Sit In

It took an old man from Georgia
whose skull was cracked
by the cudgel of prejudice
on “Bloody Sunday,” 1965,
to force the speaker down
even if he would not hear

The speaker called the sit in
a “publicity stunt,”
debasing the act with
a catchall phrase

We are not blind,
Mr. Speaker.
We are not deaf.
You will not silence
the will of the just,
the pure-hearted.
We see through
your icy smile

You have blood
on your hands

Pope Francis, My Hero

pope francis


All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.
            Mrs. Cecil Frances Humphrey Alexander

Pope Francis never ceases to amaze me, and in a good way. He is the most all-embracing, open-hearted pope in my recollection. He has been a steadfast advocate for open-mindedness towards people and causes often scorned in our society—the LGBT community, the poor, migrants, abortion rights. He has called the Catholic Church “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage and contraception.

Today he has called for a “global mobilization” to end human trafficking.

Last week he joined leaders of the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian faiths, promising to use their religions towards eradicating “modern slavery” and human trafficking by 2020.

When Pope Francis was archbishop of Buenos Aires, he was known to sneak out at night and break bread with the poor; he would sit on the street and eat with them, let them know they were cared for. The Pope’s trusted archbishop Konrad Krajewski is the Vatican Almoner, who has the a centuries-old job of handing out alms.  Krajewksi said,

“The Holy Father told me at the beginning: ‘You can sell your desk. You don’t need it. You need to get out of the Vatican. Don’t wait for people to come ringing. You need to go out and look for the poor.’ ”

It’s been said that Francis sometimes disguises himself as a priest and sneaks out to serve the homeless with Krajewski.

Every morning a Vatican official goes from the Vatican hotel where Francis lives to Krajewski’s office with a pile of letters the Pope has received from parishioners asking for assistance. On the top of each letter, Francis may write “You know what to do” or “Go find them” or “Go talk to them.”

In his weekly address last month, the Pope declared, “All animals go to heaven.”

Whether you believe in a heaven or not, it’s a wonderful sentiment. Why shouldn’t one’s furry loved ones follow them into the afterlife?

He said, “Heaven is open to all creatures, and there [they] will be vested with the joy and love of God, without limits.”

Francis goes further to say that humankind’s role is not limited to serving the divine:

“The vocation of being a ‘protector,’ however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as St. Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Pope Francis ran for Congress? Maybe he could get some real work done. Sorry, had to add my two cents.

He is a reminder of what we all can be, religious or not, and of the good that can be found in all of us.

Zen and the Art of Oven Cleaning

photo: Erica Herd

I’ve been meaning to clean the stove for six years. We moved into the house seven years ago. Every time I’m about to clean the oven, it seems something comes up or I think of something more important to do. This afternoon I was filled with the spirit of the oven. I had to do it, no excuses. There were 2 cans of oven cleaner under the kitchen sink—CVS brand and a name brand. I asked my husband Lorin which to use and he said, “The one with the blue top.” That was the name brand. Opening the top revealed a nest of fuzzy crud that didn’t bode well, so I opted for the CVS brand cleaner. Cleaning an oven is not a task to be taken lightly. You have to abide by the rules:

  1. make sure the oven is cold
  2. do not spray cleaner near an open flame
  3. lay newspapers or paper towels on floor to catch the drippings
  4. wear “long” rubber gloves
  5. open the windows
  6. shake well and spray 8 to 10 inches from surface
  7. close the oven door and wait 2 hours
  8. after 2 hours, wipe with paper towels, a rag or sponge and lots of warm water

In addition to the rubber gloves, I wore an apron and covered my nose and mouth with a bandana. The “domestic outlaw” look is popular this year. It was also necessary to move the pet food dishes and water bowl into the dining room and keep the cats out of the kitchen. I waited the requisite 2 hours—enough time to watch the entirety of August, Osage County on cable—and began Phase 2: the wiping down. Buckets of water and a sponge and scads of paper towels later, this phase was complete. It was a very satisfying experience, seriously. The results were tangible. Before: caked on mess, grime, oven grease. After: smooth, clean surfaces, not sparkling, but noticeably improved. If only all of life could be so simple. Why did I wait so long to clean the oven? Were there really so many more important things to do, or I was simply being lazy? I love baking and enjoy cooking, so a clean oven is a source of pride.

Right now we don’t have the cash for home improvements, but that doesn’t mean simple, concrete tasks can’t be accomplished, tasks that improve our surroundings and how we feel about our environment and ourselves. I can’t control Congress, but I can control my kitchen. It all starts with an oven.