Saturday, November 30, 2013


An  email from a young friend in New Orleans.

Heather you have blown open the doors to an entirely new dimension of Christian living that I never knew existed. You have made real for me the fact that life is Christ. That Christ is in all: the good, the bad, the badder; the sunrise, the sunset, the overcast; the priest, the professor, the prostitute; the consolation, the desolation, the confusion; the chapel, the workplace, the bathroom. We have a God who got his hands dirty, and I have always been too scandalized by that mystery to truly accept it, along with all its ramifications in my life. Because accepting it meant that I couldn't quarantine Christ anymore to the fragmented parts of my heart, to the minutes in the chapel, or to the beads on my rosary. No, He truly wants ALL of me, ALL of my humanity. And this is WILD! and THIS fact had BLOWN UP my entire worldview and my every minute of living in this world! So, thanks for your life and your presence in this world, it certainly makes my life much brighter and my view much broader, which is a pure gift. And thanks to Him who made it all, who paid it all, and who bade it all good.

Peace be yours today my friend!


Thursday, November 28, 2013



The above are from a lone, spindly bush of oleander, so common in Southern California as almost to be a trash plant.

These come mostly in white, creamy pink, and deep red, and the flowers are apparently poisonous (possibly because they are often placed alongside our freeways and have mutated from the exhaust).

As you can see, they are beautiful.

The below are bougainvillea. You'll be walking along a totally "ordinary" residential street in L.A. and come across a cascade of these gorgeous blooms: magenta, amber-gold, mother-of-pearl...I have never been able to fully capture the way the sun glows through the flowers (technically bracts) in late afternoon.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013


NOVEMBER 20, 2013
credit: Evandro Inetti/

"The struggle between a closed religion and an open one is the struggle of many people. A closed religion accentuates rituals and dogmas - it gives a form of security. An open religion accentuates love for people, and implies a certain insecurity and vulnerability."
--Jean Vanier, from a letter dated September 27, 2008 to Canadian journalist Ian Walker

"It costs so much to be a full human being that there are very few who have the enlightenment, or the courage, to pay the price…One has to abandon altogether the search for security, and reach out to the risk of living with both arms. One has to embrace the world like a lover. One has to accept pain as a condition of existence. One has to count doubt and darkness as the cost of knowing. One needs a will stubborn in conflict, but apt always to total acceptance of every consequence of living and dying."
--Morris L. West, The Shoes of the Fisherman

"The cruelest response to suffering is the attempt to explain it away, to tell the one who suffers 'This is why this is happening. I'm sorry that you can't see the answer, but it's clear to me.' "
--Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, God at the Ritz, from the chapter “Co-Suffering”


Sunday, November 24, 2013


capn's new boat
My brother Captain Geordie King, of Eliot, Maine, is a commercial fisherman based in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Turns out he's selling his old boat, the Ocean Pride and buying a new boat from a guy up in Newfoundland.

He'll be "steaming" up the coast shortly.

"Fair winds and following seas" is a traditional nautical blessing.

I found this other blessing in an old book of Celtic prayers.


HELMSMAN: Blest be the boat.

CREW: God the Father bless her.

HELMSMAN:  Blest be the boat.

CREW:  God the Son bless her.

HELMSMAN: Blest be the boat.

CREW: God the Spirit bless her.

ALL: God the Father,
         God the Son,
         God the Spirit,
         Bless the boat.

HELMSMAN:  What can befall you
                         And God the Father with you?

CREW: No harm can befall us.

HELMSMAN: What can befall you
                        And God the Son with you?

CREW: No harm can befall us.

HELMSMAN:  What can befall you
                         And God the Spirit with you?

CREW: No harm can befall us.

ALL: God the Father,
         God the Son,
         God the Spirit,
                 With us eternally.

HELMSMAN: What can cause you anxiety
                        And the God of the elements over you?

CREW: No anxiety can be ours.

HELMSMAN: What can cause you anxiety
                        And the King of the elements over you?

CREW: No anxiety can be ours.

HELMSMAN: What can cause you anxiety
                        And the Spirit of the elements over you

CREW: No anxiety can be ours.

ALL: The God of the elements,
         The King of the elements,
         The Spirit of the elements,
         Close over us,
                 Ever eternally.

--from Carmina Gadelica, Volume 1, by Alexander Carmicheal, [1900] 

young geordie and our father with lobsters
fresh from dad's traps.
kitchen, 108 post road, north hampton, nh,
circa 1968


"There is no remedy for love but to love more."
--Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, November 21, 2013


"Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,
Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross."

--Phil. 2:5-8

From a reader:

"One thing I struggle with is how there are whole countries in the Middle East that once had thriving Christian populations, sometimes majority populations, and now they are extinct. I can understand how there are physical and moral evils in the world but I have trouble understanding how populations can become extinct simply for their Christianity, and I feel an ache not even primarily for the individuals themselves -- because at least they'll be in Heaven. But I can't help but thinking of all the children of those Christians who are now either Muslim (due to parents' changing faiths in accommodation) or not at all (because the parents resisted and were killed).

I want to believe Heaven will be populated not just with people who have been conceived, but even those who weren't conceived due to the violence to potential parents. Violence will seem to have won a sort of victory if some souls were never created on account of it."

I once heard Fr. Ron Rolheiser observe, "The mark of a follower of Christ is never where we stand on a particular issue. The mark of a follower of Christ is that we love the enemy and forgive the murderer."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


"In this our day there are no longer many human faces which are built up structurally on three planes. The planes seem to have been torn away from the face. And the face is still a little higgledy-piggledy, a little confused and frightened that its planes have been torn away. Eyes and mouth and other parts of the face just lie there as if they had been shaken out of a bag, just as they happened to fall. The parts of the face lack organic substantial arrangement, they form some vague chance pattern, as if thrown there, it or miss. And between the parts is no longer the well-formed space which the planes formerly built up, deep abysses lie there instead, and the skin just barely reaches across to cover them up.

Today, for example, when the mouth speaks, nothing happens but this: the mouth speaks. It is not held within limits by its connections with the rest of the face. It is unbound and tends toward intemperance and exaggeration: it becomes loud. No part of the face answers the mouth. No part of the face pays heed to the mouth. It is all alone when it speaks. It is far up front and as if separated from the rest of the face. Formerly the mouth was in its proper place in the face and bound to all parts of it, and streams of strength flowed toward it from all sides. All the force of the face was behind each word and a word did not need to be so loud, to be a mighty word nevertheless.

Today there is no longer any safe and certain plane to bind eye, mouth, ear and all. Each part is isolated. Eye, mouth and all--each part for itself. The face seems lonesome and helpless. It is, so to speak, not at home with itself. The face is a stranger to itself.

'Is it not like a battlefield, where hands, arms, limbs, lie all about hacked and mutilated, and the spilled life-blood seeps into the sand?' (Hölderlin, Hyperion)"

--Max Picard, The Human Face (1930)

c. 1648-1656

Sunday, November 17, 2013


From a monk friend::

"The church bubbles along. The Pope sure is getting a lot of favorable press. he is striking a responsive chord with a lot of people. I do not harbor any hopes for great change in the structure. It is just too big for on pontificate to make any massive changes. But I think that Francis has put the church on a new and good path. The world each of us inhabits is immediate, very close at hand. I remember reading an interview with Neil Young in Rolling Stone Magazine not too long ago. He said that he went through a phase wherein he felt a need to change the world He felt the weight of the world on his shoulders and slowly started to go crazy. His wife was the one who gently told him that the world would take care of itself and that the only world he needed to care about was the one he lived in. So he calmed down and cut his cares to more manageable proportions. There is some wisdom to that. I suppose we all go through periods when we are looking for the BIG solution, when we want to find it and attack the world with it. But we are limited to small, maybe insignificant actions. And the ultimate outcome is really beyond our control."

From Catherine de Hueck Doherty, contemplative mystic, writer, founder of Madonna House:

"This vision of the whole is really staggering. Through the motley crowd that we are, filled as we are with all sorts of emotional and other wounds, the Lord wishes to restore his Church. Perhaps restore is too big a word. But nevertheless, it seems he is moulding us, shaping us, healing us, blessing us, guiding us toward that end.

How is anyone to achieve this miracle of grace? How can it be done? The same answer comes again and again, unmistakably: through prayer. What is impossible to man is possible to God and man. Prayer brings together, in a mysterious way, the mystery of the person and the mystery of God. Above all, there is a place to which we must go to replenish ourselves. To be filled with the strength of the Lord, we must go to the house of the Lord which is the Church. There we will participate in the Last Supper. There we will receive the Christ of passion and glory, of death and resurrection. There we will enter into communion with Christ."

 "It's too good too be true--that's how we know it's Him."
--Fr. Patrick Dooling

Saturday, November 16, 2013


"It's an incredibly loaded subject--this diaphanous soup we live in...It feels primeval. There's a sense of the undifferentiated, the nonhierarchical. It's not exactly a dramatic light. In fact, 'dramatic' is exactly what it's not. If anything, it's meditative. And there's something really peculiar about it. In places where you get a crisp, sharp light with deep, clean shadows--which we do here sometimes--you get confronted with a strong contrasting duality: illumination and opacity. But when you get the kind of veiled light we get here more regularly, you become aware of a sort of multiplicity--not illumination so much as luminosity"...


"Southern California glows, not just all day, but at night as well, and the opacity melts away into translucency, and even transparency"...

"Things in the light here have a kind of threeness instead of the usual twoness. There's the thing--the object--and its shadow, but then a sense of reflection as well. You know how you can be walking along the beach, let's say, and you'll see a seagull walking along ahead of you, and a wave comes in, splashing its feet. At that moment you'll see the bird, its shadow, and its reflection. Well, there's something about the environment here--the air, the atmosphere, the light--that makes everything shimmer like that. There's a kind of glowing thickness to the world--the diaphanous soup I was talking about--which, in turn, grounds a magic-meditative sense of presence."

--Coy Howard, from an essay by Lawrence Weschler called "The Light of L.A." (in Vermeer in Bosnia: Selected Writings).


Thursday, November 14, 2013


From a piece called "City of Ruins" dated November 22, 2010 in The Nation by Chris Hedges.

(The piece can also be found in Hedges' Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, a series of essays with illustrations by Joe Sacco).

Camden, NJ, is the poorest and by some accounts the most dangerous city in the United States.

"The city is busily cannibalizing itself in a desperate bid to generate revenue. Giant scrap piles rise in hulks along the banks of the Delaware. The piles, filled with discarded appliances, rusted filing cabinets, twisted pipes, old turbines and corrugated sheet metal, are as high as a three- or four-story house, and at their base are large pools of brackish water...

Despite Camden's bleakness, despite its crime and its deprivation, despite the lost factory jobs that are never coming back—despite all this, valiant souls somehow rise up in magnificent defiance. In a room across the street from Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where meals are provided for the homeless on Saturdays, a group of African-American women bow their heads over a table and hold hands. They are led by Lallois Davis, 67, a heavyset woman who radiates an indomitable, unbroken spirit.

'The poor have to help the poor," Davis says, "because the ones who make the money are helping the people with money'...

Father Michael Doyle, an Irish priest, has been in the Sacred Heart parish for thirty-five years. He has witnessed the violence of poverty devastating his congregation. Father Doyle was a member of the Camden 28, a group of left-wing Catholics and anti–Vietnam War activists who in 1971 raided the city's draft board to destroy files. He was sent to Camden as punishment by church leaders who disapproved of his activism.

'Today's a very hard time to be poor,' says Father Doyle, seated in the church rectory. 'Because you know you're poor. You hear people my age get up and say, 'We were poor. We put cardboard in our shoes.' We talk like that. But we didn't know we were poor. Today you do. And how do you know you're poor? Your television shows you that you're poor. So it's very easy to build up anger in a, say, a high-voltage kid of 17. He knows he's poor, he looks at the TV and all these people have everything and I have nothing. And so he's very angry.... I'm talking about the violence that rises out of the marketing that shows the kid what he could have, creates a huge anger that explodes easily. That I discovered very quickly when I came to Camden. I discovered the anger was so near the surface, you just rub it and it explodes. And there's no respect for you if you have no money.' "

A meditation by Fr. Michael Doyle from the "A Few Words" page of the Sacred Heart church website:

Life Leaped Out of Death

November 2009

November is a wonderful month, especially in the Liturgy of Sacred Heart Church. It is the month of remembering those who have gone before us and are so near us still.

Our Shrine of Remembrance, which rises before us every Sunday until Advent, is a corkboard circle eight feet in diameter that is covered with a blue cloth and erected on the old high altar for each Mass. The edge of the big circumference is adorned with a garland of sprigs with lovely autumn leaves. In the center is a painting of the Pantocrator Christ embracing the dead represented in photos pinned up by families and covering the whole surface of the circle.
I love the ritual of incensing the Shrine of Remembrance at the beginning of Sunday Mass.

On Sunday, November 22, 2009, we called out the names of those murdered in the City of Camden since Sunday, November 23, 2008. The shocking number was 37 in this small City of 79,000 people. It is a number that is seven times worse than the worst City in Europe. A candle for each one of the murdered was lit from the Pascal Candle. A member of the murdered person’s family or a parishioner of Sacred Heart lit the candle and held it up, until 37 people were standing around the walls of our Church. We prayed. Then we sang: “I will raise you up.” This harsh harvest of God’s people and the harvest of nature (our Church was laden with the fruits of the Fall) were together. It was holy.

The evening Mass of Thanksgiving followed on Thursday.

Then on Saturday, the abundant drooping scene of cornstalks, wheat, pumpkins and leaves were moved out to be replaced by the lean evergreen touches of Advent. The first Advent candle was lit on Sunday. Then, after the homily, fifteen expecting mothers came forward and each was given a candle, lit from the Advent candle by an older woman. Then these words: “We bless you and the child within you, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”, and a loud Amen rose from the congregation for each one. The young mothers turned with their candles to face the people and Barbara Dever sang the Magnificat to them. Life leaped.

It was a scene as lovely as any other in this world.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


St. Paul said, "I boast of my weakness."

My pride makes it difficult to bear my mediocrity. At the same time,  I am aware of my worth.

At Taliesen West recently, the docent told an anecdote about Frank Lloyd Wright. An interviewer observed, "You've been called the greatest architect of modern times." FLW replied, "I didn't say that, but if I had, no-one could call me arrogant."

I thought of Christ before Pilate, when Pilate asks, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Christ--the one Person for whom it would have been impossible to over-estimate himself--replies, "You say so." In other words, I didn't say it, but since you have, I'm not going to repute it. Christ was never Oh no, no, don't bother about me. He said, The poor you will always have with you: bring on the nard. He said, Let the little children come unto me--for him, a priceless gift. He said, Pray with me an hour...and we mostly can't, or won't...

So--I boast of my weakness. And as Dostoyevsky said, "There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings."

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Every time I write a post about the error of reducing abortion to an isolated political issue I hear from at least two types of people. One is the type who says "Oh say you're saying abortion is okay? You hypocrite." The other is the type who says "Excuse me, you coward. Those of us with courage speak out against abortion."

I have had abortions myself and thus know first-hand the excoriating wound: to the child, obviously; to the mother; to the Mystical Body of Christ. Twenty-plus years after the fact, I spent a year healing from, and three months in solitude writing a book about the violence of abortion.

Surely as followers of Christ we are called to speak truth to power in a way that while it may include, also goes way beyond, partisan politics. Surely we are called to an examination of conscience that is going to leave us deeply uncertain and deeply troubled: not on where we stand, but on what we are called to do about it.

Referring to the title of her novel The Violent Bear It Away, Flannery O'Connor wrote, "And more than ever now it seems that the kingdom of heaven has to be taken by violence, or not at all. You have to push as hard as the age that pushes against you."

Love, mercy, and openness to grace are not easy things. They are hard things. They require all our strength, all our hearts, all our minds, and way more integrity and courage than I, for one, often feel I can muster. They require us at times to "hate" our fathers, our mothers, our brothers. They require us to say things that are not going to endear us to much of anyone.

The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence. And the violent bear it away.


Saturday, November 9, 2013



In the deep fall
don't you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don't you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think
of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies? And don't you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.

--Mary Oliver

Thursday, November 7, 2013


HENRY DUNANT (1828-1910)

"I had sought for something that would say in the fewest and most searing words that there was another side to the age of the Edwardians--the age whose downfall we are living through.

For that purpose I went back to the book ost of which I had translated just after my break with the Communist Party--Dunant, The Story of the Red Cross [by Martin Gumpert]. At the height of fame and wealth, [Henry] Dunant had gone bankrupt. He had lost everything. He was attacked and vilified. He disappeared almost from the face of the earth. But, now and again, someone would glimpse him, wandering a voluntary outcast in one of the great European cities, living in the slums, wearing ragged clothes and broken shoes, shunning alike men's kindness and their blindness. At last, even the memory of him all but vanished. Dunant was reported to be dead.

Years later, an enterprising journalist found him still living, a white-bearded recluse, in a hospice in the Swiss mountains. A pang of conscience smote the world (in those days it was still possible to speak of a public conscience). A Dunant fad set in. Admirers sought him out. He fled them. The penniless old man was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. He gave it away.

One morning, in his whitewashed cell, Dunant was found dead. he had left a testament. It said: 'I wish to be carried to my grave like a dog without a single one of your ceremonies which I do not recognize....I am a disciple of Christ as in the first century, and nothing more.' "

--Whittaker Chambers, Witness

APRIL 1945