A Gift of Grace

Last night, a gift of grace!
"Merici" came to die
From nearby nursing home

Our doctors did their best
Her heart and lungs were spent
With ninety-four long years

Merici’s hour drew near
Without a single kin
No family / friend appeared

An echo from the past
“My God! My God! Oh, why
Have You forsaken me?!”

I whisper in hear ear
I stroke her clammy hand
My sacred space, beside her

Heart rate first read sixty
The monitor’s slow descent…
To forty…down…to…naught

Merici’s voyage to God
Unseen, unshared, unmourned
Except for privileged me

“Be kind, accepting, Lord!
Forgive her any fault!
Embrace her! Again! For me!”

I voice a hope-filled prayer:
Our middle name is “Weakness”
But Thine is truly “Mercy!”
Fr. Frank Keenan, C.P.

After more than sixty years of priesthood, forty-two spent at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois, Father Frank Keenan, C.P. retired from active ministry a couple of years ago and now resides in a local nursing home where he writes poetry and gladly shares stories of his life as a Passionist.

Feel Your Vulnerability

Before TV had taken us hostage, yearly religious gatherings like Christian Revivals, Jewish High Holy Days, Chautauquas or the Muslim Hajj, brought communities together face to face in hopes of renewal. The community I grew up in called those meetings, Missions. Once a year for an entire week, members of our parish, Immaculate Conception, would come out each evening to see and listen to the preaching of the visiting Passionist missionary. The week climaxed with his sermon on the passion of Jesus. There he stood on a stage three feet above the already raised sanctuary with a larger than life crucifix at his side, telling the story of the life and death of one young Jewish man, Jesus. He had me and I suspect the rest of the community, totally mesmerized. Somehow in the retelling of this story, I made sense of my life’s experiences, especially that of the death of my mother when I was ten.

Alas, those days are gone for many. The community no longer gathers en masse at the local church to be inspired and to learn how to make sense of the joys, the suffering and the movement of our journeys through time.

A modern update of that Passionist missionary, for me anyway, is Alyssa Monks, a graduate of Boston College and the New York Academy of Art. Ms. Monks is a three-time awardee of the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant for Painting, a member of the New York Academy of Art’s Board of Trustees. She took me back to the days of my childhood, when I watched her TED Talk, “How loss helped one artist find beauty in imperfection”. Like the Passionist preacher of my childhood, she helped me make sense of the joy, the suffering, the deaths and the movement of my life. Thanks Alyssa.

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

Dan O’Donnell, a layman has covenanted with the Chicago Community. In addition to the standard covenant, Dan promises to work at connecting all partners known and unknown, to a conscious following the the way of Jesus, the way of the cross which Dan believes transforms all failure, democratizing the human journey