Monday, July 6, 2015

"Choose Your Seat and Sit Down..."

A Triptych for New Priests
For forty-five years, with a few years quiet, there has been an ordination poem written by me and gifted to some friend and brother of mine, in the Society of Jesus. In addition, for even more years, I have been writing poems for other “in-house” occasions,” usually when a fellow Jesuit pronounces vows within our community. After two years of living in the community a man will pronounce vows of poverty, chastity and obedience – and then spend many years subsequently wondering at that mysterious impulse of commitment.  Ordination follows for those who choose to elaborate their identity in the exercise of that service to the people of God and to the Church.  After some more years of discovering mysterious sources of strength and power and humility and grace within one’s self, all the men who are already “vowed religious” then spend an intense period of reflection on all they have seen, heard and done; and then recommit themselves to service as members of “the least Society.” That renewal of promises is called “final vows.”

At each of those stages of growth and renewal I have written a poem, now and then. My reasons will always remain my own. It is a prompting of the soul that tells me, “I think you ought to do a poem.”  If one appears, then all is well. If one does not appear, then all is still well; but my impulse to gift remains simmering within me.

This year, 2015, is unusual in that three of the eight men who were ordained, in the Midwest, in June, to the priesthood of the Church as members of the Society of Jesus are men with whom I have grown close. Each of them has been a cause of great joy for me as they have been transparent in sharing with me their dreams, hopes, concerns and faith. As each of them has grown “in wisdom and in grace,” from the time we first met “in the Temple,” I have felt my own hope in this community restored and nourished. Oh, within their generation there are others, many others, in fact, who open up a circle of welcome for me when I return to community gatherings. With them all I feel no need to pay an exorbitant “price of the ticket (in the words of James Baldwin)” in order to be of value, to be of service, to be taken seriously. And to be blessed with the energy of the young men who are restless to bring their fire and passion and to the kingdom journey that I have been walking for more than fifty years.  

So I saw these poems as three moments of discovery for three of the disciples of Jesus as they tumbled into the unknown, each time He called them to do impossible things.  I saw those discovery moments as focused of loaves and fishes. A blessed meal. I heard a story, a prayer, a hunger from each of the men who asked for a poem -- even when they did not know they were asking.

And that is the gift. Always.
                                 *     *     *     *     *     *
The Always Time
For Christopher, Adam and Lukas

Now I know how
                               it was
                             and silence

And him waiting for us to see

I knew that in that desolate place
the thorns and thickets would be mild
the crowd grown restive and suspicious


                              Feed them

And the hours and hours and hours
we worked ashamed
                                 and I was frightened
to hold loaf after loaf
                                    and the crumbs
of my certainty grew less and less

And silence
                     which was always
his blessing and his call

                                         Feed them

Now I know how


Meant to overhear
                                 the sword
stuck into my brother’s heart   we waited
at the fire
                   Do you love me?

Then why do you sleep
                                        grow anxious
pull the shadows over you
and weep
                     Where have I run
from you    how have I grown
           did not the widow’s howl
shatter your doubt
                                 a son
for the mother   watching death  is
little enough gift
                              But for the world
that will eat you like this bread
must hear it again  and again  and speak
when you are altogether choked with fear

Do you (and I knew he claimed
us all)
             love (and I knew he claimed
us all)
                    (and he knew us all to be
hungry to be claimed)

Feed them


I will
           breathe again

When and if ever the fire dancing
shadows steady themselves
                                              or my
eyes are shocked dry
                                     at last

to see beyond the wall we have
made of each other’s bodies
                                               no shame
in that
             clinging  embracing  holding warmth
against the clamor of swords and knives

He asked for bread
                                 and fish
                                                 and kissed us
each of us
all of us
                and finally
                                               It is enough
to feed upon the fire
                                     And finally
let my breath sing
                               away the darkness

At last
               I do not need the hunger

It is time
                 It is now
                                  the always time    

27 May 2015/13 June 2015