Category Archives: poetry

Clean Enough To Care

by Howard Hain
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John Downman, “Child Holding a Doll”, 1780 (The Met)


 

What if someone handed you a child?

A small child.

A tiny child.

An infant.

A few hours…a few minutes old.

What if you were the only one that the child could be handed to?

Only you.

No one else around to help.

Would you receive that child into your arms?

There’s no sterilized room, no sanitary precautions, no sink, not even a bar of soap—just plain old you, a bunch of imperfect circumstances, and a poor tiny child that needs to be embraced.

You know what you would do.

Even if your hands were filthy, completely covered in soot and mud, you know what you would do.

You’d quickly rub your hands against your pants or shirt and wipe away the obvious dirt.

Then you’d hold out your hands.

Wouldn’t you?

Yes. You would.

We all would.

That’s what makes us human.

That’s what makes us children of God.

We’d do what we could with what we have to help an innocent child.

We know that “cleanliness” in such cases really doesn’t matter. For even if the circumstances were “perfect” we’d still have that uneasy feeling. That feeling that we’re not worthy to hold such innocence, to be entrusted with such treasure.

It’s a holy hesitancy that only true humility can bear.

Yet, it’s the necessity to help, the clear need for our assistance—the abundantly clear reality that we’re the only “hands” on deck—that drives us to overcome such holy and righteous fear—a fear that reveals just how poor we really are, much poorer in fact than even the helpless child we are about to embrace.

It is preciously this beautiful fear of God that propels us to love boldly—to boldly reach out beyond ourselves, to boldly become part of God’s mystical body, to become His very arms and hands—to embody Divine Love Itself—that perfect love of the eternal Father for each and every child ever created.

For it is the Father’s love that creates us, and sustains us, and longs to flow through us.

We just sometimes need extreme circumstances—ridiculously obvious situations—in order to tap the needed courage to let it to flow beyond our own borders and into those around us.

You are in such a situation. Right now.

We all are.

This very moment.

No matter where you are or what you’re doing.

Such a situation is at hand.

A child, a new born—cold, hungry, and without a home—desperately needs to be held.

Quick then, wipe your dirty hands, make due with what you’ve got—believe the Word of God, it’s good enough—now hold out your hands.

You’re clean enough to care.


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at http://www.howardhain.com

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

twitter.com/HowardDHain

If you enjoyed this post, please consider “liking” it, adding a comment, becoming an email subscriber, or passing it along via the social-media links below. Your support is greatly appreciated. Step by step. All for God’s glory.


Web Link: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. John Downman, “Child Holding a Doll”, 1780

Bozza Imperfetta (imperfect sketch)

by Howard Hain

 

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Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, Caprese 1475–1564 Rome). “Unfinished cartoon for a Madonna and Child.” 1525–30. Drawing, black and red chalk, white gouache, brush and brown wash. Casa Buonarroti, Florence


I know almost nothing.

What I do know leads me up the ladder of not understanding.

To my perch upon the Cross.

Within the heart of my child Jesus.


 

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Museum Wall Card for Work Above, from: Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer, on view at The Met Fifth Avenue from November 13, 2017 through February 12, 2018.

Walled Garden

by Howard Hain
francis-and-clare-from-the-movie-brother-sun-sister-moon-franco-zeffirelli

Saint Francis and Saint Clare from the movie “Brother Sun, Sister Moon”, (Franco Zeffirelli) (1972)


A garden enclosed, my sister, my bride,
a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed!

—Song of Songs 4:12


 

From memory it is not easy to recall. I do have a clear image, but if it is accurate that remains to be seen. Here we go.

It was downhill. A sloping path. As I approached the stone church, a few people wandered around out front. There was somewhat of a courtyard, well not a courtyard, more like a little wall hugging into existence a welcoming space. This wall was about bench height, made also of stone, and extended outward from the building. It created what I would normally call an out-front patio space, but in Italian terms, perhaps it would be called a terrazza, or maybe even be considered a piazza, or perhaps most accurately, a piazzetta. Then again, maybe it is just a patio to Italians too.

Well, sitting on this low wall was a friar. And running around the open area was a small brown dog with a shaggy little beige beard.

I entered the church. It was small, almost cave like. A curved ceiling. Dark. Old. There was the cross, a crucifix. Not the actual one that spoke to Saint Francis—no, that one was moved up into the Basilica of Saint Clare located in the central part of the still small but no-longer medieval town of Assisi.

The reproduction spoke to me.

I’m an early companion of Francis.


 

I remained in the chapel for a while. I’m not sure if I was praying or not. I’m pretty sure I got on my knees. But from that day’s perspective, prayer was not known to me. So from that perspective, I wasn’t praying. But from today’s perspective, I most certainly was. For I was there. I was in Italy, in Assisi, in the Church of San Damiano. I was there intentionally. I was lost but I was found. I was looking, and I was obeying. Obeying what I didn’t know. I had no idea why, but I wanted to be there. And I felt something. It was heavy, literally. I remember feeling bent over. I remember thinking about all the prayer that must have taken place in that small space over the past thousand years. I remember thinking that all that collective belief must have an effect. It did. It does. It will. I was certain that I felt it. It bowed me down. It bent me over. And I remember liking it.

Faith is common.

I was a pilgrim and didn’t know it.


 

I don’t remember much about the convent itself. I do remember walking from room to room, the communal rooms where Saint Clare and her companions, her biological mother and two sisters among them, ate and prayed and cared for their sick. I remember the small warm inner garden, with it’s old well. And the spot marked as the place where Clare liked best to sit. I’ve always loved internal courtyards. The thought of being outdoors and yet enclosed. Architecturally, it best represents the beauty of true solitude. Open. Yet safe. Free. Yet sheltered. Alone. Yet surrounded by those who believe the same.

In that sense, solitude—when it’s truly interior, truly spiritual—is like love: you can never get enough of it, and once you have it, once you truly live within it, you’re never again alone.

Solitude is love. And love is never solitary.


 

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.

—Isaiah 7:14


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at http://www.howardhain.com

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

twitter.com/HowardDHain

If you enjoyed this post, please consider “liking” it, adding a comment, becoming an email subscriber (drop-down menu at top of page), or passing it along via the social-media links below. Your support is greatly appreciated. Step by step. All for God’s glory.

Arriving in Hope

by Howard Hain

 

camille-pissarro-entree-du-village-de-voisins-1872.jpg

Camille Pissarro, “Entrée du village de Voisins”, 1872 (Musée d’Orsay)

 

Waiting and waiting, for exactly what I’m not sure.

The sun to rise.

The day to end.

The water to boil.

Mass to begin.

The cock to crow.

Christ to return.

———

A new day is here.

———

Father, thank You.

Jesus, I love You.

Holy Spirit, have Your way.


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at http://www.howardhain.com

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

twitter.com/HowardDHain

If you enjoyed this post, please consider “liking” it, adding a comment, becoming an email subscriber, or passing it along via the social-media links below. Your support is greatly appreciated. Step by step. All for God’s glory.

Where I Want To Be

by Howard Hain

 

Martin Schongauer Bust of a Man in a Hat Gazing Upward ca 1480-90 The Met

Martin Schongauer, “Bust of a Man in a Hat Gazing Upward”, ca. 1480-90 (The Met)

 

J.M.J.

 

There’s only one place I want to be.

On the Cross with my good Christ.

Strange. Odd. Uncomfortable to admit.

The Cross is where I want to be.

The Cross is where I feel free.

 

The thought of being lifted up high.

The chance to be in pain.

With Him Whom I still don’t know.

To want it to never stop.

To not understand a single thing.

To be burned alive.

I can only call it love.

 

Yes. So be it. It’s Your command.

 

The Cross is where I want to be.

The Cross is where I am free.

The Cross is where I encounter love.

 

Yes, Lord Jesus.

Let me hang with You.

If only for a while.

My sins and those of all the world.

Added to the funeral pile.


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at http://www.howardhain.com

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

twitter.com/HowardDHain

If you enjoyed this post, please consider “liking” it, adding a comment, becoming an email subscriber, or passing it along via the social-media links below. Your support is greatly appreciated. Step by step. All for God’s glory.


Web Link: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Martin Schongauer, “Bust of a Man in a Hat Gazing Upward”, ca. 1480-90

Morning Thoughts: True Nobility

by Howard Hain

 

Jules Bastien-Lepage Pas Mèche (Nothing Doing) 1882 Scottish National Gallery

Jules Bastien-Lepage, “Pas Mèche (Nothing Doing)”, 1882 (Scottish National Gallery)

 

Stand your ground.

Be clear. Be strong.

Be kind.

Your dignity is Mine.

I planted within you “riches and honor and life.” *

Speak as heir.

Protect what’s Mine.

Truth. Beauty. Love.

These only I possess.

Handle with care.

Worry not what others say.

Listen carefully to what’s left unsaid.

My grace fills the gaps.

I send you not to give an answer.

I send you to be My Dignity.


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at www.howardhain.com

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

twitter.com/HowardDHain

If you enjoyed this post, please consider “liking” it, adding a comment, becoming an email subscriber (drop-down menu at top of page), or passing it along via the social-media links below. Your support is greatly appreciated. Step by step. All for God’s glory.


Web Link: National Galleries Scotland. Jules Bastien-Lepage, “Pas Mèche (Nothing Doing)”, 1882


* Proverbs 22:4

Daily Grind

by Howard Hain

 

rembrandt-two-women-teaching-a-child-to-walk-ca-1635-37-red-chalk-on-gray-paper.jpg

Rembrandt, “Two Women Teaching a Child to Walk”, ca. 1635-37 (red chalk on gray paper)

 

This day might perhaps be the most boring day of our life.

It might look a lot like yesterday.

A lot like last Friday.

A lot like last November.

Routine.

Monotony.

The daily grind.

Another peppercorn held in the mill.

Waiting its turn to be ground into dust.

Sprinkled on a paper plate.

Consumed by a ravenous world.

Never to be seen again.

Never to see the light of day.

Or perhaps we’re wrong.

Perhaps we’re chunks of crystal.

Salt from a dead sea.

Clear.

A tinge of pink.

When the light hits right.

To be sprinkled.

To preserve what’s sacred.

To give life.

Perhaps we are the salt of the earth.

Perhaps this day we shall meet some pepper.

Perhaps we’ll let God have His way.

Giving taste to what seems to so many just another day.


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at http://www.howardhain.com

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

twitter.com/HowardDHain

If you enjoyed this post, please consider “liking” it, adding a comment, becoming an email subscriber, or passing it along via the social-media links below. Your support is greatly appreciated. Step by step. All for God’s glory.