Tag Archives: Poetry

“I seal my love to-be…”

Here is a glimpse of my Mass of Consecration, together with the beautiful poem that came to my mind at that moment!

Mass of Consecration: prostrate during the Litany of the Saints

During the Litany of the Saints: “All holy men and women, pray for us!”

Who knows what days I answer for today?
Giving the bud I give the flower. I bow
This yet unfaded and a faded brow;
Bending these knees and feeble knees, I pray.

Thoughts yet unripe in me I bend one way,
Give one repose to pain I know not now,
One check to joy that comes, I guess not how.
I dedicate my fields when Spring is grey.

O rash! (I smile) to pledge my hidden wheat.
I fold today at altars far apart
Hands trembling with what toils? In their retreat

I  seal my love to-be, my folded art.
I light the tapers at my head and feet,
And lay the crucifix on this silent heart.

– Alice Meynell, “The Young Neophyte”

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One More Prayer Request: For Paw-Paw and our family

My grandfather (mom’s dad) passed away on Monday afternoon. 92 years old, married to my grandmother for over 65 years – such a beautiful, full life. Since I’ll be going out of town tomorrow and then probably returning over the weekend to work that retreat, I will be off the blog for the rest of the week – but I just wanted to pop in to ask for your prayers for my Paw-Paw and our family. I also thought I’d share a poem I wrote about him back in 2007, one of my favorites.


To my grandfather, while eating

In the kitchen with my eggs and toast, I heard you
Hammering down the wrinkled boards with halting steps
Like an un-oiled machine, top-heavy, nearly doubled-over
Since you made the cane your enemy.
As the percolator gurgled on the stove
Your denial rumbled through the house like thunder.

At lunchtime, you made it to the table first (sans cane)
So I had to stoop to kiss your snowy brow
Which, underneath its untamed bit of fleece,
Was spotted and uneven as a topographic map.
Curious to know if I’d been eating enough,
You pinched my waist with your great knotted fingers.

I didn’t eat enough, you said at dinner,
Scattered crumbs and wagged a crooked finger.
We ate jambalaya from a box that evening,
And you protested your vegetables and
Thought the sweet potatoes tasted strange.
You were stiff and stubborn, so I held my tongue.

You weren’t always so rough.  I’ve seen you then –
A polished photo in cool black and white,
You’re stretched out smoking languidly in bed
With your eyes closed and your dark hair nicely combed,
Your lonely uniform draped over a chair;
Yes, once you were Gregory Peck at a hotel in Rome.

Now there’s your halting step, your unkempt hair,
Your hands, sun-tanned, knuckles swollen with age,
Your hands that shudder as they hold the spoon;
Yet your brown eyes are warm, your steady gaze
Unchanged, and when you grin and wink at me
Over your ice cream, I have to wink back.

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A Lesson from King David

Frederick Leighton, David, 1865

Frederick Leighton, David, 1865 (via Wikimedia Commons)

As part of my Old Testament reading for class this week, we were assigned a selection of psalms, one of which was Psalm 51, the well-known “Miserere” prayed so often in the Liturgy of the Hours: Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness. In your compassion blot out my offense… I’ve prayed this psalm plenty of times before, but I had never noticed its context until now.

The Psalter calls it “A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” Ah, I thought. That’s why David sounds so desperate, pleading with God to forget his sins and make him clean – he composed this psalm at a moment when his spiritual life was a shambles!

So, the other day I sat down to read Psalm 51 with this fresh insight, thinking about David and his messed-up life (and sort of considering my own messiness, too) when I got to a verse that stopped me dead in my tracks:

The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

(Psalm 51:17)

All I could think was: God wants me to give Him my broken spirit? In my present state of brokenness, this sounds absurd, and yes – sort of hard to believe. My spirit is broken. Nobody, God least of all, actually wants a gift that’s already broken, right? … Right?

Wrong! The answer’s right there in the psalm. God wants me to give Him my broken spirit so that He can put a new and right spirit within me (Ps 51:10). When I give Him my broken spirit, I’m getting myself out of the way and making room for Him to enter into my prayer and do what He does best: make all things new. He cannot dispel this oppressive darkness, speak Truth to the core of my being, and teach me wisdom in my secret heart (v. 6) unless I actually let Him reach into my deepest, darkest places – all the parts of me that I would prefer to keep locked up and hidden away.

It has taken me a long time to learn that I don’t need to “have it all together” when I go to pray. If that were the condition that made our prayer possible, let’s be honest: prayer would be impossible. We are urged to pray constantly (1 Thess. 5:17)  because it really is possible for us to pray in any circumstance – no matter how we feel, no matter how awful things seem, no matter how messy our lives have become.

As I continued to meditate on Psalm 51, I was reminded of a poem I wrote years ago (maybe in 2005 or 2006). I share it with you now as a second attempt to articulate what’s really been stirring in my heart these days. (For my first attempt, take a look at yesterday’s post.) I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Restore unto Me (Psalm 51)

Restore unto me, Lord, what I need.
I do not ask for the waters You calmed,
not for sweet tears of consolation,
not for the green growth You promised,
not for the fruit of my good deeds,
but for Your likeness, Your true image,
the way You chose to meet me:
violent wounds and cross and thorny crown,
entirely bruised for Your love
and unquenchable mercy.

Over my calloused heart pour Your lifeblood
and loose those streams that pulse with holy passion.
Into my stubborn hands and feet make deep those wounds
that make room for all that You would put in me.
Into Your heart’s blood and into Your hands I fall,
O Lord – burn my desires!
And restore unto me, Lord, what I need:
Your true image, crucified in me.

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Thanksgiving: Three Favorite Poems of Praise to God

Pied Beauty

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

 

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise Him.


What Was Said to the Rose

by Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks)

 

What was said to the rose that made it open was said
to me here in my chest.

What was told the cypress that made it strong
and straight, what was

whispered the jasmine so it is what it is, whatever made
sugarcane sweet, whatever

was said to the inhabitants of the town of Chigil in
Turkestan that makes them

so handsome, whatever lets the pomegranate flower blush
like a human face, that is

being said to me now. I blush. Whatever put eloquence in
language, that’s happening here.

The great warehouse doors open; I fill with gratitude,
chewing a piece of sugarcane,

in love with the one to whom every that belongs!

 


i thank You God for most this amazing

by e.e. cummings

 

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of allnothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

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On the Calendar: The Presentation of Our Lord

Rubens, Presentation in the Temple

Rubens, Presentation in the Temple (preliminary sketch)

A Song for Simeon

By T.S. Eliot

Lord, the Roman hyacinths are blooming in bowls and
The winter sun creeps by the snow hills;
The stubborn season has made stand.
My life is light, waiting for the death wind,
Like a feather on the back of my hand.
Dust in sunlight and memory in corners
Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.

Grant us thy peace.
I have walked many years in this city,
Kept faith and fast, provided for the poor,
Have taken and given honour and ease.
There went never any rejected from my door.
Who shall remember my house, where shall live my children’s children
When the time of sorrow is come?
They will take to the goat’s path, and the fox’s home,
Fleeing from the foreign faces and the foreign swords.

Before the time of cords and scourges and lamentation
Grant us thy peace.
Before the stations of the mountain of desolation,
Before the certain hour of maternal sorrow,
Now at this birth season of decease,
Let the Infant, the still unspeaking and unspoken Word,
Grant Israel’s consolation
To one who has eighty years and no to-morrow.

According to thy word,
They shall praise Thee and suffer in every generation
With glory and derision,
Light upon light, mounting the saints’ stair.
Not for me the martyrdom, the ecstasy of thought and prayer,
Not for me the ultimate vision.
Grant me thy peace.
(And a sword shall pierce thy heart,
Thine also).
I am tired with my own life and the lives of those after me,
I am dying in my own death and the deaths of those after me.
Let thy servant depart,
Having seen thy salvation.

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On the Calendar: St. Cecilia

Cecilia (Reni)

G. Reni, Saint Cecilia, 1606

In a garden shady this holy lady
With reverent cadence and subtle psalm,
Like a black swan as death came on
Poured forth her song in perfect calm:
And by ocean’s margin this innocent virgin
Constructed an organ to enlarge her prayer,
And notes tremendous from her great engine
Thundered out on the Roman air.

– W. H. Auden, “Anthem for St. Cecilia’s Day”

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