Tuesday, September 12, 2017


In her beautiful poem, “Thirst,” Mary Oliver reminds us that we are all thirsting for something we do not have, longing for the thing that will complete us and make us both whole and holy. We must be patient for the moment when we come to understand and also ready for that moment of revelation and epiphany.

Another morning and I wake with thirst
for the goodness I do not have. I walk
out to the pond and all the way God has
given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord,
I was never a quick scholar but sulked
and hunched over my books past the hour
and the bell; grant me, in your mercy,
a little more time. Love for the earth
and love for you are having such a long
conversation in my heart. Who knows what
will finally happen or where I will be sent,
yet already I have given a great many things
away, expecting to be told to pack nothing,
except the prayers which, with this thirst,
I am slowly learning.
— Mary Oliver, Thirst

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

I Am Not Italian

Billy Collins reminds us that when we travel, even if we are not natives in the country, we can “do as the Romans do” and enjoy the delights of the local culture. By drinking an espresso in a “little white cup,” the speaker – not an Italian – can taste “the same sweetness of life” as the locals.

I am not Italian, technically speaking,
yet here I am leaning on a zinc bar in Florence
on a sunny weekday morning,
my foot up on the smooth iron railing
just like the other men, who,
it must be said, are officially and fully Italian.

It’s 8:40 and they are off to work,
some in offices, others sweeping the streets,
while I am off to a museum or a church
to see paintings, maybe light a candle in an alcove.
Yet here we all are in our suits and work shirts
joined in the brotherhood of espresso,

or how is it said? La fratellanza dell’espresso,
draining our little white cups
with a quick flourish of the wrist,
each of us tasting the same sweetness of life,
if you take a little sugar, and the bitterness
of its brevity, whether you choose to take sugar or not.

Thursday, July 20, 2017


When we have been unjustly hurt, our reaction might understandably be anger and resentment, and we might be motivated to retaliate. Let’s say we experience a great loss because of someone else’s actions against us – a life-changing and devastating loss. How do we get beyond vengeance against the one who caused the loss and move towards gratitude for what we had that was lost?  It’s a hard change of heart and mind: being thankful that we had the lost thing at all – a person, a job, a prized possession – for however long, rather than resentful for having been deprived of it. Gratitude can be a powerful avenue through the trauma of loss. It does not minimize the intense pain that always accompany the work of rebuilding one’s life in an entirely different context, but it can take away the feeling of anger and the conviction that a terrible injustice has been done, and it opens the way for thanksgiving and renewed trust in the world.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Trinity Sunday

Last Sunday was Trinity Sunday for Christian traditions who believe in a Trinitarian God. It is a complicated theological concept – and many scholars have tried to make logical sense of three Gods in one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I find that metaphors help.

One sermon I heard used the images of the lover (God), the beloved (His Son, in whom He is well pleased), and the spirit of love that engulfs them and imbues all of us (the Holy Spirit). I have also heard of the metaphor of the dance to help us understand. God is the creator of the dance; his Son is embodying the dance, and the Holy Spirit is providing the music that make a harmonious dance possible. Both metaphors make clear that the concept of the Trinity is a relational one. We all strive to live in loving, harmonious relationship to our God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and to one another.