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Mater Dolorosa

Blessed is she on Golgotha.
Her son hangs still;
the day is done.

Ave, Maria, to the one who knows
the wind trembles in its flask,
the grain refuses threshing,
for the teeth of the wicked
are not yet broken,

and she is still his mother.

-- Maryanne Hannan
Troy, N.Y.

Lent, 2000

Eternal, the desert
seduces me with harsh silence,
hiding, like what’s inside me.

Fire soaks the air,
wrapping me in its penance,
breaking the stone I call heart.
Wind washes over me,
water penetrates, swallows;
the stone gives up its shell,
yielding emptiness,
vacant ache,
an apartment ready for my lover
who feeds me on solitude in desolation.

When I long for miles of color --
brilliant poppies eating up the sun,
you give me seed.

In the torrential cloudburst,
I am carried to you,


-- Sr. Eileen Haugh, OSF
Winona, Minn.

At Jacob’s Well

Soul sisters
that single, Samaritan
who long ago
witnessed to
an inner-spring
divinely sent to
flow its living water,
these sisters
still wait
at Jacob’s Well.

Soul sisters
from age to age
have drawn water
from external sources
to birth
to cleanse
to quench thirsts
still wait
at Jacob’s Well.

Our feminine fount
deep within
cannot be drawn
Power and Prejudice
stifle the inner-spring
given to women
unable to baptize
to reconcile
to quench spiritual thirsts
today’s sisters,
still wait
at Jacob’s Well.

-- Pat Mings
Idaho Falls, Idaho

Voices Heard On The Way Of The Cross

IV Station: Mary Speaks

I stand with every mother
at the roadsides of the world
to watch my child struggle
up the hills.

I taught my little boy to walk
and set him on his feet again
each time he fell, until he learned
to walk alone.

He’s grown and gone beyond me now
and nothing’s left for me to do
except to follow close behind him
on the way.

When his feet go out from under him,
I can no longer lift him up,
but I have taught him how
to rise again.

-- Sr. Irene Zimmerman, OSF

Ash Wednesday

We’ve shrunk sackcloth and ashes
to a sooty logo
on the forehead.
I am drawn to this ritual
at Lent’s cusp,
enter the forty-day sweatlodge
with sober hopes.

All Lenten exorcisms of the past
have come to naught.
I repeat, even while condemning them,
the horned and hooved faults
that shackle my better angels,
the faults I still hope to tame.

Now once more
a cross is smudged on me
like holy warpaint
signaling the start again
of a long crusade.

-- Sr. Pat Schnapp, RSM
Adrian, Mich.


How is it, Christ,
that holiness sounds so serene
I know it is exactly what I crave:
How will I dare to be clean,
stripped enough to stand erect and brave
When I am close enough to view
What it did to you?

No, not serene:
You model what’s invisible afar:
Who you are.

-- Sr. Eileen Haugh, OSF
Winona, Minn.

Verbum Caro

Saturday Mass at the abbey, ordinary time.
Sober and precise a young monk reads his script,
Gestures spare around the book, the table.
What you see is not what you get.

The sermon yesterday caught us off guard:
“My homily will be in the form of a hymn.”
Unfolding his paper, Father Magnus sang
Six verses, notes as clear as winter stars,
Then sat down. A hard act to follow.

We know our cues: when spoken to, we speak,
Familiar phrases drowsy from decades of use.
Yet all our words, repeated and restrained,
Are stirring up invisible incense clouds,
Our secret longings we dare not sing out loud,
Songs like Magnus wrote, tied in our throats.

“Our Father” -- the monk next to me cups his hands,
Pleads for daily bread, or catches the soft
Rain of mercy. It is all the same.

We walk toward the center, the bread and wine.
Unaccompanied we make exchange,
Body for body, bow heads for the final prayer.
I look around instead at faces shining.
It dawns on me, “Thy kingdom come,” could.

We close our books, put words and songs away,
Fix seats the way they were. I come up for air,
Reel down the aisle, dazzled, blinded by glory
Dwelling in our land, our flesh, our coarse
And mumbled words, in snow now leaping with light,
now white fire in the midday sun.

-- Sr. Regina Bechtle, SC
Bronx, N.Y.

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1999 in POETRY

Poems should be limited to about 50 lines and preferably typed. Please send poems to NCR POETRY, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City MO 64111-1203. Or via e-mail to poetry@natcath.org or fax (816) 968-2280. Please include your street address, city, state, zip and daytime telephone number. NCR offers a small payment for poems we publish, so please include your Social Security number.

National Catholic Reporter, April 14, 2000