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Jul 27, 2013 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

Day 39: Shed that skin

Dear Pope Francis,

I wrote this poem a little while ago about change. Hope you like it.

Shed That Skin

Tonight I sit
on a rock
at the edge
of an obsidian lake
that effervesces in the
of the gloaming.

I sit on this rock
ill at ease.

A skin that has served me well;
remaining tight, resiliant,
Sheltering what lay inside transforming.
Like a cocoon
that keeps caterpillar soup
from leaking out
before the DNA fates
have done their work
and built a butterfly
from a blueprint
known only
to Mystery.

But now, I know
I have solidified
that this soldier skin
pock-marked and worn thin
pulled tight at the seams,
should give up its vigil
and rest.
Yet, I cling on,
force it down
stick it into place,
unsure the untested membrane beneath
will serve as well.
And so my soldier-skin digs deep
marshals its resources
and holds on.
Loyal to the end.

And, so, we sit
soldier-skin and I
on the precipice
of this rock
and of this lake.
Both knowing neither of us may go further
while we are so joined.
But I hesitate, unsure.
Is this the right moment to give up my shield?
What if I have no sooner set it aside,
than a crushing blow,
from an unseen foe
smites me asunder?
What I if I struggle free from this cocoon
only to

A sudden wind ruffles my hair,
stirs the lake
pulls my attention
outside of myself
to a lopsided circle
of snowdrops
emerging from a winter’s slumber.
Glowing paperwhites
called by Mystery
to usher in another spring
with their silent clarion call.

And at that sight, I laugh
shake my head at my folly,
my ego.
How can I
dare to ask
more of Mystery
than is needed by
the caterpillar,
the butterfly
the snowdrops?

Laughing, I stand
and the movement releases
the last fastenings of my
soldier skin.
We rise together, attached for one more
before it parts from me
and with a sigh
bursts into flame,
bathing me in light
as I slip
beneath the

Your friend,


Jul 25, 2013 - My Poetry, Uncategorized    No Comments

A Poem About Grace (Day 37)

Dear Pope Francis,

I wrote about grace the other day and today thought I’d share this poem of mine. Hope you enjoy.

When Grace Sneaks Up on You
By Kevin Aschenbrenner

Grace is always unexpected.
It arrives, out of the blue,
Like a crime novel plot twist
You don’t see coming
And it takes your breath away
Opens up new ways of seeing
What you thought was reality.

Grace is always unearned.
There’s no magic formula
No specific ritual
To bring Grace to your side.
You never deserve it,
Most often the opposite is true.
That’s why it’s Grace.

For if we could summon Grace,
We wouldn’t need it.
If we deserved Grace,
It would have no purpose.
If we could see Grace coming,
Predict its course and ETA,
Its arrival would be moot.

Grace comes just because we’re human,
That paradoxical mix of body and Divine.
Grace sneaks up when we’re mired in shadow,
Suffering from a case of soul hiccups,
Acting without thinking, letting our ego cloud our vision.
Grace arrives to startle us,
And shock us into presence.

I hope you are enjoying Rio.

Your friend,


Jul 22, 2013 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Day 35: Embodiment

Dear Pope Francis,

I’ve been thinking about embodiment quite a bit. We spend so much of our lives disengaged from the world around us, other people, and even our own bodies. Some believe this could be at the root of many of today’s crises. I’m not up for much deeper thought today as it’s been a long one. But I think this Peter Mayer song explores this well.

Your friend,

Jul 18, 2013 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Day 30: Indulge me

Dear Pope Francis,

Well, there was certainly a debate stirred up by the story that the Vatican might be offering indulgences for Twitter followers on your @pontifex account.

OK, so The Guardian maybe didn’t read the fine print on that before writing the headline. Here’s a more balanced view from Fr. James Martin, which stresses that this is about World Youth Day and ways of connecting if you can’t be there in person.

I’m all for opening things up, as Fr. Martin suggests that the Vatican is doing. It’s great that you are encouraging people to engage with you online.

But why the sin/hell talk? And plenary indulgences? Didn’t that go out with, you know, hair shirts and self-flagellation? At the very least they’re not mentioned much in a post-Vatican II context.

What I would have loved to have seen was messaging from the Vatican around how to participate in World Youth Day if you can’t be there in person, and a list of online resources and ways to see key events live-streamed online.

Maybe The Guardian wouldn’t have been able to run with such a hyperbolic headline, but at least it would not have led to more eye-rolling and “oh, there goes the Vatican” on social media and elsewhere. Language is important, and words such as “indulgences” or “purgatory” just reinforce the image of the Catholic Church as being all about sin, guilt and failing. That’s rather sad, as most of us Catholics know the Church is so, so much more.

Again, it’s so good to see the Vatican opening up to new means of communication. I just think this attempt needed a bit of fine-tuning. Maybe instead of focusing on sin, hell and purgatory (oh my!), a message about how participating in World Youth Day, no matter how, is another way of connecting with the Divine.

And we all need more of those in our lives.

Hope your packing for Brazil is going well.

Your friend,




Jul 16, 2013 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Day 29: Contact

Dear Pope Francis,

So, this is my 29th post and I’ve yet to hear from you. No worries. I know you’re busy. I can wait.

In the meantime, to make it easier for you to get in touch I’ve added a new page to the blog with more about me and contact info. You can find it here, or at the top of the list of options at the right.

So, go on, check it out!

Your friend,


Jul 15, 2013 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Day 27: Who you are is good enough.

this article todayDear Pope Francis,

I read this article today that compared you to Princess Diana. It said you’re the Princess Diana of the Church  Maybe reporters need shorthand was to sum you up, but I thought this was pretty thin. For one thing, by identifying you with Diana, the reporter defines you — and everything about your papacy so far says you resist easy definitions of who you are.

I thought of this poem that I thought was apt in this situation.

Saint Francis and the Sow
The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;  
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;  
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch  
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow  
began remembering all down her thick length,  
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,  
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine  
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering  
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

Jul 13, 2013 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Day 25: Friends

Dear Pope Francis,

I read this article today in which you said “there are many masters of the Pope.” It made me a little sad and hopeful that you have some friends you can trust in what seems like a very unfriendly place.

I spent time with friends yesterday and today and it’s really a gift to have people in your life with whom you can be yourself. No agendas. No pretenses. Just people holding space for each other. It’s holy time.

I hope you get some time with friends this weekend, Pope Francis.

Your friend,

Jul 7, 2013 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Day 19: A little Rilke


Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curve of a body as it turns away.

What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.

Pour yourself out like a fountain.
Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

Every happiness is the child of a separation
it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.


Sonnets to Orpheus II, 12