Hold It All

Category: Friends

Share the Wealth with Justin Lorenz: Shinkansen, Onsen, & Zen–Japan from the Inside

Allow me to take you on a train ride from Tokyo down to Nagasaki and back, as I did in Japan for three fascinating weeks last fall. Encounter my promotional campaign for the “Pocari Sweat” beverage, make laundry detergent with the L’Arche community in the Shizuoka farmland, visit the lake town of Fujikawaguchiko where I have family residing (and climb Fuji-san), take in “Kirishitan” (underground Christian) and atomic bomb history, check out the firefighting competitions and love hotels of Tokyo, and be changed in even more ways. I’ll welcome stories about Japan that others bring to share as well.

Justin is a Cincinnati native, St. Louis transplant, recreational poet and broomball player, and explorer of worlds inside and outside his lanky 30-something year old body. He studied Social Work and Public Admin at SLU and has spent most of his adult life in L’Arche communities in St. Louis, Mexico, and Florida, where people of diverse abilities befriend and transform each other. He is currently aspiring to manage L’Arche St. Louis’s physical spaces and finances and attempting to charm his way through Missouri’s formidable state bureaucracy.

Join us
Sunday 16 February
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Justin begins sharing at 6:45
At the home of Ellen Curry and Cami Kasmerchak
4256 Botanical Avenue
Apartment #5 [Third Floor]
Saint Louis, MO

Grandpa by Candice Simon

Candice shared this with me, and gave me permission to post it here.

January 26, 2020

I am doing well despite the grief and emotional trauma of this month. I truly feel that taking care of grandpa in hospice was pure love. It was one of the hardest and yet easiest things I’ve ever done. It is hard to watch someone die. It reminds us all we too will be there someday.

The loss of my grandfather feels like losing the roots of my family tree, like losing my past. Perhaps its better stated by losing the oldest trees in the forest of my life, a connection to history.

And there are so many things I should have asked him. It’s all gone now, whole chapters of history, dead. I feel a deep yearning for that connection to be reestablished. I lost something I didn’t even know I relied on to help establish who I am and where I am from. He was, in many ways, a homecoming.

I miss his sarcasm and gruff exterior as much as I miss his softness and unbelievable love for me. I don’t believe anyone will ever love me quite the same.

His loss creates a gap in the support I felt I had in this world. You cannot recreate those relationships. As they say, they are one of a kind. Something I didn’t fully appreciate until the loss of it was felt.

The selflessness in his support of me is a commodity that is rare indeed, and something I don’t have in spades. He was a true advocate for and believer in me. He was also my last true connection to many family members I lost contact with through the years. Such a touchstone.

I feel selfish as I write this because my words are about the role he played in my life and about my loss. He is the one who had to do the dirty business of dying. And life continues as normal. It seems to me the whole world should stop spinning for a bit to mourn the loss of such a monument of a man.

I say that, but I haven’t stopped to mourn. It’s too much to deal with all at once, so I grieve in flashes. It’s scary too, a foreshadowing of all the major losses to come in my young life.

It’s a wonder we get through it, and as I write that, I know some don’t. So, even today, in this moment of sorrow, I must remember how lucky I am to know such grief, to have known such love.

Share the Wealth with Jack Renard: Reflections on a Life in Islamic Studies

This sharing will revolve around questions I get frequently: Whatever led you to choose this as an academic specialization? Why does Islamic religious studies matter? What do Islamic religious studies specialists actually study, and what are some tools of the trade? Given all the time and effort you’ve put into this, how can you not want to be a Muslim? (a question on more than a few Muslims’ minds). Has your study of Islam impacted your own religious or other very personal beliefs? You were a Jesuit when you started full-time study of Islam – how did/does that background influence your approach? Any useful hints from the Catholic tradition about this whole business?

About Jack: Born and raised in Saint Louis 1944, joined the Jesuits in 1962, received MA Biblical at SLU Divinity in 1971, PhD in Islamic Studies from Harvard Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations 1978, at SLU since then. Left the Jesuits in 1989, and married Mary Pat Henehan in 1990.

Join us
Sunday 23 February
Potluck begins at 6:00 p.m.
Jack begins sharing at 6:45
At the home of Lea and Terry
4121 West Pine Boulevard
St. Louis, MO
Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth with Jenny Lowe: An Appreciation of Leonard Woolf

Most educated people have read or at least heard of Virginia Woolf, the brilliant modernist writer and member of the Bloomsbury Group whose works include To the Lighthouse, Mrs. Dalloway, Orlando, and A Room of One’s Own. You may also know of her battles with mental illness and her suicide by drowning in 1941. But what do you know of her husband Leonard? Novelist, journalist, publisher, political historian, advisor to the Labour Party on international affairs, ex-civil servant, atheist, memoirist, avid gardener, and animal lover, Leonard was also a stalwart support to Virginia through her bouts of illness. Virginia’s sister and their Bloomsbury friends believed that she would not have lived long enough to produce any of her famous works had she not married Leonard.

Jenny Lowe is a librarian at Saint Louis University. She and her husband Gregory visited the Woolfs’ house – Monk’s House – in Rodmell, England in 2017, and on their return, both read Leonard’s five-volume memoir with great pleasure. Jenny has also read the 2008 biography by Victoria Glendenning and various other works about Leonard and Virginia and their lives together. Read the rest of this entry »

Six Short Chapters from Forthcoming Book, “Dear Love of Comrades”

The Affordable Care Act Won’t Help Me Here

Dear Nima
I have three appointments–

In cardiology, cardiology

In the next two weeks
But there’s no doctor I can see about missing you

“This Is It” by Eileen McGrath Mosher

Shim-dawg (lovingly named),

My mantra this past week, “This is it,” without knowing it, consciously, it has been on your FB wall. I wondered but without a lot of curiosity what that meant to you. Here is why it has been so important to me.

I have to tell myself every minute that this is my new reality… my brain can only seem to recall it for a mere moment that this is it: This is life, this is my home, my job, my kids, my family but not as it has ever been before. It is not my dreams, my forecast, my hope, my desire.

But it is full of love, children laughing, neighbors calling, family supporting, community praying. Moments of pain so deep and literally body numbing and moments of laughter so full that my muscles ache, moments I feel the air leave my body requiring a painful deep breath as if I just broke the surface of the after after nearly drowning. This is it.

Right here, right now, it is all we have. So despite all of it, be kind, live consciously, aware of your breath, the trees CO2 exchange and your neighbors’ inhale. All of us sharing intimately this shared NOW.

This is it.

Eileen (I-dawg)


With the Barakats

Last night, Sharifa Barakat and I had dinner at Central Café (along with Imman Musa and Dania Saffaf Atienza). Sarah Dwidar had introduced me to Sharifa her freshman year at SLU on sunny day on West Pine. Later, she took a Social Justice class with me, and we were part of SLU Solidarity with Palestine. I have long been impressed with her humor, love of literature, and keen sense of responsibility. A while back, she led us in a close reading of Ghassan Kanafani’s Men in the Sun, and Other Palestinian Stories.

After dinner, the two of us walked to Left Bank Books to hear author Ibtisam Barakat (no relation to Sharifa) share her philosophy and read from her new book, Balcony on the Moon: Coming of Age in Palestine. Someone asked her a question about the political solution to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian people, culture, and land, and she said, point-blank, there’s no solution politically, there can only be a “soul-lution.” Accordingly, her contribution is to tell the story of her life as a Palestinian in Palestine and the Diaspora. She has published two books so far, and she mentioned at least three others to come, insha’allah. Read the rest of this entry »

An Ashram for Modern America

Eknath Easwaran, With My Love and Blessings: The Teaching Years 1966-1999 In Photographs & His Own Word
Nilgiri Press, 2000

For Chris and Andrew

As we contemplate what an urban-rural ashram could look like, an interesting resource is this book of darshan of and appreciation for an Indian teacher by his students and devotees.

I did a meditation retreat with Sri Eknath Easwaran in January 1991 in the Bay Area. A friend of mine from my Louisville days was an ardent practitioner of his eight-point path. Back in 2013 I led a “slow-reading” group of the Bhagavad Gita, using Easwaran’s translation and three volumes of commentary. Originally from Kerala, India, Easwaran had keen insights into U.S. culture, which led to his apt and encouraging advice to his U.S. students seeking the path of self-realization. Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth with Ale Vazquez: Capturing the Power of Transformation

Healing from heartbreak—of various kinds—is a process that can involve creative practices. In this gathering, Ale will tell of how she has transformed suffering via watercolor, haiku, photography, dialogue, and community as a means to recommitting to self. You are invited to consider and name your own journeys of brokenness becoming beauty, of pain leading to compassion, of mercy you have channeled for yourself.

Ale is a poet, a painter, a music collector, an educator, an astrophysics hobbyist, and an activist. She resides in San Antonio with her books and her paintbrushes.

Join us
Saturday (not Sunday!) 14 December
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Ale begins sharing at 6:45
At the home of Ellen Curry and Cami Kaz
4256 Botanical Avenue
Apartment #5 [Third Floor]
Saint Louis, MO

For Jenna

Thank you for spending two hours with me at RISE Coffee a week ago.
I look forward to reading your book.


Another Class Is Finished

Appreciation is the sacrament.
—Allen Ginsberg

Another class is finished…the autumn one entitled
“Facing the Future: Resources for a Rebirth of Wonder”

“Rebirth of wonder” comes from lines in a Lawrence Ferlinghetti poem—
“I am perpetually awaiting a rebirth of wonder”

I’m not “awaiting” …I’ve experienced rebirth over and over
From the gathering of friends on and beyond Wise Avenue…

Dianne Lee’s commitment to “Whenever we see or think your name, you exist”
Provokes a more ardent anamnesis

Bill Quick’s ever genial receptivity
Models how to be in a learning environment

Chris Wallach’s intimate connection to Dipa Ma
Shows the way for “concentration, lovingkindness and peace”

Sarah Burkemper’s Nerudean ode to the first cucumber of the summer season
Awakens my amazement at the ordinary Read the rest of this entry »

Five More Chapters of Forthcoming Manuscript, Dear Love of Comrades

Alive beyond Alive
by Loyola Walter

My friend Loyola works at Mount Saint Joseph (she’s chair of the Art Department) and knew Pete Mosher. We reminisced last night and today before Pete’s funeral. Cab picked me up at Lo’s this morning and we went to Saint Clare’s Church on Cedar Avenue. Lo sent the following to me this afternoon as Cab, Jane, Allison Lind, and I were returning to Saint Louis.

I meet Cab
(when she comes to get Markie for the funeral)
and suddenly I become aware
of all the forms that Pete is taking.
There she is, a new person to me, in her dark blue dress coat and shoes,
thin delicate face with large eyes and a small serious smile “glad to meet you”
and in the muddy cold street, air silver with rain and the melting of snow
I see him, smiling,
All the forms he is now taking
All the beautiful, one-of-a-kind forms.
Alive beyond alive.


Read the rest of this entry »