The Con Artists

The Con Artists

At first they laughed
At their smooth job
And joked how they
Had fooled the mob.

They loved the house
They had acquired;
Their lies had bought
All they desired.

The years wore on,
Food tasted bad,
Sleep came too hard
And they turned mad,

Not mad in ways
The friends could see,
But madness like
Life was off-key.

The words they said
Sounded remote;
Scared of a knock,
They couldn’t gloat

When thinking back
On their big con;
And when they rose
At early dawn,

Their hearts were bare
From self-deceit:
Another day
With nothing sweet.

~Day Williams

April 14: “Catherine of Siena” by Day Williams



 Catherine of Siena

A person who believes that Jesus Christ

Is Lord and Savior of the World is called

A saint through faith, the substance of the things


Hoped for, the evidence of things not seen;

And in the Catholic Church some souls are known

As saints and doctors by the grace of God.


The blessed Catherine of Siena, born

A twin upon Annunciation Day,

The last of thirteen children who survived,


Professed her love for God through holiness

When wars and plagues had shaken faith and hope

In city-states of Tuscany where walls


Protected citizens from outside harm.

Her father’s trade was dyeing wool; his wife,

Madonna Lapa, ruled the family.

This daughter destined to direct the Popes,

Young Caterina Benincasa, taught

Herself to say the Angelus at five,


And knelt upon the steps of stairs at home

To say an Ave Maria, step by step.

When she was six years old, she looked across


Valle Piatta to the abbey church

Of San Domenico; above its roof

She saw the Savior of the World, who sat


In bishop’s robes upon a royal throne,

The treble Papal crown upon His head.

Beside the Lord were Peter, Paul and John,


And Jesus raised His hand and blessed the girl,

Who stood enraptured while the love of God

Abounded in her soul, a cup that gushed.


Her brother called to her; she did not move.

He had to take her arm to make her wake

As though from sleep, transformed forevermore.


She swam beneath the water in the sea

Of love, and vowed when seven she would be

The bride of Christ, and of no other man,


A virgin pure in body and in soul.

In times alone with God she learned to build

An inner cell within her soul which she


Would never leave, despite temptation’s pull

And the entreaties from her family,

Who wanted to arrange a groom for her.


Forced to divulge her vow of chastity,

She told her parents that her will was fixed:

“It would be easier to melt a stone


Than tear this resolution from my heart.

I must obey the Lord before all men;

My Bridegroom is so rich that He will give


Me all I need, if you should throw me out.”

The twelve-year-old prevailed; no more would they

Attempt to wed her to a mortal man,


Although she lived beneath her parents’ roof

Another seven years, her room a cell

Beside the landing, ten by sixteen feet.


O Catherine, if I had one-tenth your zeal,

What miracles could God perform through me,

What battles could He win for souls of men!


The revelation of the Trinity

Was hers through meditation, solitude,

And the denial of her self: three times


A day she scourged her body with a chain

Of iron: once for her own sins, once more

For sins of every living soul, and once


For souls in purgatory, giving Christ,

Her Lord and Savior, blood for blood, ‘til blood

Ran down her shoulders in her sacred cell.


Within her parents’ house where she would sleep

For half an hour on every other day

On planks of wood when she was not in prayer.


The holy teen’s devout desire to join

An order of St. Dominic was quenched

At last when she received the robe and veil,


In white to symbolize her purity,

And the black cape, in black as sign of death

Unto this world and of humility.


Eternal blessedness is knowing God,

God as He is; thus she renounced the world,

That which is vanishing, for unity


With Him who suffered on the cross of love.

She gave belongings to the poor, and cared

For sickest of the sick in darkest hours,


Even when stinking wounds made others leave,

And patients shouted blasphemies at her.

Companions said that when she prayed, she rose


Above the floor so high that one could place

A hand between the woman and the floor;

When she received the Body of the Lord,


She would withdraw in ecstasy, as stiff

And as insensible as Lazarus

Four days inside the cave before the Lord


Commanded him to rise and leave the tomb.

When Catherine’s soul was lifted to commune

With Love Incarnate, she could not perceive


A needle in her foot, and passersby

Who doubted her sincerity would kick

The girl who lay insensate in the street.


At twenty-two she ate no solid food,

And for long times the Eucharist alone

Provided nourishment for her who drank,


In mystic flights, from Jesus’ wounded side.

Christ let her see His secrets, and equipped

Her with the gifts of grace to call her forth,


His weapon in the battle for men’s souls.

One story of a multitude is all

I have the space to tell of how she saved


The souls of men through visions and her prayers.

One winter day two wagons took two men,

Condemned to suffer torture and then death,


Around the town as executioners

Used red-hot tongs to tear and burn their flesh.

The robbers, chained to stakes, reviled the Lord


As townsmen shook and shuddered in alarm;

But Catherine of Siena, who had seen

The wagons pass, retired to beg in prayer


For Christ to save the wretches’ souls, as He

Had saved the robber crucified by Him.

The wagons drove up to a city gate,


The Porta della Giustitia,

And there beneath the arch stood Christ, who wore

A crown of thorns and bled from head to toe.


Caught up in Spirit, Catherine saw the Lord;

The robbers saw Him too, and when He saw

Their eyes and hearts, defiance in them broke.


These highwaymen called for a priest, confessed

Their sins, sang hymns, and met their deaths content.

The very moment that they died redeemed,


The praying virgin woke from ecstasy,

For love of God and mankind for His sake

Was all the mystic knew worth living for.


The exile of the Popes to Avignon

(Franciscans called it Babylonia,

And hung their harps on poplars as they wept)


Disrupted Rome, corrupted faith, and left

Believers rudderless and insecure.

The Roman churches lay in ruins, priests


Had morals of degenerates, and law

Was lost as factions fought and clutched for power.

God sent as punishment the plague, Black Death,


Which killed one-half of Europe’s populace.

In thirteen-fifty St. Birgitta, a seer

From Sweden, heard the call to cleanse the Church.


She went to Rome and urged the Pope to leave

His capital in Avignon, lest he

Should suffer wrath from God– but he refused.


As John the Baptist heralded the work

And ministry of Christ, Birgitta ran

Before the mystic saint who wrought success,


The Pope’s return to Rome from Avignon,

For Catherine told Pope Gregory that he

Had made a vow when Cardinal to move


To Rome if ever he became the Pope,

A vow which he had never told a soul.

At thirty-three, the age her Bridegroom died,


Suffering, paralyzed below the waist,

As she lay on her bed of wooden boards,

The purest dove accused herself of sins,


And cried aloud, “My honor!  Never!  Praise

And honor to Christ crucified alone!”

In April thirteen-eighty Catherine gave


Her spirit to the Father’s hands.

In spring a million buds appear on trees;

In winter snowflakes fall from clouds, each one


Unique in pattern, each a gift to earth,

And as each bud and snowflake offers gifts

That come from it alone, so every child


Who’s born again of God, among the millions, bears

And offers special gifts, the gifts of grace

And mercy to the Lord and humankind.


This daughter of a wealthy family

Used special gifts to lead and move the Popes

And men of lower rank to follow God.


Greater than special gifts that Catherine had

Through her ascetic life and ministry

Was intimacy she possessed with Christ;


She loved the Lord with heart and soul and strength,

And fixed her eyes on Jesus’ wounds; she knew

None are redeemed without the blood of Christ.


She served her Bridegroom, clove right by His side,

Surrendered self with zeal, and gave up pride

As she renounced the world to be His bride.

April 14: News

Day Williams created this graphic depiction of this date.

April 14

As soon as all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan for the people of Israel until they had crossed over, their hearts melted and there was no longer any spirit in them because of the people of Israel.
–Joshua 5:1
Like cold water to a thirsty soul,
so is good news from a far country.
–Proverbs 25:25

But now Timothy has come to us from you and brought us good news about your faith and love, and that you always have good memories of us, wanting to see us, as we also want to see you.
–1 Thessalonians 3:6




1 After the people saw that Moses had

Been on the mountain for a long time, they

Went up to Aaron and they said, “Make us

An image of a god who will lead us

And shelter us, for Moses brought us out

Of Egypt, but nobody knows what’s occurred

To him,” 2 and Aaron told them, “Bring to me

Gold earrings that your wives and sons and daughters

Are wearing.” 3 Everybody took their earrings

Off and brought them to Aaron, 4 then he melted

Them and he made an idol in the shape

Of a young calf, and all the people said

To one another, “Now this is the god

Who brought us out of Egypt!” 5 Aaron

Saw what was happening, so he did build

Adoration of the Golden Calf by Nicolas Poussin

An altar in front of the idol and

He said, “Tomorrow we will celebrate

In honor of the LORD.” 6 The people got

Up early the next morning and they killed

Some animals they’d use for sacrifices

And others to be eaten. Everyone

Then ate and drank so much that they began

To carry on like savages. 7 The LORD

Told Moses: “Hurry down! Those people whom

You led from Egypt are behaving like

Young fools. 8 They have already stopped obeying

Me and have made themselves an idol in

The shape of a young calf. They have bowed down

To it and offered sacrifices, and

They said that it’s the god who brought them out

Of Egypt. 9 Moses, I have seen how stubborn

These people are, 10 and I am mad enough

To wipe them out, so don’t try to stop me,

But your descendants I will make into

A mighty  nation.” 11 Moses tried to get

The LORD to change his mind: “Our LORD, you used

Your strength to bring these people out of Egypt.

Now don’t get angry and destroy them. 12 If

You do that, the Egyptians will say that

You brought your people out here to the mountains

Just to get rid of them. Please don’t be angry

With your own people. Do not wipe them out.

13 Recall the solemn promise that you made

Abraham, Isaac, and to Jacob. You   

Have promised that someday they would have as

Many descendants as there are the stars

In heaven and that you would give them land.”

14 So even though the LORD had threatened to

Destroy the people, he did change his mind

And let them live, 15 so Moses went back down

The mountain with the two flat stones on which

The LORD had written all his laws with his

Own hand, and had used both sides of the stones.

16 The tablets were the work of God; the writing

Was God’s own writing and it was engraved

Upon the tablets. 17 Joshua heard the shouts

Of people and told Moses, “In the camp

They’re battling.”18 Moses said, “It doesn’t sound

Like shouting for a battle win or loss.

They’re singing wildly.” 19 Then as Moses got

Closer to camp, he saw the idol, and

He also saw the people dancing ’round.

This angered him so much that he threw down

The stones and broke them into pieces at

The mountain base. 20 He melted down the idol

            The people had created, and he ground

It into powder, scattered it within

Their water, and he made them drink it. 21 Moses

           Asked Aaron, “How did these people harm you?

Why did you make them sin this awful way?”

22 Aaron said: “Don’t be angry with me. You

           Know as well as I do that they’re determined           

To do some evil, for they even told

Me, ‘That man Moses led us out of Egypt,

           But we don’t know what’s happened to him. 23 Make

For us a god to lead us.’ 24 I asked them

To bring me their gold earrings. They took them

            Off and gave them to me. I threw the gold

Into a fire, and out came this calf.” 25 Moses

Knew that the people were running wild

           And it was Aaron’s fault; and now they’d made

Fools of themselves before their enemies,

26 So Moses stood beside the camp gate and

           He shouted, “Everybody who is on

God’s side come over here!” And then the men       

From Levi’s tribe surrounded Moses, 27 and

           He told them, “The LORD God of Israel

Commands you to strap on your swords and go

Through camp, and kill your relatives, your friends,

           And all your neighbors.” 28 Men of Levi’s tribe

Followed his orders, and that day they killed

About three thousand men, 29 and Moses said

           To them, “You have obeyed the LORD and done

The right thing, so you will serve as his priests

For Israelites, as it was hard for you

            To kill your sons and brothers, but the LORD

Has blessed you and made you his priests today.”

30 The next day Moses told the people, “This

Thing you have done is terrible. But I

Will go back to the LORD to see what I

Can do to keep this sin from being held

           Against you.” 31 Moses went back to the LORD and said,

“The people have committed awful sin.

They have created a gold idol to

Be their god, 32 but I beg you to forgive

Them; if you don’t, please wipe my name out of

Your book.” 33 The LORD replied, “I will wipe from

           My book the name of everyone who’s sinned

Against me, 34 so now take my people to

The place of which I told you, and my angel

           Will lead you, but when the time comes, I’ll punish

Them for this sin,” 35 So God did punish the people

Of Israel with a dire plague for talking

Aaron into creating the gold calf.

April 14: “In the beginning God” by Day Williams


The star-forming region NGC 3603 – seen here in the latest Hubble Space Telescope image – contains one of the most impressive massive young star clusters in the Milky Way. Bathed in gas and dust the cluster formed in a huge rush of star formation thought to have occurred around a million years ago. The hot blue stars at the core are responsible for carving out a huge cavity in the gas seen to the right of the star cluster in NGC 3603’s centre.

The star-forming region NGC 3603 - seen here in the latest Hubble Space Telescope image - contains one of the most impressive massive young star clusters in the Milky Way. Bathed in gas and dust the cluster formed in a huge rush of star formation thought to have occurred around a million years ago. The hot blue stars at the core are responsible for carving out a huge cavity in the gas seen to the right of the star cluster in NGC 3603's centre.