Category Archives: Poetry

Brother Love’s Traveling Reconciliation Show

With apologies to Neil Diamond (Yes, I’m old enough to remember his early performances in the 1960’s) who made a hit out of the song “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” one of my brother priests who was part of a group of us hearing confessions yesterday reminded me of this title. My parish is part of a group of four parishes that hold communal reconciliation liturgies in each one of our churches on Sunday afternoons during Lent. Two on one Sunday and two on the next Sunday, which requires a bit of quick travel between the two parishes to make it to the next church on time. My brother priest referred to it as the “Traveling Reconciliation Show” between yesterday’s two locations.

It is Lent, and many Catholics feel the need to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Many of them don’t for various reasons. I’m not here to judge, but I do find it a powerful encounter with Christ both as penitent and the minister of the sacrament. Sometime I’ll have to write more about my experiences. For now, I offer two poems by a favorite author, Scott Cairns, for your Lenten reflection that might help you prepare for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Take your time with them and ponder what they are revealing. The Sacrament of Reconciliation can stir in the heart the same thoughts and have the same effect as what is written of in the poems.

The Spiteful Jesus

Not the one whose courtesy
and kiss unsought are nonetheless
bestowed. Instead, the largely
more familiar blasphemy
borne to us in the little boat
that first cracked rock at Plymouth
petty, plainly man-inflected
—demi-god established as a club
with which our paling
generations might be beaten
to a bland consistency.

He is angry. He is just. And while
he may have died for us,
it was not gladly. The way
his prophets talk, you’d think
the whole affair had left him
queerly out of sorts, unspeakably
indignant, more than a little
needy, and quick to dish out
just deserts. I saw him when,
as a boy in church, I first
met souls in hell. I made him
for a corrupt, corrupting fiction when
my own father (mortal that he was)
forgave me everything, unasked.

philokalia: new and selected poems
 by  Scott Cairns

Page 11 © 2002
Zoo Press, PO Box 22990, Lincoln NE 68542

Adventures in New Testament Greek:

Repentance, to be sure,
but of a species far
less likely to oblige
sheepish repetition.

Repentance, you’ll observe,
glibly bears the bent
of thought revisited,
and mind’s familiar stamp

—a quaint, half-hearted
doubleness that couples”
all compunction with a p ledge
of recurrent screw-up.

The heart’s metanoia,
on the other hand, turns
without regret, turns not
so much away, as toward,

as if the slow pilgrim
has been surprised to find
that sin is not so bad
as it is a waste of time.

philokalia: new and selected poems
 by  Scott Cairns

Page 11 © 2002
Zoo Press, PO Box 22990, Lincoln NE 68542