Jul 11, 2013 - Poets, Resources    No Comments

Day 23: Bet you thought I’d missed a day

Dear Pope Francis,

It’s been a pretty busy day — but I didn’t forget to write you. Just getting to it a bit late, right before I go to bed.

I thought this poem by David Whyte was fitting.

What to Remember
When Waking.

What you can plan
is too small
for you to live.

What you can live
wholeheartedly
will makes plans
enough
for the vitality
hidden in your sleep.

To be human
is to become visible
while carrying
what is hidden
as a gift to others.

To remember
the other world
in this world
is to live in your
true inheritance.

Excerpt from ‘What to Remember When Waking’
From River Flow: New and Selected Poems
Many Rivers Press. ©David Whyte

Good night, Pope Francis.

Your friend,

Kevin

Jul 8, 2013 - My Poetry    No Comments

Day 21: Poem: For what else was God to do?

Dear Pope Francis,

A poem bubbled up out of the ether for me today, so I thought I’d share.

 

For What Else Was God to Do?

by Kevin Aschenbrenner

I wonder if,

when God decided to send Jesus into the world,

it wasn’t without some slight hesitation.

As the day approached,

did God bounce from foot to foot,

like an anxious parent

sending a first child off to Kindergarten?

Did God hesitate, for just a minute,

wanting to grab the tag on the back of Jesus’ shirt,

and pull Him into an encompassing embrace,

never to let go?

 

I see God preparing for that day,

on one level, a reassuring presence for Jesus,

telling him how great it would be to walk among his human brothers and sisters,

and, on another level,

freaked right out at the idea of what those humans would do

when they got their hands on Jesus.

 

For God knew humans,

had created them,

basked in their gifts

their capacity for joy, and love and tenderness.

But God is a realist,

sees the whole picture,

and so must have known,

or at least suspected,

that things might not end so well.

 

And yet, like any parent who wants their child to be in the world,

bringing the gift only they can bring,

God let Jesus go,

sent Him out to be human, and among humans.

 

And God saw Jesus born as a human child,

and grow into the adult, who began His work.

God saw Jesus laugh, and weep, and sigh.

Saw His frustration when even those closest to him wouldn’t understand what he had to say.

When Jesus realized what had to be done

for His words to become flesh, His message a mission,

for His time on Earth to count for something

he made His choice.

And God saw. And God let go. And God wept.

For what else was God to do?

 

Hope you’re having a good Monday, Pope Francis.

Your friend,

Kevin

Day 20: Frames

Dear Pope Francis,

I think I’ve written more in the past 20 days than I have in as long as I can remember. The reason? I’ve got a frame for my writing. OK, it helps that the tagline for this blog says I’m writing every day. But it’s more than that. Writing to you focuses my mind on something I can easily comprehend and tackle. Keeping a regular writing schedule has been a problem for me in the past. Once I’m sitting at my laptop, the words usually flow. It’s getting myself to the chair that’s tough. I think part of the problem is that when I’m thinking about sitting down to type, before I go anywhere near my laptop, I worry I won’t have anything to write about. I’ll tell myself the words aren’t there today, so why bother.

This is where the frame of writing to you, every day, helps. It gives my mind something to focus on. In fact, it gives my brain something to noodle with all the time when I’m not at my laptop. What will i write to Pope Francis today? What should  I tell Pope Francis today? It helps get me going, and makes the process manageable.

Frames are helpful. They let our minds put boundaries around things so that we can puzzle them out. They give us focus. They let us explain what we feel is inexplicable and do what we think is impossible. Keep in mind, though, that the frame isn’t reality. I could actually sit down at my laptop every day and probably produce something. But, I don’t. It’s the frame I’ve put around this stage in my development as a writer that gets me to the laptop. And, for me, it works. For now. I may outgrow this particular frame an need another one, but, right now, it’s what works.

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this. OK. Fair enough. I think religion, to some extent, is a frame. It helps us understand something that is and will always be mostly a mystery to us — God. This is OK. There’s nothing wrong with trying to explain the mystery that is the Divine. That’s our lot as humans, I think. As powerful as our brains are, we can’t comprehend all that God is in one fell swoop. It overwhelms us. Our souls can, but that’s also a deeper, mysterious kind of knowing. It’s not a complete answer kind of brain-knowing. And, as humans, we are not good at the not knowing. It drives us nuts.

So, we build frames, and call those frames religion. And this can be good. We need those frames so our brains don’t short-circuit when trying to comprehend God.

There’s a problem, though. We often get so attached to our particular religion that we fall in love with the frame and lose perspective. We add onto the frame, making it heavier, more robust. We use sturdier wood, and perhaps add layers of adornment, maybe a little (ok, a lot) gold leaf. Then we put the frame in a museum and post a guard who checks everyone’s identification and goes through their pockets before they’re allowed to even glimpse the frame. This is to make sure only the right kinds of people get to take in the frame. Occasionally, maybe we might even notice that, oddly, the canvas in the frame has somehow expanded outside its boundaries. So we snip it off to keep things tidy. And, we go on, admiring our frame. Yay us! We’ve created an awesome frame for God. Aren’t we clever .

Meanwhile, nobody has paid any attention to what’s  in the frame. The frame, after all, has been the focus of all the upkeep and security. And so the painting fades and gets kind of tatty and sad-looking. After awhile, though a few stalwart admirers endure the lengthy security procedures to see the frame, many others have noticed what’s happened to the picture. They begin to wonder what the point is of putting all that work into the frame, when the painting has become so, well, stagnant. They might start to think that God is no longer even in that frame.

So, we’re left with a lovely frame that is completely and utterly useless. A frame, after all, is defined by what it holds, not itself. Without something worthwhile to display, the frame is kind of beside the point.

I think we, as Catholics, have put too much attention on the frame we call religion, and it’s starting to show. After Jesus was crucified and then ascended, the early Christians were left to start a Church to keep what Jesus did and who He was alive. Over the millennia, though, we’ve lost Jesus from the picture, and put much too much emphasis on the frame. To be honest, I think He might have walked out of the frame long ago, searching for folks who’d pay more attention directly to Him than the human-created hoops some feel are needed to gain access.

Frames are good. Religion is good. They both let us focus on one bit of something that seems unfathomable. But I think we run into trouble when we confuse religion with the Divine, and refuse to update our frames on a regular basis.

Your friend,

Kevin

Jul 7, 2013 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Day 19: A little Rilke

Change

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.

Rilke

Sonnets to Orpheus II, 12

Jul 6, 2013 - Music, Resources, Vatican    No Comments

Day 18: An encyclical, canonizations and embezzling, oh my…

Dear Pope Francis,

I had another day off today. You, on the other hand, had quite the busy Friday.

First, you approved the canonizations of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. I think the former is deserving. We may have to agree to disagree on the latter.

Then you and your predecessor released your first encyclical. Congratulations. I know from personal experience how great publishing something can be. I must confess I haven’t read it yet, but will download it to my Kindle as soon as I can.

And, of course those stories about corruption at the Vatican Bank continue. I’m really sorry about those. You inherited quite the mess it seems. I wouldn’t try to fix it all in one day. It took centuries — millennia, in fact — for things to get where they are. They are not going to resolve themselves overnight. But I applaud you for your efforts and am definitely in your corner.

Well, I hope you’re getting a good night’s sleep in your room in the the Domus.

Here’s a lovely Peter Mayer song to ease you into sleep. I’ve had this one on repeat lately.

Your friend,

Kevin

Day 17: Drew Dellinger

Dear Pope Francis,

I had the day off today and it was really nice. I got some errands done, read, did some tinkering on the behind-the-scenes of the blog, and even went to a local farmer’s market.

Which is to say I was busy relaxing, and not writing.

Thankfully, I have another writer’s work to share with you. Drew Dellinger is a poet and activist from the San Francisco Bay Area. I love his work. His poems are best appreciated when spoken aloud. So, here’s Drew with one of his most well-known pieces.

Hope you enjoyed that.

Your friend,
Kevin

Jul 4, 2013 - Vatican    No Comments

Day 16: Why Cardinal Dolan makes me sad…and hopeful

Dear Pope Francis,

So, I know I wrote about him just the other day, but Cardinal Dolan was back in the news again this week. This time it’s about allegations that he shielded church assets when he was Archbishop of Milwaukee in order to avoid paying them out as damages to sexual abuse victims. And, apparently, he had Vatican approval.

At the time, my first response was what the Germans would call schaadenfreude. After all, here was a man who, just days before, claimed to be standing up for the moral integrity of a nation. And then this came out.

That “gotcha” feeling faded, though, and it became one of sadness. After decades of revelations regarding how the Church treated abuse victims, shielded priests, and essentially tried to push the whole tragedy under the rug, it seems the hierarchy still hasn’t learned. What’s more, they’ve made issues of sexuality the target of moral outrage and, quite frankly, hate. They claim the high moral ground when many have acted immorally and against the interests of children, whom it should be their duty to protect at all costs. How many times do you have to hear the word hypocrisy before you listen?

This is what made me sad. The fact that evidence abounds that the way the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops have handled the issue of sexual abuse has only caused more hurt, more pain, and yet they continue on. I grieved yet again for all the victims.

And yet, there might be a sliver of hope. These revelations about Cardinal Dolan came from the release of many documents by the current Archbishop of Milwaukee. There was about to be a hearing on whether the diocese should be forced to release the documents, but Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki released them voluntarily. I guess a cynic could say he’d read the writing on the wall and decided it would be good PR to release the documents before a court made him.

Perhaps. But, the Church hierarchy of just a few years ago would have fought that court battle, I think. Another archbishop might have paid no heed to what was just and proper, wanting only to somehow shield the Church from further damage. In other words, handle the whole thing like the Church had been handling things since abuse allegations began to surface: cover, hide, deny, deny, deny.

So, the fact that this release happened at all, without a court order, is something of a minor miracle. And, I might even go as far to say it’s a hopeful sign. A small sign, to be sure, but a sign that there might be a new Vatican employee handbook that has taken effect.

After all, Pope Francis, releasing Church documents would probably require a certain someone’s consent, no? Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. If so, good for you. Keep it up.

Your friend,

Kevin

Jul 2, 2013 - New Cosmology, Resources    No Comments

Day 14: Wait, Matthew Fox is writing to the Pope, too?

Dear Pope Francis,

So, it seems someone else is writing to you. He’s not blogging, but Matthew Fox, author of Original Blessing, other works on creation spirituality, and one of my favorite books on creativity, is writing to you too, Pope Francis.

I happened to be browsing Amazon last night and came across Matthew Fox’s new book, Letters to Pope Francis: Rebuilding a Church with Justice and Compassion. Of course, I had to buy a copy for my Kindle to check out the competition. OK. This is Matthew Fox, so I’m not really in his sphere, but I found it interesting that someone else decided to write to you.

It actually speaks volumes that someone like Matthew Fox would write to you, Pope Francis. After all, he’s had some issues with the institutional Church. And, if you don’t mind my saying, he wasn’t treated that well. So, the fact that Matthew Fox believes you’re open and approachable enough for him to write a book of letters, says something.

I’m not sure any of your predecessors would have inspired people such as Matthew Fox, or me, to write you publicly. Maybe Pope John XXIII. But no one since, I don’t think. People loved Pope John Paul II, but I don’t know that they felt they could write to him. I didn’t. And I did not for once think of writing to your immediate predecessor.

But in you, Pope Francis, I see openness. I know we might not agree on some significant matters of doctrine. But I perceive in you at least the willingness to listen and ponder. There has not been enough pondering in the Church the last little while. Not enough true listening, either, for that matter.

I hope your week is going well so far.

Your friend,

Kevin

(By the way, should you order any of those books and add them to your library — I’m not sure there’s a lot of Matthew Fox on Vatican shelves — I get a little bit of money from each purchase.)

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