Jul. 31, 2010

For You

by Kim Addonizio

For you I undress down to the sheaths of my nerves.
I remove my jewelry and set it on the nightstand,
I unhook my ribs, spread my lungs flat on a chair.
I dissolve like a remedy in water, in wine.
I spill without staining, and leave without stirring the air.
I do it for love. For love, I disappear.

"For You" by Kim Addonizio, from Lucifer at the Starlight. © W.W. Norton and Co., 2009. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the author of the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling, (books by this author) born Joanne Rowling in Yate, England (1965).

It's the birthday of poet and novelist Kim Addonizio, (books by this author) born in Washington, D.C. (1954). Her dad was a sportswriter for The Washington Post, and her mom was the tennis champion Pauline Betz. She's the author of Tell Me (2000), What Is This Thing Called Love (2004), and Lucifer at the Starlite (2009).

Today is the Feast Day of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the Spanish soldier turned theologian who in the year 1534 founded the Jesuits. Today is also the day — in 1556 — on which he died.

Ignatius was injured in battle when a French cannonball smashed up his leg. It ended up taking a really long time to heal, and during that recovery time, he went from being a fighting soldier to being a contemplative hermit. He prayed in caves and developed a series of exercises that he thought would help strengthen the mind and spirit in the same way that walking and running and other physical drills strengthen the body.

The Ignatian Spiritual Exercises written nearly 500 years ago are still used widely as part of the training of Jesuit priests and also in retreats for non-ordained people. British Jesuits now produce a daily 10-minute podcast of Ignatian Spiritual Exercises; it's called "Pray as you go."

One of the missions of Ignatius and the early Jesuits — besides fighting off the spread of Protestantism in Europe — was higher education. There are many Jesuit universities around the world; ones in the States include Boston College, Georgetown, Fordham, and several places named Loyola.

Irish writer James Joyce won a scholarship to a Jesuit high school in Dublin, where the priests were hoping he would join the order. But while he was there — by the time he was 16 — he rejected Catholicism altogether. In the opening chapter of Ulysses, Buck Mulligan says to Stephen Dedalus: "You wouldn't kneel down to pray for your mother on her deathbed when she asked you. Why? Because you have the cursed jesuit strain in you ..."

The word "jesuitical" originally just meant "of or pertaining to the Jesuits." But by the 1600s, it had taken a secondary meaning of — quoting the Oxford English Dictionary — "having the character ascribed to the Jesuits; deceitful, dissembling; practising equivocation, prevarication, or mental reservation of truth. Often used in sense 'hair-splitting,' keenly analytical." It's even the basis for an adverb, "jesuitically."

Other Jesuit-educated writers: Gabriel García Márquez, Miguel de Cervantes, Sandra Cisneros, Billy Collins, Tom Clancy, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Don DeLillo, Descartes, Voltaire, William Bennett, William F. Buckley, and Mary Higgins Clark. Bill Clinton went to the U.S.'s oldest Jesuit university, Georgetown, and President Obama's 29-year-old head speechwriter, Jon Favreau, went to College of the Holy Cross. He first met Barack Obama backstage at the DNC, where Obama was rehearsing his speech, and 23-year-old Favreau interrupted Obama to give him some pointers. Obama later hired him for his Senate campaign, and now Favreau is the second-youngest presidential speechwriter in history. Obama calls him his "mind-reader."

Ignatius of Loyola said, "Teach us to give and not to count the cost."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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