My Chicago Home

My Chicago Home
How can we best live as modern, active contemplatives where prairie meets city?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

City of Cards

Photo courtesy of

I love our nation's cities -- but twenty years ago, certain disasters had me reflecting on the fragility of the "urban webs we weave." I wrote the following from EXTENSION Magazine's Wacker Drive office in Chicago in 1992:

City of Cards

Looking down over this city I know
it could very well be made of paper
as brick and mortar.

These buildings
so broad-shouldered
could tumble tomorrow.

With the Los Angeles riots
the Chicago flood
and Malibu in flames

I am convinced of the fragility
of the urban webs we weave.
Yesterday, I might have looked on this city-scape
as an impenetrable fortress.

But no more.
Because these buildings have held anchor
for a decade or a century
means nothing, really.

An earthquake
a fire
an explosion of human rage

Could break this maze of efficiency
in a heartbeat.

based on the works of man or woman
is an illusion.

We must look deeper.

By Marianna Bartholomew

I found this poetry tonight while I was clearing out papers, attempting to "flip" my basement from a storage area to a spot fit for human habitation! The space is looking much better already, and I'm finding poems and writings I haven't seen in a decade or longer. 

The stanzas above caught my attention, because of the scale of disasters shaking our foundations back in 1992, with the "Los Angeles riots,  the Chicago flood and Malibu in flames." I  worked many floors up in a skyscraper on Wacker Drive and felt vulnerable. 

Just think, I wrote this poem nearly 20 years ago, and life still rolls along. When September 11th hit, I remember feeling "the world will never seem safe again." And yet, here we are. Tonight, bombs are dropping on Libya and people in Japan are homeless and shivering...and yet the sun will probably rise tomorrow on a new day. 

In our world, unsafe since the Fall, people learn to be resilient. Many also learn to dig deeply into their hearts and souls to allow the light of faith in. I'm always amazed by the heroes and heroines that emerge through tragedy: the September 11th firefighters...the "Fukushima Fifty." 

Each of us is called to live heroically...stoically. Disasters shake civilizations to the core, yet we continue crafting beautiful lives for ourselves and our children by the grace of God, our only unshakeable foundation. Many of us have known extreme joy over these years, despite the sorrows. Births of children, friends and family members wedded, anniversaries celebrated...

Even in a "City of Cards," life goes on...may we thank God for each day of it!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Our Saint Patrick drew rave reviews from
the crowd and loved his role, in spite of
wearing a four-pound brass celtic cross
and a refurbished tablecloth.
Dressing as Irish saints and parading in 42-degree March "lion" weather past 20,000's a great way to celebrate St. Pat's Day!

For three years, my family and homeschool friends joined our Catholic Little Flowers and Blue Knights Club in Elmhurst in inviting the day's namesake into one of the Chicago area's largest Saint Patrick's Day Parades

Marchers representing Saints Dymphna and
Ceara from our "Corps of Irish Saints"
Our unit featured  "real" Saints Patrick Brigid, and a corps of Irish saints. Artistic children and parents crafted a rolling Irish church, complete with stained glass windows and garden. Tin whistle and recorder players kept us lively.

Crowds were enthusiastic. One man pointed to our unit shouting, "That's what it's all about, right there!" A cop complained we were moving too slowly. Then he looked at Saint Patrick visiting with people along the route, stepped back as if to say this was out of his jurisdiction, and made a sign of the cross. 

"May God Hold You in the Hollow of His Hand."

My kids are older now, and we haven't marched in two years. It's "not fair," grouses my 16-year-old daughter. She would still don a costume and get right out there. 

Saint Brigid was also a popular feature
of our unit

Saint Patrick's costume rests in my basement closet. Who knows? Its time may come again...After all, what's Saint Patrick's Day without Saint Patrick?

Each year, we passed out hundreds of handmade carnations featuring this "True Story of Saint Patrick":

Over the years, we distributed more than
a thousand holy cards to the crowd
Saint Patrick
The Patron Saint of IrelandFifth Century

     Patrick was born in a small town in Scotland.  As a boy, he was kidnapped by barbarians, dragged to Ireland and sold as a slave.  For years he herded sheep, going hungry and shivering in the rain and snow.  But Patrick sensed God’s presence and felt comforted.  He learned the language of the Irish people and grew to love them.
One night Patrick heard a voice in a dream saying, “Your ship is ready to take you home.”  Patrick found the ship and the captain agreed to take him to Scotland.  Reaching a monastery, Patrick stayed for two years, working and praying.  He then returned to his parents.
My brother soldered
this amazing crosier.
Oops...It should
have been a three-
leaf clover!

Patrick had another dream, full of Irish voices asking him to return to Ireland.  He traveled back to the land where he had been a slave and was made Bishop.  He traveled all over the island, turning thousands away from pagan ways. People stopped making human sacrifices to pagan gods.  Patrick ordained priests, and built many churches.  People say he used the three-leaf shamrock to teach about the Blessed Trinity – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  By the end of his life, Patrick had converted almost all of Ireland to Christianity.

St. Patrick's "Breastplate Prayer"
...Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger...

This is one translation of only a small fragment of Saint Patrick's powerful prayer, also known as the Lorica or The Deer's Cry.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lord, Have Mercy on Japan

Our Lady of Akita, Japan
"A tsunami has hit our people ... a tidal wave has come to overwhelm our lives. We are still in shock over what has happened."
--Father Koichi Otaki of the Diocese of Niigata to Vatican news agency Fides

Lord, have mercy on the people of Japan.

Catholic Relief Services

Forty Ways to Get the Most Out of Lent

A friend shared this link packed with suggestions on Forty Ways to Get the Most Out of Lent.