Saturday, January 31, 2015

Thomas Merton--Happy 100th Birthday!

Thomas Merton, with the Dalai Lama

The great author, peacemaker, mystic, Trappist monk, poet Thomas Merton was born in Prades, France 100 years ago today. Merton joined the Trappist monastery of Gethsemani, near Bardstown, Kentucky, on December 10, 1941. He lived exactly 27 years as a monk until his accidental death at a conference on monasticism in Bangkok, Thailand, dying on December 10, 1968.
Merton by his hermitage, on Gethsemani grounds, where he lived the last years of his life

Merton was the most amazingly prolific author. He wrote what might be the most important and famous autobiography in American history, The Seven-Storey Mountain. He wrote about monasticism, about war and peace; he wrote poetry and literary criticism. One of his great works is Raids on the Unspeakable, where he wrote essays on issues of war and peace, pacifism, non-violence, and militarism.

His life and ideas are fascinating--and remain fascinating to people throughout the world. His influence continues to grow. Today I saw a one-person play on Thomas Merton, 4th and Walnut, put on and performed by Jim Nagle. The play was performed at the Ursuline Motherhouse, adjacent to Ursuline College, in Pepper Pike, Ohio. What an incredible, beautiful performance! The title refers to a street corner in Louisville, Kentucky where Merton had a sudden insight--an overwhelming sense of compassion and love for everyday people, you might say the fruit of his vocation as monk.
Merton's epiphany at 4th and Walnut, in Louisville

Here is a joyous psalm that Thomas Merton wrote, almost in the tradition of Francis of Assisi:

Today, Father, this blue sky lauds you.
The delicate green and orange flowers of the tulip poplar tree praise you.
The distant blue hills praise you,
together with the sweet-smelling air that is full of brilliant light.
The bickering flycatchers praise you
with the lowing cattle and the quails that whistle over there.

I too, Father, praise you, with all these my brothers,
and they give voice to my own heart and to my own silence.
We are all one silence, and a diversity of voices.
You have made us together,
you have made us one and many,
you have placed me here in the midst
as witness, as awareness, and as joy.

Here I am.
In me the world is present,
and you are present.
I am a link in the chain of light and of presence.
You have made me a kind of center,
but a center that is nowhere.
And yet also I am "here."
[Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, pp. 131-132]

Here is another poem of Merton:

Thomas Merton's Prayer of Abandonment

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 that I think I am following your will does not mean I am actually doing so.
But I believe the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all I am doing. I hope I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

I have written a few poems on Merton. Two of them can be found in earlier blog entries. I may repost them here soon.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Auschwitz--Liberated 70 Years Ago Today

The Gate at Auschwitz

On January 27, 1945. Auschwitz, the notorious concentration and extermination camp that Nazis established in annexed areas of Poland, was liberated by the Red [Soviet] Army. Nobody knows how many people were murdered there. Estimates are about one million Jews. There were also Roma (once called Gypsies), Jehovah Witnesses, Polish POW's, Russian POW's, homosexuals, and untold others murdered.

Here is a powerful poem written by Paul Celan on the Holocaust, Todesfuge:

Schwarze Milch der Frühe wir trinken sie abends 
wir trinken sie mittags und morgens wir trinken sie nachts 
wir trinken und trinken 
wir schaufeln ein Grab in den Lüften da liegt man nicht eng 
Ein Mann wohnt im Haus der spielt mit den Schlangen der schreibt 
der schreibt wenn es dunkelt nach Deutschland dein goldenes Haar Margarete 
er schreibt es und tritt vor das Haus und es blitzen die Sterne er pfeift seine Rüden herbei 
er pfeift seine Juden hervor läßt schaufeln ein Grab in der Erde 
er befiehlt uns spielt auf nun zum Tanz
Schwarze Milch der Frühe wir trinken dich nachts
wir trinken dich morgens und mittags wir trinken dich abends
wir trinken und trinken
Ein Mann wohnt im Haus der spielt mit den Schlangen der schreibt
der schreibt wenn es dunkelt nach Deutschland dein goldenes Haar Margarete
Dein aschenes Haar Sulamith wir schaufeln ein Grab in den Lüften da liegt man nicht eng
Er ruft stecht tiefer ins Erdreich ihr einen ihr andern singet und spielt
[Vortrag: Er ruft stecht tiefer ins Erdreich ihr einen ihr andern spielt weiter zum Tanz auf]
er greift nach dem Eisen im Gurt er schwingts seine Augen sind blau
stecht tiefer die Spaten ihr einen ihr andern spielt weiter zum Tanz auf
Schwarze Milch der Frühe wir trinken dich nachts
wir trinken dich mittags und morgens wir trinken dich abends
wir trinken und trinken
ein Mann wohnt im Haus dein goldenes Haar Margarete
dein aschenes Haar Sulamith er spielt mit den Schlangen
Er ruft spielt süßer den Tod der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland
er ruft streicht dunkler die Geigen dann steigt ihr als Rauch in die Luft
dann habt ihr ein Grab in den Wolken da liegt man nicht eng
Schwarze Milch der Frühe wir trinken dich nachts
wir trinken dich mittags der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland
wir trinken dich abends und morgens wir trinken und trinken
der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland sein Auge ist blau
er trifft dich mit bleierner Kugel er trifft dich genau
ein Mann wohnt im Haus dein goldenes Haar Margarete
er hetzt seine Rüden auf uns er schenkt uns ein Grab in der Luft
er spielt mit den Schlangen und träumet der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland
dein goldenes Haar Margarete
dein aschenes Haar Sulamith

Here is one English translation I found of "Death Fugue":

Death Fugue
By Paul Celan
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Black milk of daybreak we drink it come evening
we drink it come midday come morning we drink it come night
we drink it and drink it
we spade out a grave in the air there it won't feel so tight
A man lives at home who plays with the vipers he writes
he writes in the German-born nightfall
the gold of your hair Margarete
he writes it and steps out of doors and the stars are aglitter he whistles his hounds out
he whistles his Jews off has them spade out a grave in the ground
he orders us play up for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you come night
we drink you come midday come morning we drink you come evening
we drink you and drink you
A man lives at home who plays with the vipers he writes
he writes in the German-born nightfall the gold of your hair Margarete
the ash of your hair Shulamith we spade out a grave in the air there it won't feel so tight

He yells you there dig deeper and you there sing and play
He grabs the nightstick at his belt and swings it his eyes are so blue
You there dig deeper and you there play loud for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you come night
We drink you come midday come morning we drink you come evening
We drink you and drink you
a man lives at home the gold of your hair Margarete
the ash of your hair Shulamith he plays with the vipers
he yells play sweeter for death Death is a German-born master
yells scrape the strings darker you'll rise through the air like smoke
and have a grave in the clouds there it won't feel so tight

Black milk of daybreak we drink you come night
we drink you come midday Death is a German-born master
We drink you come evening come morning we drink you and drink you
Death is a German-born master his eye is so blue
He shoots with lead bullets he shoots you his aim is so true
a man lives at home the gold of your hair Margarete
he lets his hounds loose on us grants us a grave in the air
he plays with his vipers and dreams a dream Death is a German-born master

The gold of your hair Margarete
The ash of your hair Shulamith

Monday, January 26, 2015

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park, Looks Spectacular Today!

Look at this, just taken by the webcam:

Lake McDonald, January 26, 2015, 4 PM
Is this the most beautiful lake in the world?

To see the most current Glacier National Park webcams, click this link.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Lake Erie--Frozen . . . and Beautiful!

Lake Erie is beautiful in all seasons. I was swimming in it early last September, which seems like yesterday--and forever ago at the same time. When Linda and I went to see the Lake yesterday at Mentor Headlands, it was frozen as far as we could see. At the Lake's edge there were huge dunes of ice, with sheer cliffs about 25-30 feet tall going down to the flatter frozen surface. Here are a few photos:

Linda on the cliff's edge

The whiteness washed out the horizon in this photo.

You can see an animal trail below, the line of ice cliffs, and far in the distance, the Fairport Harbor lighthouse.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Winter Hike along Tinkers Creek, Bedford Reservation, Cleveland MetroParks

Last weekend we hiked in a local park we've never seen before--Tinkers Creek in the Bedford Reservation. What a genius William Stinchcomb, the person who came up with the idea for Cleveland's metropolitan park system!

Chagrin Falls--maybe 10 miles or so from Tinkers Creek

Many rapids, cascades, and small falls on Tinkers Creek

Woodpeckers at work!
Water weeping from the shale cliffs along Tinkers Creek--freezing into gigantic icicles!

An amazing knot on a downed tree

A view of the gorge formed by Tinkers Creek

Another view of the Tinkers Creek Gorge

Friday, January 16, 2015

Je ne suis pas "Charlie"--I do not insult other people's religion, beliefs, or God

While I was in Montana last week I missed a lot of news or got just bits and pieces of it. By the time I started paying attention again to the news I saw an image of many world leaders linking arms under the banner "Je Suis Charlie!" That French phrase means "I am Charlie," and refers to the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo.

I would have mourned the terrible tragedy of the murders of the staff members of this magazine, and I decry attempts to destroy the human right of free speech. But I would not have linked arms under the banner of "Je Suis Charlie!" I declare, "Je ne suis pas Charlie!" because I am not Charlie--I don't believe in mocking people and their religious values, faith, or God. That is what Charlie Hebdo did on a consistent basis.

I am with Pope Francis on this when he stated, "You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.” He remarked that there would be pushback if this were to happen--it should come as no surprise. The Independent (a newspaper from the United Kingdom) writes, "He [the Pope] said that freedom of speech and expression are fundamental human rights however he added that he believes there should be limits to offending and ridiculing the faiths and beliefs of others."

This is exactly what I  believe. I am glad President Obama did not join hands in Paris with these other leaders. The photo above of world leaders only served to raise these murders to much larger acts of civilizational war than they deserve to be. "Je ne suis pas Charlie!" I am not Charlie Hebdo!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Revisiting My Adolescence--Skiing at Age 66 on Big Mountain, Whitefish, Montana

My first time skiing was around 1962, as a Freshman at St. Joseph High School in Cleveland. We would go in a school bus to a ski area in Chesterland called "Mont Chalet." This was a  beautiful little hill, maybe a vertical drop of 250 feet (tops!), with a run of a couple of hundred yards. I have fond memories of Mont Chalet and our bus trips there. One time we actually started slipping backwards on a snowy Tibbetts Road (which connected to Caves Road). The bus driver put on the emergency brakes, and we escaped the bus and pushed it up the hill!

By the time I was a senior at St. Joe's, we started going to Alpine Valley Ski Area in Munson Township, Geauga County. That area had a higher vertical and longer runs--but really it was quite short compared to ski resorts in New England or in the Mountain West.

My real development as a skier happened the winter of 1967-68, when I studied in Innsbruck, Austria--Sophomore Year Abroad, a Notre Dame program. I took a week of skiing lessons at an Austrian youth ski school in the week after Christmas that year, along with my classmates Brian Wilson, Tim Forward, and Benny Thomas. We got a week of lessons in Obergurgl, Austria, plus room and board (Matrazen Anlagen--German for mattresses butted up against each other in an open dorm room)--the cost was an incredible $18.00, if I remember correctly. Anyway, that week of lessons paid off and got me in very good shape. The Austrian teachers did not believe in using ski lifts. We skied down the mountain and walked up--every single time. We worked on our skiing for about 6 hours per day. I was a pretty good skier after that week!

Below is a much more recent photo of Obergurgl, found using a Google search:

After my year in Austria, I skied very little. Occasionally I would go to Alpine Valley or Brandywine/Boston Mills. On two occasions, I made quick trips to Killington, Vermont (hilarious stories with those trips). In the 1990's and early 2000's I went to Holiday Valley or Peak 'n Peek in western New York State a few times.

About 6 years ago, when my daughter Carolan was living in Frisco, Colorado (and working at the Copper Mountain Ski Resort), I got to ski on that huge mountain. I was able to do OK, which surprised me. But I remember how my thighs burned the whole way down the mountain. You have to have very strong legs to ski on the the Rocky Mountains. You also have to put up with very cold weather. The day we skied on Copper Mountain it was about 10 below zero!

So after not doing any downhill skiing for the past six years or so, I went skiing a few days ago on Big Mountain, just outside of Whitefish, Montana. My daughter lives at the foot of the mountain and has a season's pass for skiing. So with rented skis and her ski discount, I skied with her and her friend Jeremy Rust on Big Mountain, an incredible skiing venue.

Below are some photos from our Big Mountain adventure:

Carolan skiing down the Hellroaring Basin (photo by Jeremy Rust)

Bob and Carolan hollering "Ski Heil!" Flathead Valley in the background. Jeremy took this one too.

Atop Big Mountain.

I made it down a fairly steep slope. I can still ski!

Carolan and Bob at the summit. Glacier National Park mountains in the background.

A better view of the great peaks of Glacier National Park, from atop Big Mountain

Carolan and Bob

Linda and Carolan

Petitions/Prayer of the Faithful for January 18, 2015

Here are the petitions I've written for our church for this coming Sunday, January 18, 2015. I have developed an approach to this task: I look over the readings assigned for the Sunday in question and try to find powerful lines and themes that I can use in one or two of the petitions. I also try to consider the concerns of the Catholic bishops for the week or the month. This month the bishops are focusing on the issues of poverty and immigration, which are crucial issues indeed in our parish, St. Mary's of Painesville, Ohio. Then I try to consider the needs of the season and particular issues within our parish. Our parish community is in the midst of bitter cold and heavy snow, so I offer prayers for the homeless (members of our parish have opened an overnight emergency warming center in the parish gym). And our parish is dedicated to serving the hungry, a mission that I am involved with in the Wednesday and Thursday night Karpos Ministry meals. Oh yes, in light of the terrible violence in France and in many other parts of the world, I decided to offer a prayer for peace for the members of the three great mono-theistic religions, Jews, Christians, and Muslims.With all that in mind, here are the petitions I have developed:

Prayer of the Faithful for Sunday January 18, 2015. Second Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Celebrant: As we celebrate the Eucharist, the living legacy of Jesus Christ, let us, dear sisters and brothers, approach the one God to voice all our needs.
·  Let us remember the words of St. Paul, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God . . . ? For you have been purchased at a price.” Help us to treat ourselves and others with these words in mind. We pray to the Lord.

·  Help us recognize the Truth, the Christ, and, like the first disciples, help us leave all else behind and follow Him. We pray to the Lord.

·  Let us remember the homeless, the poor, the hungry, and all affected by the winter’s cold. We pray to the Lord.

·  Help us work for a just immigration reform because we ourselves or our ancestors were once strangers in a strange land. We pray to the Lord.

·  That the members of the great mono-theistic religions, Jews, Christians, and Muslims, may learn to live in peace. 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, and in the power of your Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Poem for Three Kings Day--A Response to T.S. Eliot

This is a post from last year. It was inspired by my friends Clare Weinkam and Manuel Susarret when they lived on Flora Street in Cincinnati. Clare is a Cincinnati German-American. Manuel is Puerto Rican-American.

Three Kings Day
(Retort to a gloomy Thomas Stearns Eliot)

Lighten up a bit, Tommy.

Let me tell you about a different Journey of the Magi--

The entire week before Three Kings Day, El Dia de Reyes,
sisters, mother, and friends gather around the big table
in the Flora Street House, Cincinnati’s Clifton neighborhood.

Amid laughter and conversation, Cincinnati Germans and
South Bronx Puertorriquenos prepare
pasteles, arroz con dulce, tembleque, and coquito.

Three Kings does not resemble death,
as in your drafty Anglican Church,
and the gifts are not cold gold, burning incense, bitter myrrh--

but laughter,


and wonderful food.

Lighten up, Tommy!
Have some platanos, and a
glass of coquito!

Bob Coughlin January 6, 2014

Click to see the T.S.Eliot poem (with audio)

Epiphany: The Work of Christmas Commences

Here is a post on the Epiphany from a few years ago. It was quite popular and I thought I'd re-post it.

Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany at St. Mary's Church in Painesville, Ohio. Traditionally, the feast has been celebrated on January 6th, and our family has always left up the Christmas decorations and the manger scene until the Epiphany.

The word comes from the Greek, meaning "sudden appearance, manifestation." The Irish writer James Joyce and others used the word to mean "sudden insight." The Epiphany was the manifestation of Jesus to the magi and to the world outside the Holy Family.

Fr. Jenkins, in his homily yesterday, finished with a famous poem, that made me think of Tom Liszkay's Christmas card:

The Work of Christmas
Howard Thurman

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Celebrating Robby's First Birthday

What a birthday party for one-year-old Robby Saturday! Forty people, including 15 children. A 94 year age range, from Grandma Lucarelli at age 94 to a 7-month old.

Here are a few photos from this wonderful party:

Brian, Emily, Robby, Julia

Grandma Linda, Robby, and Grandma Judy ("Gigi")

Robby and Great Grandma Lucarelli

Colin and four of his girl friends


Sunday, January 4, 2015

A New Epiphany: How About Women as Priests, Bishops, Cardinals, Pope!

Today the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the great Feast of the Epiphany. Growing up, we celebrated this feast on January 6th. It was a fairly big deal in my part of Euclid, because, not only did it mark the end of the Christmas season, but it marked Little Christmas for the Byzantine Catholics at St. Stephen's Church on Lloyd Road.

In today's second reading, from St. Paul to the Ephesians, we get this revolutionary proclamation:

It was not made known to people in other generations 
as it has now been revealed
to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 
that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body,
and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

I imagine in its day these were astonishing and difficult words for the Jews who were also followers of Jesus. It was as if Paul said aliens could also be followers of Jesus.

What we need today is a new epiphany. The word "epiphany" can mean "manifestation" or "sudden insight." The new epiphany is that women are the equal to men (how can those words even be uttered or written without the thought--"Well, duh . . . Of course!"). Of course. How can there be any genuine reason that women cannot be deacons, priests, bishops, and even pope? The old arguments, beginning with Jesus and the apostles being male, carry no weight at all! Of course 2000 years ago the world was not ready to hear that women were the equals of men. Then again, the world of Jewish-Christians or Christian-Jews (however you want to characterize these early communities) might not have been ready to hear that Gentiles could be followers of Jesus.

But this is the moment of kairos! We are ready to hear these prophetic words. We need brave men and women, with stature in the religious community, to stand up and proclaim the truth, just as St. Paul did almost 2000 years ago.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Trying to Sum Up My Blog Entries from 2014 (continued)

A couple days ago I thought I'd sum up my blog entries from 2014. I found it almost impossible--at least to do it in a concise manner!

So very briefly, here are some issues I addressed:

  • I wrote lots of new poems, reprised many of my old poems, and talked about favorite poets and their poems.
  • I continued writing reminisces of growing up in Willoughby and Euclid.
  • I had a number of posts, usually with photos of my two grandsons, Colin and Robby.
  • I wrote a little about homelessness and working with the homeless, both in Painesville and at the Catholic Worker (in New York City and in Davenport, Iowa).
  • I wrote reminisces of the Vietnam War and the Vietnam era.
  • I did many reflections on the Catholic Church and the new pope.
  • I wrote occasionally about fracking and about Judge Grendell's damage to the Geauga Parks.
  • I wrote about Irish music and folk music.
  • I had many postings about nature, local parks, and wildflowers.

Gee, I can't believe how much I wrote this past year and how many topics I addressed! It has been a blessing and I hope my family and friends have enjoyed this blog.