Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Year, 2014, as Reflected in My Blog

My blog has become, to borrow a phrase from Walt Whitman, my "Carte Visite" to the world--to my family, friends, and maybe to a handful of people I will never know. Anyway, here are a few highlights from reviewing the blog entries of this past year.

The year opened with the wonderful, miraculous birth of my second grandson, Robert Edward Nicholas Kleppel--son of my daughter Julia and Eddy Kleppel.

Bob and Robby

The blog chronicles a very snowy and cold winter in Northeast Ohio, and talks about how we opened a warming center at St. Mary's in Painesville. We were open something like 38 nights (I spent 2 nights there; Brian Rice and Kathy Phillips were there most of those 38 nights). This Work of Mercy probably prevented much misery and possibly some deaths from freezing.

Some Winter 2014 pics:

Colin, at a North Chagrin sledding hill

Carolan, atop Gildersleve Mountain, Chapin Forest
Lake Erie sunset
During 2014 Linda and I continued our work with the Karpos Ministry at St. Mary's Painesville. Every Thursday (and sometimes on Wednesdays) we would prepare and serve nutritious meals to the hungry and homeless, sometimes 150 or more per night. We felt great joy doing this work and working alongside our dear friends, Kathy and Dan Philipps, Kathy Flora, Ken Fitzsimmons, Chuck Hillier, Pam, Judy, Jim, Wayne, Rose, Bea, and many more. I haven't encountered people like this since my days in Cincinnati when I met the Cincinnati Peacemakers like Maurice McCrackin and Marion and Ernest Bromley (and others like Ken Przybylski, Greg Haas, Henry Scott, Chris Cotter, and many more).

In April, Kathy Philipps did a presentation at Borromeo Seminary on her dissertation topic, hospitality, serving the needy, homeless, and hungry. Below are some pics from the Karpos Ministry and from the Borromeo presentation done by Kathy Philipps:

Jim, Linda, Bea--doing the dishes

Dan Philipps, St. Mary's

Kathy Philipps doing her presentation

Slide from Kathy's presentation

Linda and Jan, Borromeo

Kathy Flora, at the Borromeo presentation

Serving good food at St. Mary's Painesville

Fr. Hanzo Center at St. Mary's

Susan Allsip, St. Mary's
Kathy Philipps finished and defended her dissertation in December. She is now Doctor Kathleen Philipps. Besides her Karpos work, she is teaching theology at John Carroll University. We are very proud of her!

During 2014 there were both births and deaths in our family and community. Among the deaths I wrote about included Jack O'Donnell, Bob Jaynes, Pete Seeger, Galway Kinnell, and Robin Williams. We hold our beloved living and dead close to our hearts always.

[More coming!]

Petitions for January 11, 2015: The Baptism of Jeus

I have just finished writing the petitions/Prayer of the Faithful for January 11, 2015. The prescribed readings for that date have some powerful words in them, and I have incorporated some of those words into the petitions. Isaiah, as usual, reminds us to be mindful of those in need, those oppressed, those in prisons, dungeons, darkness. Was there ever a greater prophet/saint than Isaiah?

Prayer of the Faithful for Sunday January 11, 2015. The Baptism of the Lord.

Celebrant: As we celebrate the Baptism of our merciful Lord, Jesus Christ, let us, dear sisters and brothers, approach the one God to voice all our needs.
  • John the Baptist said, “I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Let us welcome that Spirit into our lives.. We pray to the Lord.

  • Isaiah writes, “I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice . .  and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.” May we live up to this prophetic challenge. We pray to the Lord.

  • Let us welcome all those who will be baptized and confirmed in our church this year. Let them bring us new energy and grace.. We pray to the Lord.

  • For those suffering from lack of good shelter, warmth, clothing, and nourishing food during this winter season. Let us as Catholic-Christians address their needs. We pray to the Lord.

  • and for those for whom this mass is offered [name them]. We pray to the Lord.

Let us pause now and silently offer to the Father our own particular intentions [...allow for silence...]. We pray to the Lord.

Celebrant: Father, we have hope that you will be moved to hear and respond to our sincere prayers, for they are asked in the name of your generous Son, whose Baptism we celebrate, and in the power of your Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Memory of Christmas 1960--Euclid, Ohio

Christmas Eve of 1960--I was 12 years old, in 7th grade at St. William's School in Euclid, Ohio. In my mind, that year, plus or minus a year or two, was the end of the Medieval Era. I know history books wouldn't give such a late date for that, but in my life, the life of my family and Church, that is around the time the Medieval Era ended. Catholic masses were still in Latin; all Catholics went to church every Sunday; all Catholics abstained from meat on Fridays; we were deathly afraid of mortal sin and the possibility of spending eternity in hell. So there were many, many negative things in the atmosphere.

On the positive side, for us Irish-Catholics at least, John F. Kennedy had been elected president, Pope John XXIII was pope, and had convened the Second Vatican Council, which threw open the windows of the Church and began a desperately needed reform.

Though we didn't know it at the time, we in the United States, and the whole world, were on the cusp of change, a very new and different world--in some ways better and in some ways worse.

On Christmas Eve, around 9:30 PM, I walked from my home on East 266 Street to St. William's for Midnight Mass. As a choir boy, I had to arrive early, in Sr. Muriel's classroom on the first floor of the old building. There we did our last practice and received instructions from Sister. She was a bit tense that night, anticipating the big moment.

Shortly before midnight we lined up in the hallway and processed, in the dark, into St. William's old church (which is now a gym and bingo hall). The church was packed to the rafters, and many people stood in the aisles and in the back. Fr. John Fleming and his con-celebrants processed in, led by altar boys holding up the processional cross. We moved to the choir loft, packed in there like sardines, along with the organist and the smaller men's choir. Then, for the next hour or so, we sang gorgeous songs, in English and in Latin, music that would make the angels weep. Gloria in Excelsis Deo! "When blossoms flowered 'mid the snow" (Gesu Bambino); Venite adoremus! O come let us adore him!

And then it was over. The boys processed, very tired by now, back to the classroom; we put on our coats, and headed for home. It was snowing, and I walked the mile home by myself, in the quiet snow, at 1:30 in the morning. It was peaceful and beautiful.

The next morning, I woke about 7:30 and we opened our presents. That year I got a pair of baseball spikes as my main present. We didn't get many presents--there were five kids, and very little money to go around. Right around 8:30 AM I arrived back at Church to sing the 9:30 high mass. There was less mystery than at midnight, but the mass and songs were beautiful.

Around 11 AM I was back home. With my brothers, Denny, Kevin, and Jimmy, and my sister Mary Ellen, we played with our Christmas presents. Later Dad took us to the North Chagrin Metro Park at Squires Castle, where we went sled riding (even one-year-old Jimmy went).

The world was about to change. Around the corner was JFK's assassination, the Vietnam War, the age of transistors and then computers. On the positive side, the Civil Rights Movement, the Women's Movement, the Anti-War movement. The Church would change significantly, then slip back into old ways. The Great Mandela of Time.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas in the Trenches--The Christmas Truce of 1914

This is the 100th anniversary of the Christmas Truce of 1914. This truce happened in the midst of the most brutal Great War, on the Western Front. This truce was a small miracle, one that offers a pathway and hope in our warlike age. John McCutcheon, the great American folksinger, composed a beautiful song about this truce, "Christmas in the Trenches," and can be seen in the video below:

Christmas in Jail!

Last evening Linda and I, and many of my friends from St. Marty's Painesville (Dan and Kathy Philipps and their daughter Alyssa; Kathy Flora; Mary Ann Ratchko-Gamez and her husband Feliciano, and several others) spent the evening "con-celebrating" a Christmas program for inmates of the Lake County Jail. Mary Ann brought her flute and Irish whistles and was accompanied by Alex on keyboard and her husband Feliciano on guitar. There were about 6 or so singers, some I recognized and some I didn't know, including a St. Mary's woman (Allison?) who sang a beautiful solo. There were also representatives from a number of other religious communities, St. Noel's, St. Gabe's, St. Anthony's, Kirtland Unitarian Universalist, a Leroy congregation, and several other Protestant congregations. Fr. Mark Riley of St. Mary's took the lead role (but involved everyone).

Lake County Jail (summer photo)

The sessions began as the prisoners ushered in. In the first session (of three), there might have been 30 to 50 women, mostly young, overwhelmingly white. They looked like our daughters, sisters, neighbors. They looked like us (and that really made us think!). We began singing together some popular (and maybe a bit corny) Christmas songs, but the inmates loved it! They particularly got into "Frosty the Snowman," thumping the floor and sitting pads vigorously when the time came. We moved into some more religious carols, led off by "O Holy Night" by our soloist. It was spectacular. Then we sang together several songs, including "Silent Night," one verse sung in Spanish. My favorite was the song "Peace Child." I will try to find a Youtube version of this song and post it later.

Part of the evening involved each of us bringing strips of cloth to a rough wooden manger, to make a comfortable bed for the Baby Jesus. It was moving to see some of the tough men do this. Father Mark asked us to put our hands over our hearts, and to prepare room in our hearts for grace, for the newborn Jesus. We did that--we made room. Father Mark said, "This visit to you is the most important thing I will do this Christmas." It was true for him, and true for all of us!

At certain points, some of the inmates began to cry--at the beauty of the music, at the touching scene making the rough crib comfortable for the baby Jesus, for the heartbreak of being in jail on Christmas.

Believe me, we were as moved and as grateful as the prisoners. We came to do a Work of Mercy, visiting those in prison (as Jesus once was!). What was amazing is how we felt the prisoners had done something for us!

P.S. The final song of every session, after the solemn hymns, was a vibrant version of "Feliz Navidad," led by Feliciano Gamez on guitar. It was so joyful that many of the women and men began dancing to the tune. It was a wonderful way to end the evening.

The Indigo Girls sing "Peace Child":

Lyrics to "Peace Child"

Peace Child,
in the sleep of the night,
in the dark before light
you come,
in the silence of stars,
in the violence of wars--
Savior, your name.
Peace Child,
to the road and the storm,
to the gun and the bomb
you come,
through the hate and the hurt,
through the hunger and dirt--
bearing a dream.
Peace Child,
to our dark and our sleep,
to the conflict we reap,
now come--
be your dream born alive,
held in hope, wrapped in love:
God's true shalom.

Published by
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Monday, December 22, 2014

Cleveland Botanical Garden: Christmas Display

The Cleveland Botanical Garden, in the University Circle neighborhood (by the Cleveland Museum of Art, Severance Center, Case Western Reserve University, and so many other cultural resources), has a beautiful Christmas display. We visited there yesterday with my daughter Julia and grandson Colin.

Here are some photos from our visit:

Colin enjoyed the train ride

They had about 100 decorated trees

Mr. Jingeling Tree (the "Keeper of the Keys")

Euclid Beach tree, with Euclid Beach popcorn ball ornaments

Inside the glass house--looks like the jungle!

Julia and Colin looking at a gingerbread house

Remembering My Cousin Jack Fitzpatrick, Murdered 43 Years Ago at Higbee's Department Store, Waiting in Line with His Children to See Santa

Tommy Fitzpatrick, left, in Vietnam
Mary Finnegan Fitzpatrick
Jack Fitzpatrick

Forty-three years ago yesterday, December 21, 1971, my cousin Jack Fitzpatrick was brutally murdered while waiting in line to see Santa Claus with three of his four children. His wife, Mary Finnegan Fitzpatrick, was shopping nearby with their oldest daughter. Mary was near full-term pregnant, and their fifth child, Tommy, was born after his father's murder. Tommy was named after his uncle Tom Fitzpatrick, my cousin, who was killed in Vietnam two years earlier. The tragedy for my Uncle Al and Aunt Catherine Fitzpatrick was beyond comprehension--two of their children violently killed within two years. The ripples of this killing have not ended. Our family is still terribly bruised by this tragedy.

The murderer of my cousin was Tyrone Howard. In an amazing twist of fate, Tyrone's son is one of America's most famous actors, Terrence Howard. Terrence was two years old, and was there at Higbee's, when his father murdered my cousin.

Jack Fitzpatrick was about 12 years older than me, so my memories of him are somewhat skewed by that age difference. He was a kind of hero in the family. He was the oldest Fitzpatrick grandson of my grandparents, Jack and Margaret Ann Sullivan Fitzpatrick. He had been a seminarian, studying for the priesthood for a time at Borromeo Seminary in Wickliffe, Ohio. He was the first relative to ever graduate from college--from John Carroll University. He had been an ROTC officer, if I remember correctly.

I heard the news listening to a scratchy TV news program in Cincinnati, in my Over-the-Rhine apartment. I came back to Euclid, to St. William's, for the funeral, which was held on Christmas Eve. I can't forget Mary's inconsolable keening, and the family and community's deep deep sorrow.

Mary recovered from this tragedy and lived a good life, with many friends. She did a fine job raising her children. Her children have led good lives. My Dad helped Mary and her children a lot through all of this.

The Light shines in the darkness, And the darkness has not overcome it.

Wikipedia article on Jack Fitzpatrick's murder.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Petitions/Prayer of the Faithful--for Christmas 2014

For the past seven months I have had the privilege of writing the petitions (Prayer of the Faithful) for my church, St. Mary's in Painesville, Ohio. Below are the petitions I prepared for Christmas (with some help from Krista Zivkovich).

Prayer of the Faithful for Christmas, 2014.

Celebrant: As we celebrate the Nativity of our merciful Lord, Jesus Christ, let us, dear sisters and brothers, approach the one God to voice all our needs.
·         Isaiah writes, “For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet.” Let us shout out the justice and hope the newborn Jesus brings to us and the world. We pray to the Lord.

·         “We who have walked in the darkness have seen a great light.” Help us share the light of the world with our family, neighbors, and world. We pray to the Lord.

·         When Mary and Joseph journeyed to Bethlehem, they had to reside in a manger, a shelter for animals. Let us always welcome and prepare room for the stranger and the grace that Jesus brings. We pray to the Lord.

·         Today we know for sure that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Let this light shine into the souls of the sorrowing and suffering. We pray to the Lord.

·         Bless all babies and children this Christmas season. Let them experience the love and security of family and community. We pray to the Lord.

·         Let peace reign on this earth this Christmas! We pray to the Lord

·         and for those for whom this mass is offered [name them]. We pray to the Lord.

Let us pause now and silently offer to the Father our own particular intentions [...allow for silence...]. We pray to the Lord.

Celebrant: Father, we have hope that you will be moved to hear and respond to our sincere prayers, for they are asked in the name of your generous Son, whose birth we celebrate, and in the power of your Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Winter Solstice Poem

Help each other out in this dark time! Be the Light that shines in the darkness!

Winter Solstice

The chill creeps into the bones:
December 21 and sun gone long before 5 o’clock;
huge gray clouds roll in off Lake Erie
riding the Witch’s gale, spitting sleet and

fears as real and as organized as the swirl
of pin oak leaves down Lakeshore Boulevard.
This day, shaken by nameless fears,
seems to last forever:

I wonder how I will get through the next minute,
and the minute after that,
and the minute after that,

wonder if I can make it
until hope returns

until peace-which-surpasses-understanding,
as mysterious as winter solstice’s fear--
my heart standing still, turning cold,
my spirit abandoned--

until peace returns like grace like unexpected


                        Robert M. Coughlin

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Pope Speaks Out on Economics! "Purchasing is always a moral act"

I just saw this on Alternet--an article by David Morris:

On December 10th the Vatican released the text of still another vigorous message by Pope Francis in support of oppressed workers. “(M)illions of people today – children, women and men of all ages – are deprived of freedom and are forced to live in conditions akin to slavery,” he asserts. “I think of the many men and women laborers, including minors , subjugated in different sectors, whether formally or informally, in domestic or agricultural workplaces, or in the manufacturing or mining industry; whether in countries where labor regulations fail to comply with international norms and minimum standards, or, equally illegally, in countries which lack legal protection for workers’ rights.”
The Pope’s statement is not a call to reflection but to action, “Every person ought to have the awareness that ‘purchasing is always a moral – and not simply an economic – act’.” Francis wants us to buy as if someone else’s life depended on it. And he wants us to act not only as individuals but collectively. “We ought to recognize that we are facing a global phenomenon which exceeds the competence of any one community or country. In order to eliminate it, we need a mobilization comparable in size to that of the phenomenon itself.”
Today is Pope Francis' 78th birthday. If he doesn't live another day, he has already had a huge impact on the Catholic Church and on the World. He will go down in history as one of the greatest popes. In my lifetime only Pope John XXIII is his equal.
Pope Francis really cares about economics. Economics has moral and religious implications!

Monday, December 15, 2014

New Poem--about Suffering


You have emerged from the dark tunnel
into the marvelous light--

a bit scarred, yes, marks of the crown of thorns there 
on your scalp, under your hair,
and on your feet, hands, and chest,
the marks of the stigmata--
very subtle, hardly noticeable really, O friend.

You have suffered a lot,
have seen too much of death.
You once told me, "Everyone I ever loved . . .
has died."

And, of course, you know that you and I
will follow that path one day ourselves.

You have emerged, with a wicked sense of humor
and deepened humanity. Forgive others,
and yourself, more easily now.

Those who've walked in the darkness
have seen a great Light.
This Light, of spirit, liveliness, strange grace,
shines in the darkness.

And the darkness cannot overcome it.

[Bob Coughlin / December 15, 2014]

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

One of My Old Poems--on Torture

Nothing Human Is Alien                  

Homo sum; humani nil a me alienum puto
I am a human being; I consider nothing human alien to me   --Terence

Nothing human is alien
To me, or to you, my friend.

The Roman playwright Terence said this, 2000 years ago.
It was true then; it is true now.

You and I are fully capable of torture,
Murder, rape               as well as
Kindness, compassion,


So I am not terribly surprised to see
Abu Ghraib and naked hooded prisoners
Humiliated, smeared with their own feces,
Beaten, deprived of sleep. But terribly disappointed.
Terribly disappointed.

This is not Dachau, this is not the Inquisition,
But it’s in the horrific tradition,
And a brutality at the hands of our own.

Torture always redounds unto the torturers.
Karma is a law of nature, not a religious fantasy.
And as we torture and humiliate our enemy,
We torture and humiliate ourselves.

Nothing human is alien to me, or you,
But let us call forth our better selves,
Let us bring forth kindness, compassion, forgiveness,


Robert M. Coughlin / May 26, 2004

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Dermot Somerville and Shanua Musical Presentation in Hiram, Ohio

Sunday afternoon there was an amazing musical presentation in Koritansky Hall, on the campus of Hiram College. The performance was called "Sea Dreams," and it was put on by the group called "Shanua," which I think is composed primarily of Dermot Somerville, who is a native of Ireland, and his wife Ulle Laido, a native of Estonia. The name "Shanua" might come from the Irish word, sean, which means "old," and the Irish word nua, which means "new."

Dermot and Ulle were joined by several singers and musicians from Holy Rosary Church in Little Italy, where Ulle is music director (Can you imagine the wonderful music in that church!).  Becca Rhoades joined in on fiddle, and some singing; Tina Dreisbach, Music Professor at Hiram, played concertina, Irish flute, and also sang; Paul Dreisbach, also a Hiram prof, played oboe and uilleann pipes. Krista Parran was a featured singer; Tim Regan and John Clark were singers; and Rebecca Knab was the narrator (they used wonderful poems by Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, William Shakespeare, and others). The performance had a story line that talked about the menfolk going to sea to hunt for whales, then returning home. The poems and songs (which were traditional sea shanties and other songs of the sea) told about the painful partings of men and women, the fear those at home and those on the sea lived with, and the joyful reunions when the men returned.

Can you imagine--this concert was presented to the public free of charge, with the underwriting of the wonderful Hiram Community Trust. What a generous gift, both by these fine artists and the Hiram Community Trust. Art is often an act of love, as this performance was. Thank you!

The entire cast of artists, singers, musicians

Dermot on low whistle, Krista Parran, singer, and Paul Dreisbach, who played Irish uilleann pipes and oboe

Dermot Somerville, left, with John Clark and Tim Regan

Tina Dreisbach, Becca Rhoades, and Ulle Laido

James A. Garfield (his head back on his body after an act of vandalism)

The beautiful old hall where the performance took place

Faculty Art Show at Lakeland Community College

There is a nice art show at Lakeland right now, featuring the work of the arts faculty. The works are in all sorts of media, from jewelry to painting to photography to ceramics to bronze sculpture. There is no unifying style, but it strikes me that the fragmented world of modernism is still very much present--and about 100 years after the modernist writings of James Joyce and T. S. Eliot, and the paintings of Picasso and Braque. That vision of an exploded world is clearest in the pottery of Derak O'Brien. Here are cell-phone photos of some of the art:

An Example of Eddie Mitchell's popular pointillism

Bruce Cline photograph

Theresa Hess's work makes you think about life and death

David Samiec's photo makes you think about the soul of all living things, even the smallest

Chris Berry's spectacular study of color

My favorite--Paula Blackman's evocative bas relief (in bronze)

Derak O'Brien's exploded ceramic pot--Modernism is alive and well!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Manifesto--on Guns; Judy Collins' Song

I don't own a gun. Though I don't hunt myself, I'm not against hunting or target shooting. Many close friends and family members hunt and target shoot. But I, personally, promise never to own a gun. I will not ever defend myself with a gun. I would rather take a bullet myself than to kill a child.

My old friend, Reverend Maurice McCrackin, tested his actions against the question, "What Would Jesus Do?" Jesus would not be shooting people with guns; He would not be shooting children; He would not protect his few worldy possessions with lethal force.

I am probably not a total pacifist, but I believe in peaceful, nonviolent resistance. I think it is a good and effective strategy. Violence so often begets more violence. As Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth will leave the world blind and toothless."

Peace begins with me--and you. 

Don't abet violence; don't seek revenge; put a stop to violence with non-lethal means whenever that is possible (and it is possible most of the time). Keep guns locked away if you own them.

Here is a Judy Collins's song about how one person can begin creating a world of peace:

Fortune of Soldiers
Words and Music by Judy Collins, David Buskin, Dwight Batteau, Jr.

Was the fortune of soldiers to be always at war
Sighting down the barrel at whatever comes
Till the fighters forgot what they're doing it for
And reason was lost in the sound of the drums

Twas the fortune of soldiers to be always alone
Forgetting the faces of all their loved ones
Far from their daydreams, far from their homes
Love songs were drowned in the sound of the drums

Don't you know the dream has come true
Don't you know by now the dream has come true
When they say peace can never be
It's a fantasy
They didn't know about you

Don't you know the dream has come true
Don't you know by now the dream has come true
When they said peace can never be
They just couldn't see
What one dreamer can do

Tis the fortune of bankers and builders of arms
To worship the profit however it comes
Up in their towers, sheltered from harm
Far from the smoke and the sound of the drums

Tis the fortune of dreamers to see what they see
To live with the scorn till the miracle comes
To teach us the music and show us the key
And the chorus to silence the sound of the drums

Don't you know the dream has come true
Don't you know by now the dream has come true
When they say peace can never be
It's a fantasy
They didn't know about you

Don't you know the dream has come true
Don't you know by now the dream has come true
When they say that peace can never be
They just couldn't see what one dreamer can do

Tis the fortune of children to have such a choice
To grow up to be dreamers or builders of guns
Born to be angels, born to rejoice
Not to grow up to the sound of the drums

Don't you know the dream has come true
Don't you know by now the dream has come true
When they say peace can never be
It's just a fantasy
They didn't know about you

Don't you know the dream has come true
Don't you know by now the dream has come true
When they said that peace can never be
It's a fantasy

Monday, December 1, 2014

Great Song for the First of December: "Sweet Baby James"

James Taylor - "Sweet Baby James."

I always think of this sweet song on the First of December ("The First of December was covered with snow, and so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston . . .").

Here is a nice YouTube version: