by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The pews were packed on Aug. 30, 2015, at Curé of Ars Church in Leawood
And no wonder.
This was Msgr. Charles McGlinn’s last Mass as pastor there — or anywhere. Health concerns had finally led him to announce his retirement.
As he had for 28 years, Msgr. McGlinn gave his homily and, at the end, he uttered these familiar words: “I have a little prayer for you . . .”
The church erupted with applause.
The little “poem prayers” he would end his homilies with had become his signature over the years, something much appreciated by his parishioners.
But they also became something more.
More than 25 years ago, a parish mission to Mexico identified an orphanage that parishioners decided to support. It was pure serendipity that linked the needs of these orphans to Msgr. McGlinn’s “poem prayers.”
About that time, he said, “people asked me to send out some printed copies of my ‘poem prayers,’ so I did, around Christmastime.
“And I sent it with a begging letter to the people of Curé of Ars, asking them to consider sending a donation to the orphans in Mexico.”
It became a tradition.
Msgr. McGlinn estimates that those little “poem prayer” booklets he began making 25 years ago have raised about $800,000 for the orphanage Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos in Miacatlan.
And in his retirement, the former vicar general has done it again in a really big way. In November 2015, he published a book compiling 237 of his favorite “poem prayers.”
The 306-page book, titled simply “Poem Prayers,” was published by Xulon Press.
The book is available at the parish, and in print or electronic form from Amazon, I. Donnelly in Kansas City, Missouri, and Trinity House in Overland Park. Proceeds from sales and donations go to Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos.
“This was sort of my final gift to the parish,” he said. “I wanted to put these poems in a book, and any money we gain for this — I’m asking people for donations — goes to the orphans. I’m not charging for the book. It’s at local bookstores, Amazon and Barnes & Noble — and they do charge.”
The book has been a hit with parishioners, said Jodie Stockwell, director of RCIA and head of the liturgy commission at Curé of Ars.
“People are so thrilled to have them,” said Stockwell. “Many have asked Monsignor [McGlinn] to autograph them. I would say that, in this Year of Mercy Pope Francis has instructed us to have, there are a lot of ‘prayer poems’ that speak to the poor, how to be good Samaritans and how we show mercy to others.”
Stockwell bought eight copies to send to her children and other relatives.
Curé of Ars parishioner Mary Jane Brown also bought multiple copies.
“It is an amazing book,” said Brown. “The poems are absolutely beautiful, and I can hear [Msgr. McGlinn’s] voice when I’m reading them.”
“We gave copies to all the kids and to other extended family members,” Brown continued. “I wrote a little letter explaining how much Msgr. McGlinn means to us. I got a call back from my 93-year-old aunt in Atlanta, and she said, ‘Your monsignor must be a living saint,’ and I said, ‘Yes, he is.’”
The cover of the book has an illustration of the face of Jesus, based on the Shroud of Turin. Each of the book’s 10 chapters features a piece of art. Monsignor McGlinn’s nephew Michael McGlinn helped with the book’s art.
“They represent my own personal reflections, especially on the Gospels, for the Sunday liturgies through the three cycles of the liturgical year,” said Msgr. McGlinn. “They’re what I tried to say in my homilies, for the most part.”
“They really made me search more deeply, I think, into the message of Christ,” he continued, “and put it in a form that was not too lengthy, was hopefully attractive and would resonate with our Catholic people.
“And it’s good to have an ending. It helped me put closure to my homilies — and signaled to the teenagers that the homily was almost over.”
He knows his “poem prayers” are not great literature (in fact, one person he consulted called them “kind of like doggerel”) but that isn’t the point. These are meant to be read, one at a time, over time, as an aid to prayer and contemplation.
“I think they are part of my own search for my own heart and my own soul,” said Msgr. McGlinn. “It’s a search that relates to the search of so many other people.”
With so many parishioners buying the book, odds are that it will become an heirloom among Curé of Ars families.
“It’s a humble offering,” said Msgr. McGlinn. “It’s not any kind of spectacular gift to anybody, but it’s an offering from my heart.
“And for our orphans.”