May 15 – two for the ages — Judge Damon Keith and Jean Vanier

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

I’ve read quite a few memorials these past days in which the word “giant” appears frequently.  Both these men matter in my life, as do my university’s graduates who “walked” last Friday and Saturday.

Judge Damon Keith:

“But he was also the neighbor who strolled the track at the University of Detroit Mercy with Ann Brothers Smith, who would become associate superintendent of Detroit Public Schools. And he was the friendly face who called out to her lawyer son the first time he appeared in Keith’s court:

‘How’s your mama?’”
“Judge Keith recalled as a giant in law, life”  Neal Rubin
The Detroit News  May 14, 2019

Bill Clarke, sj: (edited from the note I posted on our Jesuit Community bulletin board last night)

“Bill Clarke called me yesterday evening.  We had planned that I would drive to Guelph today for one of our ordinary overnight spiritual direction conversations.  However last night, Bill called to tell me that in the past few days two important men in his life had died, both in their early 90s.  One is his older brother; the other is Jean Vanier, the soul and founder of the world-wide L’Arche movement.  Bill is a co-founder of L’Arche; Bill’s brother  was perhaps his closest soul friend, even closer than Jean was.   Our conversation fills me with tenderness for Bill who has been my soul’s companion since my 30 day retreat in 1980.   We had planned that I would drive to Guelph today.  I won’t. We settled on 2+ weeks from now before we take to our calendars to schedule an alternative date.  I told Bill that I will carry him in my soul these days,  as he has so often carried me.  I want to invite your prayers too.

p.s.  Bill wrote an early account of L’Arche, Enough Room for Joy: The Early Days of L’Arche.  2006


Today’s  Post:  “The Writer” — Richard Wilbur

“And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again”

Richard Wilbur’s contemplation of a daughter, laboring to write on what would now be an antique typewriter, writing, in my reading, of the aftermath of World War I,  during the 5 years of the rolling shock waves of chemical warfare horrors twisting the faces and bodies of maimed soldiers returning from World War I in Europe and, far too often, not finding jobs to honor their broken bodies. 1919 began a half-decade of fear and rage, of  contempt for most immigrants, and for fellow citizens with whom one differed.  A year not unlike the years in which we now live.

I love it that Wilbur recognized the wonder of young human beings risking so much to launch into their futures.  So, along with the passing of Judge Keith and Jean Vanier, Richard Wilbur’s understated celebration of a brave young writer is meant to recall the sheer beauty of 1473 women and men who walked to receive their diplomas and certificates from our President Antoine Garibaldi this past weekend.  Our basketball arena was filled with immensely excited moms, dads, plus lots of friends and kin.  Sheer beauty.

Have a blest day.


john sj

“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

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