


I stand for the heart.

To the dogs with the head!

I had rather be a fool with a heart

Than Jupiter Olympus with his head.

The reason the mass of men fear God and at bottom dislike Him,

is because they rather distrust His heart

and fancy Him all brain

like a watch.

Melville to Hawthorne 1851


******     ******


It is possible to travel alone, but we know the journey is human life and life needs company.
Companion is the one who eats the same bread.

The good traveler cares for weary companions,
grieves when we lose heart,
takes us where he finds us,
listens to us.
Intelligently, gently, above all, lovingly,
we encourage each other to go on
and recover our joy on the journey.

Dom Helder Camera


******     ******


It should be noted that in the Society (of Jesus)

There are different kinds of houses or dwellings.

These are: the house of probation,

the college, the professed house,

and the journey

and by this last the whole world becomes our house.


Ieronimal Nadal, S.J.  1554


******     ******


Sedulo curavi humanas actiones

non ridere non lugere neque detestari,

sed intellegere.


I have laboured carefully,

when faced with human actions,

not to mock, not to lament, nor to execrate,

but to understand.


Spinoza  Tractatus Politicus


******     ******


Same picture of the sun low in the western sky – last Tuesday,  November 20

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Nov 26 – “missed the first time but noticed later”

Monday, November 26
“and yet there are chances that come back”

A friend introduced me to the poet, W. S. Merwin late in 2014;  all sorts of recognition for his poetry.  It me wonder how I’d  missed him for so long.  Wikipedia’s short bio concludes:  “In June 2010, the Library of Congress named Merwin the seventeenth United States Poet Laureate to replace the outgoing Kay Ryan.  He is the subject of the 2014 documentary, Even Though the Whole World Is Burning.”

How many times have I noticed —- remembering something that I had missed the first time around  — something, hindsight now tells me, that was already important, and then becomes important again in a later remembering?   Remembering, teaches St. Ignatius, can reweave the fabric of a life.  “Attention should be paid to some more important places in which I have experienced understanding, consolation, or desolation.” (Spiritual Exercises  Par. 118)   Noticing matters.    Best to read the poet out loud, with pauses.

This last Monday of November features light snow dancing on the wind;  astonishing play.  Have a blest day.


john st sj

p.s. The University’s blog management system reports that today is poetry post # 625.

Today’s Post  

W. S. Merwin –“Turning”

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
(1927 – )

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Nov 21 – morning sun & fallen leaves

Wednesday, November 21 —  last day before U.S. Thanksgiving

This delicate and demanding Hopkins poem is beautiful; these days of less and lesser sun make  a sweet time for Gerard Manley Hopkins’ brilliant, understated poem about soft paced sorrow, and beauty, and the griefs of 2018, another year that, with its gusts of wind and chilly temperatures,  salutes its ending days.

However, not every day is gloomy, not by a long shot.  Here’s a look at morning sun rising above our snow dusted courtyard.  That the rising sun pours into my west window — after months when the late afternoon light showed off the glory of summer days — reminds us that these are shorter days (today’s Detroit: sunrise to sunset — 7:30 am – 5:05 pm; in Stockholm, home of Nina, one of my Swedish soul friends, the days are already much shorter, nearly 2.5 hours shorter — 7:55 am – 3:10 pm).

                                                       Morning sun rising
                                                      November 20, 2018

Have a blest day,

john st sj


Today’s Post “Spring and Fall”

to a young child

Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

For an audio version, please visit:

1844 – 1889
G.M. Hopkins Bio:

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Nov 19 – for angry moments in nervous times — David Whyte and Denise Levertov

Monday, November 19    “The mineshaft of passion” <—->  “the well of grief”

About midnight last night I opened my window to say goodnight to 6 Mile and Livernois, and the city.  Astonishing.  After some days of damp and pretty dark, a nearly full moon lit up the night.   This morning, softer light on traces of snow, with my iPhone promising little icons of sun 4 days of this Thanksgiving Week.  Grief requires stillness, but it is surely helped along by unexpected  surprises, delicate beauty.

A thought about the news lately:  fire and anger and fear do best when I can bring them to stillness, when their source in grief becomes accessible to me.   There’s lots of anger in the land these days.  Here are two poets who frequently grace this list, writing their way into holy sorrow.   Try reading them, perhaps not both right in a row, with pauses in between to let the poets’ words seep into your day.

Have a blest day.


john sj

Post # 1   David Whyte  “The Well of Grief”

Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief,

turning down through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe,

will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold and clear,

nor find in the darkness glimmering,

the small round coins,
thrown by those who wished for something else.

Risking Everything

David Whyte b. 1955


Post  # 2  Denise Levertov  “the Mineshaft of passion”

And the poet–it’s midnight, the room is half empty, soon we must part–
the poet, his presence
ursine and kind, shifting his weight in a chair too small for him,
quietly says, and shyly:
“The Poet
never must lose despair.”

Then our eyes indeed
meet and hold,
All of us know, smiling
in common knowledge–
even the palest spirit among us, burdened
as he is with weight of abstractions–
all of us know he means
we mustn’t, any of us, lose touch with the source,
pretend it’s not there, cover over
the mineshaft of passion
despair somberly tolls its bell
from the depths of,

and wildest joy
sings out of too,
the scales of its laughing, improbable music,
grief and delight entwined in the dark down there.

Denise Levertov
b. October 1923  d. December 1997
“Conversation in Moscow” in Freeing of the Dust

from my window looking west, this morning, November 19, c. 8:00 am

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Nov 16 – a new poet for the list – Marge Piercy

Friday, Thanksgiving break is peeking around the corner

A close and dear friend, Thane Kreiner, came to visit for two days.  When a good friend comes to stay, I like to leave a note on the community bulletin board.  This is what I wrote yesterday.

Last evening, talking about the poetry list, Thane introduced me to a new poet,  Marge Piercy.  I love it.  A fringe benefit of one friend traveling to see another friend’s city.  A poem rewards reading it outloud, with pauses.  Have a blest end of week and weekend.

john sj

Today’s Post  –  “To be of use”

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Marge Piercy

b. 1936


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Nov 15 – a Robert Frost poem for days of diminishing light

Thursday, November 15   —   a work day as days get shorter

“ .  .  .  To break our logic in too long a flight,
And ask us if our premises are right.”

In The Spiritual Exercises  St. Ignatius teaches various methods of prayer.  One of the most important he calls “Repetition.” (“Attention should be paid to some more important places in which I have found understanding, consolation, or desolation.” Sp Ex # 118).   The principle: “I know more from my experiences than I think;  go back and savor and be surprised.”   For some reason this morning I went back to the workday posts from the beginning of October in the 2nd month of the 1st year of the Work Day post and found this one about longer nights and shorter days.

Here it is again, posted with no changes from its Oct 2 original form.  Good for the deep darkness of January.

Have a blest day.

john sj


From: john staudenmaier sj <>
Subject: a work day as days get shorter
Date: October 2, 2013 7:07:56 AM EDT
To: “” <>

Hard times —  a Congress locked in venom and contempt for those with whom one must negotiate,  “partisan” is a common adjective for elected officials at the national level;   Detroit city caught in uncertainties about bankruptcy that stir mistrust and fear for the future;   UDM negotiating a McNichols faculty contract turned acrimonious and hurtful.

This morning reminded me that I like getting up while it is dark outside.  It helps me recognize a balance of light and dark.  The descent of the sun toward December solstice doesn’t just cheer me up because autumn colors start to replace the dreadful pollens of ragweed season (asthma).  Early dark opens awarenesses that hustling along in the light I sometimes miss.   I once got in a fight at MIT when I gave a talk about the West’s coupling the emergence of Western scientific methods with a devaluing of Europe’s mystical disciplines.  A friend, Leo Marx got upset with that talk and some other MIT-Harvard types got angry and insulting that I would  call the dark “holy” and celebrate mystery and mysticism at MIT.   But it was Leo who introduced me to this piece with which the published paper now ends.

Have a good day.

john st sj

Today’s Post

A poem for days of diminishing light

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.

Robert Frost “The Literate Farmers and the Planet Venus”

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