Holy training years
by Patrick T. Reardon

At seventeen, Jesus was a blue-collar
guy with muscled arms and callouses
on his hands from his Dad’s workshop.
Hold on. At thirty, he read the Torah
in the temple so maybe he was left alone
from manual labor and sat daily meditating
on the scrolls. Remember that meeting
with the scholars when he was twelve.

At seventeen, I was a tall first baseman on
the seminary softball team, the tall center on
the basketball team and the tall editor of
the Stepping Stone newspaper. I was studying
to be theological and spiritual and moral and
pastoral and holy. I knew where I was going
without having a clue.

I did not know that I would never be a
Catholic priest and almost become a
Chicago cop and would fall in love with
a woman with a broken ankle and be
heartsick when our son got a scratch on
his perfect toddler skin and would be
astonished at our daughter’s fierce hunger
for the world, all of it. And I did not know
that I would talk with my brother hours
before, in a rain-snow of a late November,
he took his sorrowed life.

At sixty-seven, I know I will never know
if, at seventeen, Jesus had a clue. I know
each moment as one in a succession of
bubbles that pop until there are no more
bubbles. I know that, for me, it is a
kindness to have each delight a
surprise and each stab of pain
uncharted. I fly blind the
continent of the future.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me (at left) as a 17-year-old high school basketball player.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Since, at 17, I was in the seminary studying for the Catholic priesthood, I did a lot of thinking about Jesus, and, in this poem, it seemed right to consider him at 17 as well as myself.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patrick T. Reardon is the author of Requiem for David, a collection of poems that Silver Birch Press will release in February 2017. His Pump Don’t Work blog is at