Thursday, February 19, 2015

Ash Wednesday Poem for My Mother

This is a poem I wrote some years ago, reflecting on the last year of my Mother's life. I think of her every Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday Poem for My Mother

The Last Ash Wednesday (February 2003)

After teaching my classes,
I drive over to Kevin’s house
Where Mom now lives after moving from Euclid
Our family home for fifty-one years.

It’s getting harder for her to go out,
So I come to her house,
Burn last year’s palm fronds in the ash tray

And anoint her forehead with the Sign of the Cross.

I find myself unable to utter the ancient words,
“Remember, Woman, from dust thou art,
And unto dust thou shallt return.”

The words are too painful, too real,
The abiding dust
too close.

Then Mom anoints my own forehead,
Again leaving the words unspoken:

No one can ever know . . . .

After the little ceremony,
We both laugh, and Mom says,
“Let’s drink a beer!”

“Not on Ash Wednesday,” I tease.

“The hell with that!” she retorts.
“I’m old enough now to be above the rules!”

We both laugh, and I pop open two beers.
We drink to Mardi Gras and to Lent,
And to the ashes on our foreheads.

[Bob Coughlin, February 21, 2007, Ash Wednesday]

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Two Poems: One for February; One for Early Early Spring

I wrote these in Kentucky 36 years ago. In Northern Ohio "February's Dream" probably becomes March's Dream or April's Dream--ha ha.

February’s Dream

the snow lies thick upon the earth
the groundhog saw his shadow
the nights are long and bitter cold

but I have watched closely
and have seen some signs:

the morning concert of chirping birds
tree twigs turned a shade of red
silver maples’ pregnant buds

I have felt the quickening
first hope in this hard winter

I look for the crocus
and remember the birth
of a love

(Pippa Passes, Kentucky
February 1979)

Song of the Turtle

“and the song of the turtle is heard throughout the land.” Song of Songs 2:12

our spirits hibernating
like our brothers the bear
our sap slow and deep
our thoughts turned in

but what’s this?

a turtle coos victory over death
the earth quickens
sends out magic crocus
forsythia explode
ecstatic mirror of the sun
redbud promise
dogwood dance under the April moon

our sap is running
our love is blooming
our spirits dancing
to the turtle’s magic song

(Pippa Passes, Kentucky
February 1979)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Petitions/Prayer of the Faithful for February 22, 2015--First Sunday of Lent

For this coming Sunday, February 22, 2015, I have tried to keep in mind the terrible beheadings of the Coptic Christians in Libya, Jesus' own response to violence, the endless cycle of revenge, and Gandhi's comment on how "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth leaves the world blind and toothless." Jesus and Gandhi were on the same page there! And as usual, I tried to remember the homeless, hungry, and ill-clothed during this bitter-cold winter weather. Also, I reflected on Ash Wednesday and Lent and the assigned readings for Sunday, where we hear about the "rainbow sign," God's covenant with Noah and all people.

Prayer of the Faithful for Sunday February 22, 2015. First Sunday of Lent.

Celebrant: As we celebrate the Eucharist in this season of preparation, let us, dear sisters and brothers, approach the one God to voice all our needs.
  • That we might rejoice in the “rainbow sign,” the covenant God gave to Noah. We pray to the Lord.

  • That the ashes of Ash Wednesday remind us of the shortness of life and the urgency to give our all to build the Kingdom of God. We pray to the Lord.

  • That we might use the 40 days of Lent to repent for our sins and selfishness and prepare for the coming of the Lord’s peaceful and just Kingdom.  We pray to the Lord.

  • For the protection of Christians in the Middle East.  We pray to the Lord.

  • That the cycle of revenge be ended in the world’s war zones. We pray to the Lord.

  • That the idea of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, which leaves the world blind and toothless, be replaced with Jesus’ response to violence. We pray to the Lord.

  • For our neighbors who are homeless, hungry, or ill-clothed, help us to respond to their needs during this bitter-cold winter. 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, during this season of Lent, 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.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Couple Love Poems for Valentine's Day

When You Are Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.#

If It Were Not for You

Liebe, meine liebe, I had not hoped   
to be so poor

                   The night winds reach   
like the blind breath of the world
in a rhythm without mind, gusting and beating   
as if to destroy us, battering our poverty   
and all the land’s flat and cold and dark
under iron snow

                        the dog leaps in the wind   
barking, maddened with winter, and his voice   
claps again and again down the valley   
like tatters of revolutionary pennants
cry and hemlocks by the brook
stand hunched and downcast with their hands   
in their pockets

Liebe, the world is wild   
and without intention

                               how far
this might be from the night of Christmas   
if it were not for you.

Down the reaching wind
shrieks of starlight bear broken messages
among mountains where shadows plunge
                                                      yet our brightness   
is unwavering
                   Kennst du das land   

wo die zitronen bl├╝hn, im dunkeln laub

die goldorangen ... liebe
art thou singing

It is a question partly
of the tree with our stars and partly
of your radiance brought from the land   
where legends flower to this land   
but more than these our bright poverty   
is a house in the wind and a light   
on the mountain

Liebe, our light rekindled
in this remoteness from the other land,
in this dark of the blue mountain where only   
the winds gather
      is what we are for the time that we are   
      what we know for the time that we know

How gravely and sweetly the poor touch in the dark.#

Still Life, With Grand Babies
                                                --for Linda

You on the blue recliner,
Twelve-week old Robby over your right shoulder,
Three-year-old Colin snuggling you on the left,
Close to your heart

            Close to your heart!

                                                            Bob / March 28, 2014

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Poem for Kayla Mueller--making use of her family's words

Making Peace Cranes with Your Captors, Loving Your Enemies

It’s not how long you live. Really,
The longest life is short indeed. And the shortest
Can offer us the greatest dignity and hope—

So Kayla Mueller’s life, 26 years long, will forever shine
Like a beacon of hope, a beacon of goodness
In a crucified world.

"Kayla was a compassionate and devoted humanitarian," her family said.
"She dedicated the whole of her young life to helping
those in need of freedom, justice, and peace."

What more can you offer? Your very flesh and blood?
Your love for even your captors, teaching them origami,
How to make peace cranes? And that she did before her death.

"Kayla has touched the heart of the world,” said her Aunt Lori.
“The world grieves with us; the world mourns with us;
the world wants to be more like Kayla . . .”

“and if that is her legacy and the footprint she leaves on the world,

then that is a wonderful thing.”

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The World Cries Out for Your Help! --a new poem

The World cries out for your help!

The earth aches, humanity groans.
There are so many hungry people,
hungry for bread, hungry for food,
hungry for respect. Can you reach them a hand?

So many homeless, so many ill-clothed,
can you give them your old shoes,
the coat you never wear, that sweater sitting in the dresser drawer?
The money you store for just in case--can you spare

a few bucks for sleeping bags, blankets, baby clothes?

What can you do? What talents do you have?
What needs cry out most to you?

Every one has a role. If you have a clear mind, a strong arm, a strong back,
a few bucks, a little time, a little will--

Can you share a small portion with those who have only aching need?

Bob Coughlin / February 9, 2015

Monday, February 9, 2015

Petitions/Prayer of the Faithful for Sunday, February 15, 2015

Here are the petitions I am working on for next Sunday, February 15, 2015. I try to base them on the readings for the day, for intentions listed by the USCCB, and the needs I see in our local parish and community.

Prayer of the Faithful for Sunday February 15, 2015. Sixth 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.
·  With the psalmist, let us say, “I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.We pray to the Lord.

·  That we may bring our infirmities, mental, spiritual, and physical, to the Lord to ask for healing, if it be His will. We pray to the Lord.

·  That we might recognize the great love manifested in Jesus’ healings. We pray to the Lord.

  • That in the spirit of Saint Valentine, we all might learn to love and to accept the love of others. We pray to the Lord.

·  That on Presidents’ Day we ask God to bless and guide our president and all those who lead and govern. Let them do it in humility, informed by the Judeo-Christian moral code. 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.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Bitter Cold Nights for Homeless in Painesville, Ohio

Last night was a tough night to be homeless in Painesville, Ohio. Some friends and I were privileged to be able to help them, at least a little. On the winter's coldest and snowiest nights, my friends open up an emergency warming center for the homeless in St. Mary's gym. Some of the main people doing this include Kathy and Dan Philipps, Brian Rice, and several others, including Maggie Rice, Ed Zivkovitch, and gee--I don't know all the names of the helpers.

Last night Ed and I stayed overnight as the people in charge. Kathy Philipps, Linda Coughlin, Brian Rice, Krista Zivkovitch, Kathy Flora and others gave us a big hand before the overnight began and again in the morning as we were packing up and cleaning up the facility.

I took a few pictures so people could get an idea of what this is like. The pictures cannot tell the whole story, and I didn't feel it would be proper to take close-up photos of our guests. All in all we had 15 guests, three of those women. The age range was considerable, but luckily there were no young moms or children. There is another facility for them, Project Hope, about 2-3 miles to the west of St. Mary's.

Pope Francis has weighed in on homelessness and priorities in the world's richest nations

15 cots on the perimeter of the gymnasium

The Pope's view on the mission of the Church

My cot and sleeping bag

The gym is behind the Fr. Hanzo Family Center.
At. St. Mary's in Painesville, we take seriously the Works of Mercy, and we do our best to feed the hungry (via the Karpos Ministry, Wednesday and Thursday nights, and a food pantry). In very cold and snowy weather we shelter the homeless. And we try to "clothe the naked" (so far no one has come naked--ha ha), by offering gloves, coats, hats, shoes, and other clothing--as far as we are able. It is my belief that our pastor, Fr. Steve Vellenga, should get some credit for allowing and facilitating these ministries. Some pastors would have no part of it, despite the exhortations of Pope Francis.

You can't encounter the hungry and the homeless without wondering why this can happen in wealthy America, in wealthy Lake County, Ohio. I believe we must address the structural and institutional reasons for these scandals. Meanwhile, we at St. Mary's take a Catholic Worker approach (rather than the social worker and institutional approach of the Salvation Army or Project Hope). We do what we can to meet radical needs, and we do it without judgement.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Two Poems for Thomas Merton's 100th Birthday

Thomas Merton Follows the Spirit into Flesh

In the mid 1960s, you, Thomas Merton, most famous Catholic in America.
Convert, poet, celibate monk, famous author of
Seven-Storey Mountain and so many books on spirituality--nobody

Thought you an ordinary man, but you were not fooled.
So it didn’t surprise you when you fell in love with your nurse
When hospitalized in Louisville--for a bad back and an aching

Spirit. You fell like a 17-year-old boy, which in a way you were
(and that’s one reason we loved you!). And you ached to kiss her,
Wanted her hand on your chest, wanted to love her fully, knew you were “in deep.”

The Spirit moves in ways no one can predict,
And you tried to follow Her, embrace the grace,
See where it would bring you both


[Bob Coughlin / June 21, 2014]

Thomas Merton Burns M.’s Letters

You, Thomas Merton, who so carefully made carbon copies of all your correspondence,
Gathered your letters to M
And hers to you,

And out behind the Hermitage
Lit the flame--as if they were trash
(Or maybe something holy and sacramental--
that could only be disposed of by sacred fire).

These letters displayed your humanity
writ large and bold,
but contradicted the Abbott’s orders

and made clear the ambivalence in your own heart:

The need to be held, to kiss, to be touched, to touch--
for a while trumped vows made to an abstract Church
and an invisible God.

The fire consumed the precious words on paper,
but what of the words written on your heart,
on M’s heart? O Thomas Merton.

[Bob Coughlin / July 2, 2014]

Snow-maggedon (again!) in Northern Ohio!

View out the front door

The deck in back

Note the snow on the picnic table!

Another view of the deck, from floor level

Trying to snowblow the front walk

Moi, freezing!