Category Archives: Wisdom

The Dogs at Live Oak Beach, Santa Cruz

The Dogs at Live Oak Beach, Santa Cruz
By Alicia Ostriker

As if there could be a world
Of absolute innocence
In which we forget ourselves

The owners throw sticks
And half-bald tennis balls
Toward the surf
And the happy dogs leap after them
As if catapulted—

Black dogs, tan dogs,
Tubes of glorious muscle—

Pursuing pleasure
More than obedience
They race, skid to a halt in the wet sand,
Sometimes they’ll plunge straight into
The foaming breakers

Like diving birds, letting the green turbulence
Toss them, until they snap and sink

Teeth into floating wood
Then bound back to their owners
Shining wet, with passionate speed
For nothing,
For absolutely nothing but joy.

Happy Father’s Day

My Father

My father was a tall man and yet the ripened rye
Would come above his shoulders, the spears shot up so high.
My father was a tall man and yet the tasseled corn
Would hide him when he cut the stalks upon a frosty morn.
The green things grew so lushly in the valley of my birth,
Where else could one witness the luxuriance of earth?
The plow would turn so rhythmically the loose, unfettered loam,
There was no need of effort to drive the coulter home.
My father walked behind his team before the sun was high,
Fine as a figure on a frieze cut sharp against the sky.
And when he swung the cradle in the yellow of the grain,
He could command all eyes around, or when he drove the wain.
I wonder if his acres now that lie so far away
Are waiting for his footprint at the coming of the day.
I wonder if the brown old barn that still is standing long
And ghostly cattle in the stalls are waiting for his song.

A great reflection on fatherhood…

The Last Leap by Michael DeSanctis

Years ago, when my kids were hardly more than babies, we’d play a game together called “Trust Daddy.” The rules were simple. Climbing to the fourth or fifth step of our foyer staircase, they’d hurl themselves into the air—flying squirrels in PJs—certain they’d land safely in my arms, where I’d smother them in kisses. Adding to the game’s high drama, I’d sometimes place my arms behind my back before they’d jump and dare them even more to fling themselves at me, fearless of the possibility I’d ever fumble in my role as kiddie-catcher and let them meet the hardwood floor beneath us.

It’s a miracle kids survive the bumps and bruises of childhood at all, let alone the threat of injury that accompanies the silly variations on roughhousing invented by their dads. Lately, however, I’ve wondered whether I wasn’t inadvertently teaching my children something important about life, faith, and the divine fatherhood of God just by playing with them in a goofy sort of way—the province of fatherhood, I suppose—when their mom wasn’t watching. What brings this to mind is the recent death of my own father, a retired banker who spent decades dodging the worst effects of diabetes only to succumb in the end to some sneakier aspects of the disease.

Shortly before his death, my dad called my siblings and me and our mom together for what turned out to be a combination board meeting and domestic ritual, during which he calmly laid out a road map for his final journey toward death. The setting was a tiny intensive-care room at the very hospital where he’d been born eighty-five years earlier—where we’d all been born, in fact—a stone’s throw from the church where his funeral would be held just days later. Presiding from his bed as he always had at the head of the family table, my father imparted to us a combination of wisdom and faith as matter-of-factly as possible. He knew from the tumult unfolding in his body that death was just around the corner and wanted his loved ones to embrace that fact without illusion, like the numbers in a bank statement: real, fixed, non-negotiable. Sitting on his lap the whole time was a page from a diocesan newspaper bearing an essay by syndicated author Ron Rolheiser, OMI, titled “Guidelines for the Long Haul,” which my father read aloud like the contents of a solemn epistle. “Be grateful,” he implored us, quoting Rolheiser. Love freely. Live humbly. And “stay within the family,” an injunction not to go it alone in this earthly life but to remain in the fold, the community, the church that knows us by name and upholds our sanctity. “Your mother and I began this family out of love,” he concluded with words of his own. “Now it’s up to you to remain in that love and preserve the bonds that have sustained us.”

His final wishes established, my father spent the last of his days involved in what were essentially two versions of a game of trust—one that placed me and my sibs in the roles of trusting children, confident he was in complete control of the scene and eager to spare us unnecessary pain, and another that cast him as a child again, ready to fling every part of himself toward the outstretched arms of the God he believed awaited him just beyond his final breath. In the end, after all, the experience of a Christian death amounts to an act of trust, which is just another name for faith. We trust, among other things, that these incredibly short and often confusing lives of ours really do have meaning, that even the greatest of our sins pale in comparison with the vastness of God’s love, and that our souls are meant to soar beyond the confines of PJs or hospital gowns or flesh itself. It’s nothing more than a round of “Trust Daddy.” Our Father God invites us to play with him as death approaches, an invitation to leap headlong into the very Mystery that has kept our hearts beating for a lifetime but ultimately calls us beyond the safety of staircases and our fear that graves and gravity really do have the final say on the course of our being.


Michael E. DeSanctis holds dual appointments in the School of Communication and the Arts and the Department of Theology at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania. He is the author of, Building from Belief: Advance, Retreat, and Compromise in the Remaking of Catholic Church Architecture (Liturgical Press).  This article is found in the current issue of Commonweal Magazine.

How God sees you.

Whenever I teach a class on spirituality, I always try to make the point that very often, the way we see ourselves is not the way God sees us.  That too often, our ‘humanity’ — our fears, our insecurities, our vulnerabilities — gets in the way of the truth of ourselves.  The truth being that we were all created in the image and likeness of God.

I was reminded of this truth recently as I watched this video…

The Eagle and the Chickens

Here’s a great story from Paul Campbell’s SJ blog, People for Others.

A man found an eagle’s egg and put it in a nest of a barnyard hen. The eagle hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them.

All his life, the eagle did what the barnyard chicks did, thinking he was a barnyard chicken. He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He clucked and cackled. And he would thrash his wings and fly a few feet in the air.

Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird above him in the cloudless sky. It glided in graceful majesty among powerful wind currents, with scarcely a beat of its strong golden wings.

The old eagle looked up in awe. “Who’s that?” he asked.

“That’s the eagle, the king of the birds,” said his neighbor. “He belongs to the sky. We belong to the earth — we’re chickens.”  So the eagle lived and died a chicken, for that’s what he thought he was.

A New Serenity Prayer

My prayer today, thanks to Jim Massey at dotMagis…

“I have a friend who says that the basis of all true religion is believing that ‘There is a God and I’m not him.’ That’s the spirit of this updating of the Serenity Prayer by Jim Martin, SJ.

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the people I cannot change,
which is pretty much everyone,
since I’m clearly not you, God.
At least not the last time I checked.

And while you’re at it, God,
please give me the courage
to change what I need to change about myself,
which is frankly a lot, since, once again,
I’m not you, which means I’m not perfect.
It’s better for me to focus on changing myself
than to worry about changing other people,
who, as you’ll no doubt remember me saying,
I can’t change anyway.

Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up
whenever I think that I’m clearly smarter
than everyone else in the room,
that no one knows what they’re talking about except me,
or that I alone have all the answers.

Basically, God,
grant me the wisdom
to remember that I’m
not you.