Saturday, November 5, 2011


photo: Ashley Taylor

The Star Market(s) (pronounced STAH MAH-kit by many New Englanders) is a grocery store chain started in Massachusetts.


The people Jesus loved were shopping at the Star Market yesterday.
An old lead-colored man standing next to me at the checkout
breathed so heavily I had to step back a few steps.

Even after his bags were packed he still stood, breathing hard and
hawking into his hand. The feeble, the lame, I could hardly look at them:
shuffling through the aisles, they smelled of decay, as if the Star Market

had declared a day off for the able-bodied, and I had wandered in
with the rest of them—sour milk, bad meat—
looking for cereal and spring water.

Jesus must have been a saint, I said to myself, looking for my lost car
in the parking lot later, stumbling among the people who would have
been lowered into rooms by ropes, who would have crept

out of caves or crawled from the corners of public baths on their hands
and knees begging for mercy.

If I touch only the hem of his garment, one woman thought,
could I bear the look on his face when he wheels around?

--Marie Howe


  1. On All Souls day I attended Mass in the side chapel of the main church of St. Bede the Venerable in La Canada. The homily given by the celebrant was about Purgatory and the value of praying for the dead. The priest prefaced his homily by stating that he meets many Catholics who state they do not believe in Purgatory.

    He gave a unique twist on earning indulgences for the dead to cut short their time in Purgatory. He said praying for the dead can indeed cut short the suffering of souls in Purgatory and in fact can even cause these souls not to endure any time at all in Purgatory. He then stated that because God is outside time praying for the dead can work to prevent souls who have died many hundreds of years ago to suffer Purgatory and in fact can prevent those who die far into the future to suffer this fate.

    It seems that Our Creator though still a mystery is being revealed through reason i.e. the knowledge gained through cosmology and maybe even quantum physics. Our current Pope encourages the use of reason in theology and maybe it will be reason which will accompany our faith to help us understand God.

  2. Yes, to paraphrase Ms Howe, I often feel like one of those who has crawled toward Our Lord from some very dark and dirty corner, on hands and knees, begging for mercy!

    Who knew that a visit to the Staah Maahkit could generate such a meditation? (And I'm trying to picture where, exactly, on Broadway the old Star Market was. My mom would probably know.)

    I think Star may have been bought out by Shaw's a few years ago.

    Thanks for blogging the poem!

  3. Thanks, Philip and Dylan. If you click the photo credit under the photo of the Somerville Star Market, you'll find a story on its demise and maybe its location...

  4. Having reclaimed the hour, stolen from my life last spring as clocks were turned anew, I found myself with time to explore online.

    A two-part comment follows.

    I chuckled at Stah Mah-kit as a reminder of my NYC aunt, who warned me of shopping at certain Manhattan spots.
    "It'll cost you a nominal egg in there", said she.
    Linguistics experts turned that into English as
    "It will cost you an arm and a leg to shop there". :-D

    Then, I see Catholics who do not believe in Purgatory.
    I find myself among them, and most who read the Bible in depth, as opposed to doctrine, would have to succumb to the same view eventually.
    Quibbling divides us. Thus, que sera sera!

    However, we universally accept the creed, and announce it out loud. It is at once a statement of fact, belief, and hope!

    Curiously, HE descended into HELL (not Purgatory) and arose on the third day. This too is doctrine, not bible. And it raises the question:
    "Why did HE go to Hell at all?"

    Had HE gone to Purgatory, HE would minister to the captives, or perhaps send them along to Heaven, eh?

    But sin sends you to Hell, make that unrepented sin.
    And when your nail pierced hands and feet bear every sin that every person in all times will ever make, the deposit window is in Hell.

    Further, we must back up to the Garden story and the Serpent.....formerly a member of Heaven, but watched by Christ personally as he spoke to his disciples in Luke 10. I chose verses 16-19 as indicative here:

    " 16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

    17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

    18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you."

    "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven", but it alludes to where he fell....Earth, not Hell or Purgatory.

    Other verses make it clear sin merits Hell.

    But why would Christ descend into Hell, other than to make deposit of all sin ever made by anyone any time?

    Adam had authority in the Garden.
    The Keys to the Kingdom were his.
    The serpent usurped those Keys to the Kingdom, in the Garden, and Adam and his spouse were evicted.

    Christ descended into Hell and arose the third day.
    Why Hell?
    When HE arose, HE would need the Keys to the Kingdom once again, and restore authority to man....a guy named Peter would receive the Keys to the Kingdom! But first, Christ had to get the Keys again.

    Thus, our creed is spoken as truth.

    But look for clues about God too.

    At the end of the Garden story comes this:
    " 21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”
    ~~~Genesis 3:21-22

    Adam and Eve previously covered themselves with fig leaves. They had clothing, now that nakedness was exposed, to be distorted by satan through all eternity with a new sin called lust.

    Living in the world, instead of the lush Garden would be tough and require more than fig leaves as protection. Thus, "The LORD God made garments of skin".

    Tough luck for PETA, eh?

    This God loves man so much he made protective clothing personally for them, as the harshness of new life would become known soon.
    While punishing Adam and spouse, God also gave protection and hope.


  5. the rest.............

    With His Son dying on the Cross to make that Hope a given, a man of great sin was dying nearby. He said to Christ: "Do you think I can go with you?".
    Christ said "This day you will be with me in paradise".

    What irony in multiple shades!!!

    God will change His mind if you ask.
    The thief being crucified with Christ is in heaven, his sins taken to Hell as Christ descended into Hell.
    He must have gone to Paradise too, for he said "This day you will be with me in paradise", eh.

    But on Easter morn, He told Mary...don't touch me; I have not yet gone to the Father.

    More irony: Thomas doubts and will not believe unless he TOUCHES wounds. Christ meets Thomas' need for belief. The Ascension comes far later than the Upper Room touch of belief by Doubting Thomas.

    He descended into Hell, not Purgatory.
    All sin was deposited for all time.
    Keys to the Kingdom were retrieved and passed to Peter a few days after, when repentance for thrice betrayal was met with thrice "Do you love me" at a fish breakfast days later.

    And the blocked entrance to the Garden, so they do not become like US ("The man has now become like one of US, knowing good and evil") was overturned and WE are allowed to become like one of US---The Trinity!!!

    Prayer trumps free will. Otherwise, none of us would stand a chance. The free will of many have led them to Hell. All Soul's Day is not for some Souls.
    We pray for ALL Souls.
    The miracle and majesty is that HE listens to our prayers at all, and often changes His mind as a result.
    Just ask the thief on the Cross when you get to Heaven!

    Lovely post.

  6. I can't believe they published that poem in The New Yorker.

  7. I've read this poem over and over. Marie Howe is a wonderful poet. Her work has been part of my post-Pharisaical rehabilitation. She is a self-described "lefty" Catholic, and thus a goad for me to kick in vain against. It's all part of the learning process. I'll have to share this poem with my wife (another "lefty" Catholic), as her sister used to live in Somerville. The STAH MAH-kit sounds familiar -- I've probably heard my wife talk about it.



I WELCOME your comments!!!