Canticle of Brother Sun

Today I give thanks for il poverello, St. Francis of Assisi, who introduced himself to me many years ago when I touched the stone walls of his home town; who turned my eyes to heaven on a cold, cold Feast of the Epiphany at his place of prayer and transformation, Mt. Laverna. He continues to teach and guide me every day.

(photo: Solvang, CA – December 2017)

The Canticle of Brother Sun

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord, All praise is Yours, all glory, all honour and all blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong, and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.
Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all weather’s moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.
Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.
Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You my Lord through our Sister,
Mother Earth
who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon for love of You and bear sickness and trial.
Blessed are those who endure in peace, By You Most High, they will be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.
No second death can do them harm. Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks,
And serve Him with great humility.

that enormous emptiness

in recollection of 12.22.2016 and in grateful recovery 12.22.2019

Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become lovely again.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again,
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. And the desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.

Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a while and listen.
Music of hair,
Music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear,
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.

the whole world tonight seems to be made of paper

Lord, God, the whole world tonight seems to be made of paper. The most substantial things are ready to crumble or tear apart and blow away.

O God, my God, the night has values that day has never dreamed of. All things stir by night, waking or sleeping, conscious of the nearness of their ruin. Only [humans] make themselves illuminations they conceive to be solid and eternal. But while we ask our questions and come to our decisions, God blows our decisions out, the roofs of our houses cave in upon us, the towers are undermined by ants, the walls crack and cave in, and the holiest buildings burn to ashes while the watchman is composing a theory of duration.   – Thomas Merton, from Journal entry – July 4, 1952 – The Fire Watch

photo of washington monument during evening

Photo by Alex Hussein on

Lux Aeterna – O light born of light

O nata lux de lumine, Jesu redemptor saeculi,
Dignare clemens supplicum laudes precesque sumere.
Qui carne quondam contegi dignatus es pro perditis
Nos membra confer effici Tui beati corporis.

O Light born of Light, Jesus, redeemer of the world,
mercifully deign to accept the praises and prayers of your suppliants.
O you who once deigned to be hidden in flesh on behalf of the lost,
grant us to be made members of your blessed body.

It’s not easy to believe in God.

Ronald Rolheiser –
It’s not easy to believe in God. Faith is never certitude and the evidence for God’s existence is ambiguous. It is ambiguous because life is. The world is full of beauty, virtue, love, selflessness, artistic achievement, humor and celebration. It is, at the same time, full too of evil, moral and physical – selfishness, murder, rape, exploitation, insensitivity, stupidity, and death-producing phenomena, parasites, cancer, and natural disasters which inflict death, pain, disease, and destruction randomly and senselessly.

One can look at the world, as countless believers have always done, and conclude from the presence of beauty and love that there exists an all-loving and all-beautiful God who created this all out of love. One can also look at the world, as many sincere atheists (e.g. Gordon Sinclair, Albert Camus, Richard Rubenstein, Simone de Beauvoir) have, and conclude from the presence of suffering and evil that no God exists or, if one does, s/he is either malicious, quixotic or incompetent. Millions of persons have trouble believing in God, or being at peace with their belief, because they see an inconsistency between faith in an all-good God and the presence of suffering and evil in the world. As Albert Camus once put it: “If there is a God, then he is the eternal bystander with his back turned on a suffering world.”

What underlies these criticisms which often come from very sincere persons? What underlies them is a confusion, however sincere, between faith and understanding. Simply put, whenever we try to think God we get into trouble. Why? Because mind, imagination, and thought cannot be stretched far enough to adequately understand God. For this reason, when we do try to figure out how there can be a God and how everything can still be imagined consistently, we end up with the unfounded conclusion that God does not exist.

blue and white planet display

Photo by Pixabay on

Let me illustrate with just one example of what happens when we try to image God’s existence.

The very immensity of our universe defies imagination: There are perhaps hundreds of millions of galaxies with billions of light years separating them. On each of these planets within these galaxies there are hundreds of trillions of phenomena happening every second (and through billions of years). Can we really believe that somewhere there is a person and a heart so supreme and omniscient that it created all of this and that, right now, it knows minutely and intimately every detail and happening and that it is passionately concerned with every one of these happenings? To expatiate further with just one small example: our planet earth. This is just one of millions of planets.

Yet, just on it, during every second there are hundreds of persons being born, hundreds of persons are being conceived, hundreds are dying, millions are sinning, millions are doing virtuous acts, millions are suffering, millions are celebrating, millions are hoping, millions are praying, many are despairing…and all of this has been happening for hundreds of thousands of years. Can we really imagine that a God exists who intimately knows all of this, in every detail, cares passionately about each individual and every detail, and is, somehow, Lord over all of this so that “no sparrow falls from the sky or hair from a human head” without God knowing and caring deeply? Can we really imagine this?

The answer quite simply is that we can’t. Our minds and imaginations simply won’t stretch that far. But that is the precise point. The biggest religious mistake we can make is to try to imagine God. God is infinite, our minds are finite. It makes for a bad equation. When we make God fit the categories of what we can think and imagine we end up in trouble. When God asked Moses to take his shoes off before the burning bush, God was asking for space – space within which to be God. Our belief in God can only be strong if we respect the mystery that is God and not try to figure out God or make God fit into the limits of our own imaginations.

When we do this, and it is the perennial temptation, when we try to make God consistent with our imaginations, then God ceases being God, ceases being worth believing in, and we soon stop believing.


If many remedies are prescribed
for an illness, you may be certain
that the illness has no cure.

The Cherry Orchard


When I was born, you waited
behind a pile of linen in the nursery,
and when we were alone, you lay down
on top of me, pressing
the bile of desolation into every pore.

And from that day on
everything under the sun and moon
made me sad — even the yellow
wooden beads that slid and spun
along a spindle on my crib.

You taught me to exist without gratitude.
You ruined my manners toward God:
“We’re here simply to wait for death;
the pleasures of earth are overrated.”

I only appeared to belong to my mother,
to live among blocks and cotton undershirts
with snaps; among red tin lunch boxes
and report cards in ugly brown slipcases.
I was already yours — the anti-urge,
the mutilator of souls.


Elavil, Ludiomil, Doxepin,
Norpramin, Prozac, Lithium, Xanax,
Wellbutrin, Parnate, Nardil, Zoloft.
The coated ones smell sweet or have
no smell; the powdery ones smell
like the chemistry lab at school
that made me hold my breath.


You wouldn’t be so depressed
if you really believed in God.


Often I go to bed as soon after dinner
as seems adult
(I mean I try to wait for dark)
in order to push away
from the massive pain in sleep’s
frail wicker coracle.


Once, in my early thirties, I saw
that I was a speck of light in the great
river of light that undulates through time.

I was floating with the whole
human family. We were all colors—those
who are living now, those who have died,
those who are not yet born. For a few

moments I floated, completely calm,
and I no longer hated having to exist.

Like a crow who smells hot blood
you came flying to pull me out
of the glowing stream.
“I’ll hold you up. I never let my dear
ones drown!” After that, I wept for days.


The dog searches until he finds me
upstairs, lies down with a clatter
of elbows, puts his head on my foot.

Sometimes the sound of his breathing
saves my life — in and out, in
and out; a pause, a long sigh….


A piece of burned meat
wears my clothes, speaks
in my voice, dispatches obligations
haltingly, or not at all.
It is tired of trying
to be stouthearted, tired
beyond measure.

We move on to the monoamine
oxidase inhibitors. Day and night
I feel as if I had drunk six cups
of coffee, but the pain stops
abruptly. With the wonder
and bitterness of someone pardoned
for a crime she did not commit
I come back to marriage and friends,
to pink fringed hollyhocks; come back
to my desk, books, and chair.


Pharmaceutical wonders are at work
but I believe only in this moment
of well-being. Unholy ghost,
you are certain to come again.

Coarse, mean, you’ll put your feet
on the coffee table, lean back,
and turn me into someone who can’t
take the trouble to speak; someone
who can’t sleep, or who does nothing
but sleep; can’t read, or call
for an appointment for help.

There is nothing I can do
against your coming.
When I awake, I am still with thee.


High on Nardil and June light
I wake at four,
waiting greedily for the first
note of the wood thrush. Easeful air
presses through the screen
with the wild, complex song
of the bird, and I am overcome

by ordinary contentment.
What hurt me so terribly
all my life until this moment?
How I love the small, swiftly
beating heart of the bird
singing in the great maples;
its bright, unequivocal eye.

see to it that the light within is not darkness

Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you. – Luke 11:34-36