Keep Ithaca always in your mind

C.P. Cavafy’s poem Ithaca popped into my head this morning. It’s always worth a read and a listen.

Sean Connery does such a nice job reciting it here:

As you set out for Ithaca
hope that your journey is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.

Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – do not be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare sensation
touches your spirit and your body.

Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon – you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope that your journey is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind –
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and learn again from those who know.

Keep Ithaca always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so that you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.

Ithaca gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithacas mean.

Father Malloy

YOU are over there, Father Malloy,  
Where holy ground is, and the cross marks every grave,  
Not here with us on the hill—  
Us of wavering faith, and clouded vision  
And drifting hope, and unforgiven sins.
You were so human, Father Malloy,  
Taking a friendly glass sometimes with us,  
Siding with us who would rescue Spoon River  
From the coldness and the dreariness of village morality.  
You were like a traveler who brings a little box of sand
From the wastes about the pyramids  
And makes them real and Egypt real.  
You were a part of and related to a great past,  
And yet you were so close to many of us.  
You believed in the joy of life.
You did not seem to be ashamed of the flesh.  
You faced life as it is,  
And as it changes.  
Some of us almost came to you, Father Malloy,  
Seeing how your church had divined the heart,
And provided for it,  
Through Peter the Flame,  
Peter the Rock.

Edgar Lee Masters

Spoon River Anthology

"Sing to us," they said, "one of Meinrad’s tones"

My good friend Charles just returned from San Antonio, where he and his class were spending some time at the Mexican American Catholic College.  He enjoyed his time but penned this poem about Meinrad while he was there in Psalm 137 fashion.  It is too good not to share.

 By the Riverwalk of San Antonio
 there we sat and wept
 remembering Meinrad
 on the cypresses that grew there
 we hung up our coats.
 It was there that they asked us
 our instructors for songs
 our presenters for joy.
 “Sing to us,” they said,
 “one of Meinrad’s tones.”
 O how could we sing
 the song of the monks
 on Texan soil?
 If I forget you, Saint Meinrad,
 let me lose Donut Tuesdays!
 O let my tab
 be closed and suppressed
 if I remember you not,
 if I prize not Jack’s coffee
 above all my joys.
 [Remember O Lord
 our Wednesday meal deals
 in the Unstable,
 and when they say, “Kiss the moose,
 Kiss the moose” on your birthday.
 O dreaded chicken breast,
 he is happy who ignores you
 the ills you brought on us.
 He shall seize and shall dash
 your baby carrots upon the rock.]


Down to that littleness, down to all that
Crying and hunger, all that tiny flesh
And flickering spirit – down the great stars fall,
Here the great kings bow.
Here the farmer sees his fragile lambs,
Here the wise man throws his books away.
This manger is the universe’s cradle,
This singing mother has the words of truth.
Here the ox and ass and sparrow stop,
Here the hopeless man breaks into trust.
God, you have made a victory for the lost.
Give us this daily Bread, this little Host.
Elizabeth Jennings

This only have I learnt, that God is love

What hast thou learnt today?
Hast thou sounded awful mysteries,
Hast pierced the veiled skies,
Climbed to the feet of God,
Trodden where saints have trod,
Fathomed the heights above?
This only have I learnt, that God is love.

What hast thou heard today?
Hast heard the Angel-trumpets cry,
And rippling harps reply;
Heard from the Throne of flame
Whence God incarnate came
Some thund’rous message roll?
This have I heard, His voice within my soul.

What hast thou felt today?
The pinions of the Angel guide
That standeth at thy side
In rapturous ardours beat
Glowing, from head to feet,
In ecstasy divine?
This only have felt, Christ’s hand in mine.”

Robert Hugh Benson

After a Retreat
Via Fr. Denis Robinson, OSB

Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (and of Victory)

Photo taken at the Shrine of Monte Cassino, St. Meinrad, Indiana
Barren beads in fumbling fingers of fools, fallen, absurd,
in crazed haze of word after empty word:
pitiful piety brings no aid,
naught but far-fetched fancies made
to deceive naïve nuns, whose prayers, never heard,
would be better, too, never prayed.

Can it be? Surely Truth tricks not, nor can disdain
pleas of hearts heavy, weak with pain
and sorrow—for well He knows
it, bore it, and for my sake chose.
Her heart, too, racked, rent with His, yet by the Cross remains—
ever full of grace, now on her children to flow.

O Mary, Mary, maiden yet Mother, most blessèd!
Faithful Virgin, and fruitful! when thy Fiat confessèd:
to thee, in haste, I fly,
under thy mantle to hide, to lie:
as Jesus—newborn babe, then mangled man—on thy breast rested,
dear Mother, so may I!

Brother Peter Joseph Gautsch, O.P.

 St. Joseph Province
Cord of Contemplation
7 October 2013
Read the entire poem

God’s jackasses

Today’s Mass begins in an unusual way: with a blessing of palms, a Gospel reading, and then the grand procession into the church where folks, with their blessed palms, welcome the Lord.

The Lord comes into the processions in our churches in the person of the priest, but 2000ish years ago people saw the Lord come into town on an ass.
And that is what we hear in the Gospel reading before the procession into the church today.  It comes from Luke: “[Jesus] said, “Go into the village opposite you, and as you enter it you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. And if anyone should ask you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you will answer, ‘The Master has need of it.'”

The Master has need of it.

Years back Fr. Denis gave a Lenten retreat to the sems on the Hill, and he reflected on this very line.  In a certain way, he said, we’re like that donkey: the Lord has need of us to bring him into the world.

As the Why I’m Catholic blog reminds us, we are, like St. Joseph of Cupertino, “God’s jackasses.”

Here’s Chesterton’s poem:

When fishes flew and forests walked
  And figs grew upon thorn,
  Some moment when the moon was blood
  Then surely I was born.
With monstrous head and sickening cry
  And ears like errant wings,
  The devil’s walking parody
  On all four-footed things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
  Of ancient crooked will;
  Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
  I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour;
  One far fierce hour and sweet:
  There was a shout about my ears,
  And palms before my feet.

Here’s this from Pope Francis’ homily today:

“Why does Jesus come to Jerusalem? Or perhaps better: How does Jesus enter into Jerusalem? 

The crowd acclaims him King. And he does not oppose this, he does not silence them (cf. Luke 19:39-40).  

But what kind of King is Jesus? Let us see: he rides a colt, he does not have a court that follows him, he is not surrounded by an army that would symbolize power.   

Those who welcome him are humble, simple people, who have the sense to see in Jesus something more; they have that sense of faith, which says: this is the Saviour.  

Jesus does not enter the Holy City to receive the honours reserved for earthly kings, to those who have power, to those who dominate.   

He enters to be beaten, insulted and reviled, as Isaiah foretold in the first reading (cf. Isaiah 50:6); he enters to receive a crown of thorns, a reed, a purple cloak, his royalty will be an object of scorn; he enters to climb Calvary, carrying a tree. …  

Jesus enters Jerusalem to die on the cross. And it is exactly here that his being a king, as God, is manifested: the royal throne is the wood of the cross!   

I think of what Benedict XVI said to the cardinals: you are princes but of a crucified King. That is Jesus’ throne. Jesus takes it upon himself…   

Why the cross? Because Jesus takes upon himself evil, filth, the sin of the world, even our sin, the sins of all of us, and he washes them away with his blood, with mercy, with God’s love”