jan 19 – “that day you were absent from fourth grade”

Friday  January 19    —  “to stand still and listen to the wind”

Last November 25 someone sent me this poem, acting on a hunch that the poet would capture my attention.  I place poems sent to me this way in a desktop folder.  Every now and then I can explore the language that readers place on offer.   Brad Aaron Modin, today’s poet, is new to me this morning.   Whoever sent his words blessed me.   Will bless you too perhaps.

Best to read the poet out loud, with pauses.

Right now both the morning sun and my clock tell me it is 8:20 am Eastern Time.   Have a blest weekend.


john sj

Today’s Post  “What You Missed That Day You Were Absent From Fourth Grade”  by Brad Aaron Modlin

Mrs. Nelson explained how to stand still and listen
to the wind, how to find meaning in pumping gas,

how peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer. She took
questions on how not to feel lost in the dark.

After lunch she distributed worksheets
that covered ways to remember your grandfather’s

voice. Then the class discussed falling asleep
without feeling you had forgotten to do something else—

something important—and how to believe
the house you wake in is your home. This prompted

Mrs. Nelson to draw a chalkboard diagram detailing
how to chant the Psalms during cigarette breaks,

and how not to squirm for sound when your own thoughts
are all you hear; also, that you have enough.

The English lesson was that I am
is a complete sentence.

And just before the afternoon bell, she made the math equation
look easy. The one that proves that hundreds of questions,

and feeling cold, and all those nights spent looking
for whatever it was you lost, and one person

add up to something.

Brad Aaron Modlin

Brad Aaron Modlin earned his MFA from Bowling Green State and his PhD from Ohio University. His poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have appeared in Denver Quarterly, The Florida Review, Indiana Review, DIAGRAM, River Teeth, Fourth Genre, and others.

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jan 17 Martin Luther King Jr and Mahalia

Wednesday  January 17  “Deeds, not words.”

I have heard this thought expressed many times recently. It’s spoken with a conviction that words have done little to change things in desperate need of change. Words are empty or, worse, they are smokescreens used to cover over unforgivable deeds. And yet, when thinking today of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it seems impossible to separate the man of action from the man of words. I can’t envision the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom without hearing in my mind the cadences of Dr. King’s Dream. I can’t read “Letter From Birmingham Jail” without recalling the narrow cell in which King was imprisoned when he wrote.

“Beloved community,” “a single garment of destiny,” “I have a dream”—these are words of inspiration. These are the first words my daughters will hear in their grade school assemblies this week. But they are words of challenge, too—to us, and for us. How are we to think of violence and nonviolence in the wake of Ferguson, or New York, or Southfield? “I am at war with myself / Having trouble finding the Martin in me,” reveals Obasi Davis, a young poet from Oakland, CA, “Too much anger / Not enough tolerance.”

And yet, today people are gathering to speak with one another. People will come together to remember, and wrestle with, and re-vision communities in which so much is in need of change. I think of Dr. King, and I am both confronted and inspired by the thought it might always take both words and deeds.

Dr. Rosemary Weatherston, from her guest editorial January 19, 2015


I Have A Dream . . . ,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., August 28, 1963

Letter From Birmingham Jail,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., April 1963


Have a good day,

john st sj


Today’s post “Precious Lord”  Mahalia Jackson

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.”

Mahalia Jackson

October 26, 1911-January 27, 1972

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Jan 12 2016 Gerry Stockhausen, sj + r.i.p

Friday, January 12, 2018

Gerry Stockhausen passed two years ago today.  He was grieved by many women and men I know.  A beautiful presence in this university and in the lives of many people.  Six days after Stock, died we held a memorial mass and service at Gesu Parish across McNichols Road from us.  Here is the post from that day.   Stock is beautiful to me and to many readers of this post.  r i. p.  Mary Oliver ends her poem “When Death Comes”  like this:  “I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”    Stock was not a tourist either;  he inhabited the world.

Have a blest weekend,


john sj

Wednesday, January 20, 2016  –  “and each body a lion of courage, and something precious to the earth.”

About 5:00 pm this afternoon in Gesu Church just north of UDM’s McNichols campus, women and men who have worked with, laughed with, kept commitments with Gerry Stockhausen, sj will gather for a Eucharist of celebration and goodbye.  When we’ve completed the service, everyone is welcome to come c. 300 yards south to the Jesuit residence, across McNichols, where Gerry lived between 2000 and 2010.  The UDM Jesuits and our kitchen team have prepared food, and drink, and (thank you Ruth Fichter)  a great collection of photos from Gerry’s years here (e.g., Stock looks pretty cool in his Tiger’s jersey the day he threw in the first pitch at Comerica park.).

Even if you can’t make it this afternoon, you are welcome to keep company with us from any distance.


john sj

Today’s Post  “When Death Comes”

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say:  all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Mary Oliver   New and Selected Poems, Vol.1

August 27, 1949 – January 12, 2016

p.s. As I write about Stock I also keep President Garibaldi in my heart as he says goodbye to his brother Alvin who died suddenly on Wednesday.   Antoine, please consider this post as sent with you and your family to New Orleans.

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Jan 10 – Pope Francis in Manila

Wednesday, January 10  — today’s post is not a poem

Yesterday and today, many people in Detroit have gathered to remember a wonderful man, who happens to be a Jesuit priest of many years (b. 1926), Jim O’Reilly, sj.  For decades, Jim lived and worked close to poor people in the heart of Detroit, he was smart, durable, effective, and much admired.   I drove the c. 50 miles from our campus to the Jesuit retirement center where he died, with three O’Reilly-like people, who work at the Pope Francis Homeless Center, also in the heart of Detroit.   We told stories as we drove,  but we did not only listen to stories about O’Reilly, my three companions told stories about homeless women and men for whom the Pope Francis Center was a home.  Their stories  carry the wounds of a brutal homeless street world.  But they fit naturally in our car last night, so alive with O’Reilly’s presence.

For today’s post, I looked for language that could connect O’Reilly with Pope Francis for whom the Center has been named.  I found these  few paragraphs about the actual Pope Francis speaking to the larger world about weeping, in particular about the gospel moments when Jesus wept.  Are these 3 paragraphs about O’Reilly,  about my three companions in the car last night, about Pope Francis for whom their homeless center is named, or about the homeless women and men about whom they spoke?   All the above. In our city, though, it was O’Reilly who gathered us last night.  We miss him.

Have a blest work day in a work week.

john sj


 Today’s Post:  Pope Francis about weeping in the world (from a column by Tom Reese, sj)

“The pope first applauded the girl for expressing herself so courageously. He told the crowd of young people at Manila’s University of Santo Tomas to pay attention because she “asked the only question that does not have an answer.” The pope did not respond with a theological lecture on the mystery of evil. Rather, he affirmed her tears, saying, “Only when we are able to weep about the things that you lived can we understand something and answer something.” He acknowledged that “the great question for all is: Why do children suffer? Why do children suffer?” But he finds an answer not in the head, but in the heart. “Only when the heart is able to ask the question and weep can we understand something.” For Francis, the world needs to respond by helping the victims of disasters with aid and money. He notes that Christ cured the sick and fed the hungry, and so should we. But, he adds, “it was only when Christ wept and was able to weep that he understood our dramas.”

Those who suffer need not only help but tears. “Today’s world needs to weep,” he said. “The marginalized weep, those left aside weep, the scorned weep … but those of us who lead a life more or less without needs, don’t know how to weep. Certain realities of life are only seen with eyes cleansed by tears.” He then invited the young audience to ask themselves, “Have I learned to weep? Have I learned to weep when I see a hungry child, a drugged child on the street, a homeless child, an abandoned child, an abused child, a child used as a slave by society?” Or do we only weep when we want something for ourselves? “Why do children suffer?” Francis asked. “The great answer we can all give is to learn to weep.” He pointed to the example of Jesus in the Gospels. “He wept for his dead friend; he wept in his heart for that family that had lost their daughter; he wept in his heart when he saw that mother, a poor widow, taking her son to be buried; he was moved and wept in his heart when he saw the multitudes like sheep without a shepherd. If you don’t learn how to weep, you’re not a good Christian!”

In conclusion, he says, “When we are asked, ‘Why do children suffer?’ ‘Why does this or that happen, this tragic thing in life?’ May our answer either be silence or a word born of tears. Be courageous; don’t be afraid to cry.” The mystery of evil is beyond my comprehension. The answers that I have heard I find unsatisfactory. I don’t find any words in the Bible that explain it. I have concluded that since it is beyond our comprehension, Jesus came not to explain suffering but to weep with us and to suffer with us. I prefer to see the cross not so much as reparation for our sins, but as God’s way of joining us in our suffering. Instead of preaching from the sidelines, he gets down in the dirt and suffers with us.”


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Jan 8 – David Whyte “Good poetry begins . . . “

Monday  January 8
—  “In the silence that follows
a great line”

Snow falling this morning,  the McNichols Gate is wide open:   staff, faculty, students can taste new beginnings of a 15 week long term.

David Whyte caught my attention.   A new  poem for this list, worth your attention too I bet.

Have a blest day.

john st sj


Good poetry begins with
the lightest touch,
a breeze arriving from nowhere,
a whispered healing arrival,
a word in your ear,
a settling into things,
then, like a hand in the dark,
it arrests the whole body,
steeling you for revelation.
In the silence that follows
a great line,
you can feel Lazarus,
deep inside
even the laziest, most deathly afraid
part of you,
lift up his hands and walk toward the light.


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Jan 5 — to Boston in winter: “There will be daffodils in the Back Bay”

Friday, January 5, 2018  “‘Bomb cyclone’ blasts Northeast with triple punch of snow, gusts and flooding”    {Washington Post late last night}

view from my Detroit window Dec 2007

Boston is my second city, after Motown. I’ve lived there 7 different times, whole years and half years, at MIT and Boston College. The city is dear to me, dear with familiar urban mazeways (like where to get my car fixed, my hair cut, my teeth tended, when to avoid heavy traffic if you can manage it, how to plan contemplative times beside the sailboat basin of the Charles, whether to walk from my Jesuit house in the Back Bay over the Mass Ave or the Longfellow bridge. All those years have connected me with friends.

This week’s monstrous hammering patch of winter is more real and sensual because of New England soul friends whose closeness helps me to imagine the city’s fatigue. Alas, it’s nowhere near over, either.  Yesterday, an idea for today’s post snuck up on me. I am posting a playful poem I wrote one April afternoon in 1983 while walking across the Mass Ave Bridge into Newbury St. heading home after a work day at MIT.  Is the poem whimsy, or a reminder, or a promise, or a blessing? Doesn’t matter.

Blessings from Motown where the morning sun is kissing the top of the tall evergreen outside my west-facing window.

john sj

Today’s Post — 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


January 5, Memorial:

Remembering Jim O’Reilly, sj  {b. 12/june/1926} a complete sweetheart who died last night,  died playfully.

We sj’s who lived with him will miss him to pieces.

Dawn outside our front door

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Jan 3 U Detroit Mercy in The Chronicle, AJCU Conversations, and in Jamaal May’s poetry

Wednesday,   January 3

Yesterday, the Chronicle of Higher Education led its 1st 2018 number with Lee Garner’s feature about our university and Wayne State, our neighbor c. 6 miles to the south.  A lot of us like “How to Market a College in a Troubled Locale.”  Lee Gardner features many of our university practices that make me proud, make lots of my university peers proud too.  Part of what we do here is to treat Detroit as a city in rebirth and doing what universities should do, engaging our city.   Turns out, also, that the national Jesuit AJCU Journal, “Conversations in Higher Ed” came out yesterday with it’s on-line Spring Edition featuring our campus against the background of the city’s downtown skyline.  You’ll find it below Jamaal May’s poem.

Before inviting you to read the Chronicle piece, though, I want to remind you of one of our city’s strong, recent poet voices.   Readers will remember this compelling poem, “There are Birds Here.”  Yes for sure;  best to read his poem out loud with pauses.

Blessings on this Wednesday, mid-way through the first work week of the new year.

john sj


By Jamaal May

For Detroit

There are birds here,
so many birds here
is what I was trying to say
when they said those birds were metaphors
for what is trapped
between buildings
and buildings. No.
The birds are here
to root around for bread
the girl’s hands tear
and toss like confetti. No,
I don’t mean the bread is torn like cotton,
I said confetti, and no
not the confetti
a tank can make of a building.
I mean the confetti
a boy can’t stop smiling about
and no his smile isn’t much
like a skeleton at all. And no
his neighborhood is not like a war zone.
I am trying to say
his neighborhood
is as tattered and feathered
as anything else,
as shadow pierced by sun
and light parted
by shadow-dance as anything else,
but they won’t stop saying
how lovely the ruins,
how ruined the lovely
children must be in that birdless city.


Jamaal May, “There Are Birds Here” from The Big Book of Exit Strategies.

Copyright © 2016 by Jamaal May. Reprinted by permission of Alice James Books.

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Jan 2 — a P.S. from one of our readers about grace in prisons

Tuesday,  January 2,  a postscript for yesterday’s post

Readers often write comments on our posts,  frequently brief, as in “thanks for today’s poem;  I really needed that.”   But now and then someone writes at greater length and stops me in my tracks.   Here is one commenting on yesterday’s post

Monday,  January 1  –  “Changing Ways’  by V.B. written in prison

A reader and friend wrote this postscript yesterday evening.  You might find that reading these 3 short paragraphs is like reading another poem.

have a blest day.

john sj


“This poem is wonderful, John.  It calls to mind conversations I had with two of the men I know in a maximum security state prison just before Christmas.  Both were about their changes, and their futures.

Will is on call much of the time to work with other inmates who are mentally ill…some of whom connect only with him.  He has, over years, achieved enough professional certifications that he is qualified to continue this kind of work when he is paroled (perhaps within the year).  As he says, none of the certifications are from the Department of Corrections, so they are truly respected on the outside.  This man came to prison as a wise guy, smart ass, but he has discovered a remarkable capacity for compassion.

Steve is a Marine veteran, drug addict who violated parole at least once and attempted suicide three times…in prison I don’t know how many years, being paroled in the spring.  His wife, who doesn’t visit but wants the old Steve back, does not know him as he is now so he is going to live with his daughter (who does know him).  Don’t know if the marriage will survive but Steve will walk his own path with tremendous faith in God’s grace.”

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January 1 – “Changing Ways’ by V.B. written in prison

Monday, 2018  — January 1 – Poem for the turning of the year

Mary Ann Buckley, a soul friend of 40 years, wrote me on December 31 to introduce me to this lean and understated poem written by “a young Afro-American man in prison.”    A good way to begin 2018’s work year.   Here’s Mary Ann’s cover note.

“Hi, John. It was good to hear from you and thanks for the poems. Here’s one by a young Afro-American man in prison — from a web-site connected with an organization that teaches literacy to prisoners. I met the director of the organization in November when she was among those honored by the Library of Congress for their work to promote literacy. I was there because our school in the Dominican Republic was also honored, and it turned out that her mother was taught by our sisters [i.e., Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus]. She’s started sending me her blog which includes some poetry by the prisoners she helps.”

If you read the poem out you may notice that each line works best with a pause.  Short lines, short pauses create a cadence, which is the poet’s intent I think.

Happy New Year,  work day 1.

john sj

Today’s Post —  “Changing Ways”

No New Year’s resolution for me
No crying decree
No promises, just average changes
Less time stressing

More time working out
Less time talking
More time learning

Not so many haters
A few more friends
Not so much sadness
A little more happiness

Less weakness
More strength
Less Sleeping
More thinking

Change after all…is good
Change after all
Is all I know

By VB,  September 1, 2015

In  http://freemindsbookclub.org/changing-ways

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Dec 24 – Xtmas Eve 2946, Marinette Wisconsin

Sunday December 24, 2017
December 24, 2016

This photo was taken, probably by my Dad, in 1946.  Dr. Redeman, a family friend, was Santa. He visited the homes of parents with children on Christmas Eve in our small town. Three of us four children sit in little chairs, adults behind us, waiting for Santa’s silver chimes outside our front door. Midge, the baby, sits on Mom’s lap on the left. Santa came in and took his black book out of its pouch. He read to us from the gospel of Luke and talked with us about the coming of Jesus into the world. The photo captures our stillness. our attention fixed on this mysterious person. How did Dr. Redemon move us to stillness? Perhaps by the depth of his voice, and its cadence; perhaps by the way he moved, a solemn dancer, with no sign of hurry as he and his Eskimo partner took presents out of large cloth bags, read our names, and placed each one under the tree.

While Sr. Renee Kettering, RSM photo-shopped the picture’s age marks (thank you Renee!) whoever took the picture captured my attention. The lighting takes me first to Santa’s face and beard and to his hand raised in a good-bye blessing; his poise, mid gesture, makes the entire photo hold its breath. The children show how focused we felt that night, absorbed with wonder. Dr. R taught us that sacred mystery is story telling with no hint of hurrying. All my life since, the pace of my life helps me recognize when I have found the grace to pay attention and not to interrupt.

All of us are better when our life’s pace makes us as still as the children in this 1946 photo. Writing about a moment from childhood makes me grateful for the “Work Day/Hard Times” poetry list. When I write, imagining all of you who read fills me with gratitude and wonder.


john st sj

Addendum # 1, Lori Glenn:

In response to yesterday’s “O Emmanuel’ post,  Lori Glenn, a member of our McAuley School of Nursing faculty, wrote me.  That’s not unusual; in the 4.4 years since the Work Day/Hard Time list began, we’ve received 2876 comments.  Lori wrote from a hospital in Flint MI where, in her other health-care job,’ she wove her reading of the Tagore’s Gitanjali # 1 with her keeping watch, as a nurse midwife, with mothers giving birth in Flint, MI.

About Gitanjali # 1

At times we are sent messages from God that support our work and enhance our appreciation of it.  In addition to teaching nursing, I also am a nurse midwife in the troubled city of Flint.  As I sit and read the first poem, I am awaiting the arrival of the baby boy at the hospital.  This beautiful poem speaks of fresh life, being eternally new, breathing, touch, and hands–perfectly relevant for my work today.  I am work at the hospital that is at the forefront of the lead contamination crisis and witness the tremendous stress this has put on Flint’s people. Yet there is perseverance of these people and the kindness of strangers responding to their need that gives me hope.

For today, I am able to put aside all the stress and worry about the water crisis, the political state of the world, and my own Christmas, and replace it with the anticipation of the purest joy of all — a baby’s birth.  How fitting this poem is for me on this fine day. Thanks for the inspiration!

Merry Christmas!

Lori Glenn DNPc MS RN CNM
Assistant Professor  University of Detroit Mercy
McAuley School of Nursing

Addendum # 2  Dr. Rademan:

It turns out my home-town paper ran a short article, by Larry Ebsch, this year about Dr.  Redeman, seen above in the 1943 photo.  Here are couple quotes:

“While all Santa’s are special, Dr. Redeman, a dentist, was the star Santa of his era. His love affair with the Christmas season began in the Northern Marinette County community of Amberg while visiting children of relatives and friends in his Santa Claus suit.  He expanded his performance in 1937 with visits to 41 families dressed in a special fur trimmed costume. . .  announcing his coming by ringing bells . . . the colorful yard decorations attracted national attention during the Great Depression years of the 1930’s.

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