Hold It All

Month: November, 2015

Interbeing Song

“Bella Levenshteyn
I look forward to you going to the Middle East:
Wherever I look, there you are
No matter where you are, there you are
If I look at the leaves swirling, there you are
If I look at the curious eighteen-year-old student, there you are
If I look at the crinkled, inked up manuscript, there you are
If I look at the sun partially hidden by the clouds, there you are
If I look at my left hand, there you are
Go in peace to the Middle East
(How else could you go?)
I’ll be here
With you”


United States of Cars

for K. M. Schwartz

Be cool in your car
Make out in your car
Drink tequila in your car

Listen to Led Zeppelin cranked in your car
Go from point A to point Z in your car
Transport various and sundry drugs in your car

Zone out road-trip escapism in your car
Impress your friends with your car
Lovingly wash and wax your car

Buy your car like it’s a new born miracle
Flirt from your car
Speed 25 miles over the limit in your car

Drag-race like James Dean badass in your car
Pollute the planet every second in your car
Guzzle gas without giving a fuck in your car

Activate sunroof or moonroof pleasure in your car
Give insurance agents steady work with your wreck of a car
Attend prom in someone else’s car

Never hear Ralph Nader’s phrase “psycho-sexual killing machine” about your car
Place all those shopping bags in the back seat of your car
Know all the models and makes of cars while not knowing the names of your governor or senators

Identify with your car
Give a special, quirky name to your car
Judge others by their cars

Experience liberation from home in your car
Savor psychic breakthroughs on cross-country road trips in your car
Revel in going anywhere anytime you want in your car

Think people’s cars say something revealing about them
Hear someone pronounce the word “Lambourgini” as if the Risen Christ had just appeared
Cruise in your dream car with your dream lover in your nocturnal dreams

Go one mile an hour on highway headed home in your car
Drool for joy to pump $1.79/gal. in your car
Remember US troops protecting Iraqi Ministry of Oil for the sake of freedom and your car


—from Spiritual Exercises class, October 2015


Another sunny Ramadan morning in Rafah
We head out to meet some people in Block J
It, too, had been battered during Israel’s Operation Root Canal
A few weeks before we internationals arrived

We attract the attention of rambunctious kids
Whose idea of fun is playing
Amidst the rubble of Rafah
That used to be some people’s homes

A middle-aged man approaches us
He doesn’t have much to say to us, just this:
“Even if they want to destroy the house over my head
I will not leave…

I will die here”

Rafa, Gaza, Palestine; November 2003

Rafa, Gaza, Palestine; November 2003

Sumud: state of perseverance
Samid = the steadfast, the persevering, masculine form
Samdeh = feminine form
Samidin = plural
–Raja Shehadeh, The Third Way: A Journal of Life in the West Bank

Word of the Day

Saudade, noun, Portuguese, pl. Saudades

1.  longing, yearning, ardent wish or desire
2.  homesickness, nostalgia.…

Estou cada vez com mais saudade de voce = I miss you more and more every day.
Meu coração tem saudade dela = My heart aches for her.
Morro de saudade de ve-la = I die with impatience to see her.
Tenho muita saudade dela =  I miss her very much.

–Novo Michaelis: Dicionario Illustrado

Share the Wealth with Julie Johnson–Creative Serving: Giving Back to St. Louis with Photography and Art

Julie Johnson is a photographer and public school teacher in North St. Louis County.  She owns a card company called STL Heart Cards. She  captures off the beaten path spaces, people, and experiences in St. Louis and other cities she has traveled and lived, and she turns them into photo cards.  Much of her work embraces the idea of diversity and unity in the midst of the city grit with a deep history of racism and socio-economic disparity.

During our time together, Julie will tell her story about using the gift of photography to “reframe” the narrative of the events in Ferguson and our city while also giving others an opportunity to discuss the theme of creative serving in their own life and work.

Join us Sunday 22 November.  Potluck begins at 6:00 pm, and Julie begins sharing at 6:45.  We gather at the home of Lacey Burchett and Savannah Sisk, 1817 Thurman, Apartment B, first floor, door on the left, Saint Louis, MO 63110. People may need to park along DeTonty because Sasha’s usually takes all street parking in the evenings.

You can view more of Juile’s work and examples of STL Heart Cards here:

STL Heart Cards

Photo Blog



I wrote last year of the ‘third way,’ and of the daily living being the test of sumud. It is a test I failed, perhaps because I didn’t have the kind of hope necessary for sustaining a constant struggle. It is not hope for this or that to happen, not hope for the far-off future. It is the kind of general hope you draw from people around you whom you love. It is the faces, on the West Bank and in Israel, that I love, admire, am proud to know, that have pushed aside my nightmare visions. And it is the strength of their humanity that makes me sure that it is not mere sentimentality to linger for a moment over the football truce between the Arab boys and soldier-boy. Our struggle is not senseless; it is not yet proven that good never wins the day.

–Raja Shehadeh, The Third Way: A Journal of Life in the West Bank 

Photography as a Way of Life

for Oliver, Cami, and Julie

Sebastião Salgado, From my Land to the Planet
Contrasto, 2014


I first heard the name of Sebastião Salgado from Mev in the early 1990s.  She esteemed him more than any other living photographer, as he embodied  a secular “preferential option for the poor.”  Mev wished to  make a similar option, precisely as a photo-journalist and theology student.  The Struggle is One, her book about the liberationist church in Brazil (Salgado’s homeland),  was one expression of her commitment.

Given your interest in and commitment to photography, I wanted to share a bit with you from Salgado’s recent autobiography, From my Land to the Planet.  The book was put together by Isabelle Francq, who interviewed Salgado during a very busy period of his life.  The book necessarily goes into much greater detail than what is suggested in Mev’s interview with him from 1993, which is one of the “Seeing the World” chapters in The Book of Mev. I think you will find a lot in this book that stimulates your imagination and photographic praxis.

Salgado and his girlfriend Lelia became politically involved in the days of the Brazilian military dictatorship (her uncle was a founder of the Brazilian Communist Party).  But as things heated up there,  they choose to leave the country for France. Salgado was trained early on as an economist.  But he grew to love the adventure of taking photographs much more than writing detailed reports on countries  like Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda. The couple, eventually to marry,  used their savings to invest in the best possible photographic equipment.   He began to see this work  less as being journalistically au courant and more as investing time to listen to  people and community’s “long-term stories.”

This is one of the aspects of Salgado’s work that most impressed Mev:  His willingness to be immersed in the communities where he was taking photos.  He reflected on this path:  “Totally integrated with his surroundings, the photographer knows that he is going to witness something unexpected. When he merges into the landscape, into that particular situation, the construction of the image eventually emerges before his eyes. But in order to see it, he has to be part of what is happening. Then, all the elements will start to play in his favor.”   He lived for a year and a half in the Sahel during the famine.  He got to know the people through the organizations working with them.  This reminded me of how Mev would make connections with the local Catholic church (and Maryknoll Missionaries), say, in Brazil, and through them meet people and become familiar with their struggles. Read the rest of this entry »

A Visit with Fernando Cardenal by Bryan Melcher

Bryan Melcher received a Mev Puleo Scholarship to study and work in Nicaragua this past summer. We met up this week at Café Ventana and he shared some of his stories. He mentioned he and his SLU companions got to visit with Jesuit priest Fernando Cardenal.  Bryan typed up the following  from his notes and said I could share it wherever I want.

The following is a less than perfect transcript of our time with Fernando Cardenal S.J. It was written later that day from my memory. — B.M.

I know that this time in Nicaragua will be very important. You must make time to be close to the poor. In my own formation as a Jesuit I never had an opportunity to speak with an indigenous or poor person. I knew from the news that there was serious poverty in Latin America, but it was always head knowledge-not personal.

Then as the final stage of my formation (my tertianship) approached, I realized that of course I would not be doing it in Latin America. We had no location for such a thing. I would have to go to Spain. And that was just fine with me. I had dreamt of Spain-fondly.

I dreamt of seeing the places of St. Ignatius, going to Rome, seeing Paul VI. I studied classics, so it was exciting to think of going to the places of ancient Roman history, politics, culture. And, I dreamt of returning home through Paris. It sounded wonderful.

Then, I heard that the Jesuits in Colombia at Medellin had opened up a tertianship program. Not in the beautiful mountains, but in a very poor neighborhood. I knew that this was my chance. My chance to know the poor.

I went. Leaving behind dreams of Europe, I joined a community of ten Colombians, three Mexicans, one Nicaraguan (me) and a Spaniard- the superior.

We divided up the tasks of community life, and mine was to fetch the bread. There was no bakery in the neighborhood; I had to walk a long way to find one. When I did, I bought the bread. Walking home, a child with a very malnourished face approached me. He asked for bread. I did what any of you would do. And again. And again. And when I returned home with no bread I said, “I did what I had to do. We either need to find someone else to get the bread or go without bread, because I will not refuse hungry children.” We went without bread. That was my first real contact with the poor. There were many more. Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth with SLU Puleo Scholars: Learning a Theology of Accompaniment

Three students from Saint Louis University will share stories of growth, challenges, and joy about their summer studying liberation theology and accompanying the people that they encountered in Nicaragua.

Meg Buckley is a senior studying Public Health in the accelerated MPH program for Behavioral Science and Health Education, minoring in Theology and History. Taylor Jackson is a junior studying Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies, with the goal of working in the field of Public Policy. She is specifically interested in gender policy and women’s reproductive rights. Bryan Melcher is a junior studying Theology and Political Science. He plans to teach across departments in a Catholic School.

Join us Sunday 15 November for a potluck supper which begins at 6:00 pm. Meg, Taylor and Bryan begin sharing at 6:45. We gather at Sophia House, 4547 Gibson Avenue, Forest Park Southeast 63110. Please park at the west end of Gibson or on Taylor Avenue, or on the 4400 block of Chouteau.

SLU Scholars with Fernando Cardenal
Puleo Scholars and Patrick Cousins with Fernando Cardenal

When Grades Are Everything

Dear Henry

Once I had a student who was my age
Shameeka Smith was in her second marriage
Getting her BA
And taking good care of herself

She appreciated the class
Because we wrote freely in notebooks
Actually talked with one another
Everything was so laid back (but also, oddly, everything was so intense)

We’d chat after class
She’d tell me stories
From her life as a police officer
“Now you know why I need that Thich Nhat Hanh!”

Her beat in the old days
Included one of the large universities
One night she got a call to go over there
For a suicide

She told me, “Young girl
She left a note for her parents:
‘Dear mom and dad

I am so sorry
I brought shame on the family
I am so sorry
I got a B'”

After a minute Shameeka said to me
“I wonder if her parents can sleep”
Last night Tanya told me
Her sister killed herself during her second year of med school


Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine