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The Lawyer and the Great Commandment -- Luke 10
The neighbors
Who don’t live next door
But in someone else’s neighborhood
Are your neighbors,
Jesus says.
And their neighbors
With mosques and minarets
Reflected in dark eyes,
Each gush of hair constrained
Beneath veil or turban,
Who too pray and bow,
Worship and give thanks,
They are your neighbors as well.
And now these neighbors pray
That Allah may shield them from you
And from your Christian country
And you pray for safety
For your bombers.

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

(after a session of chemotherapy)
Beyond the window there
three trees -- two maples and a fir,
a patch of grass, a honeysuckle
bush not yet in bloom.

They are doing their great work:
anchoring the earth and breathing in
and out to give a great gift to the air.

In here I share the silence that is theirs.
I light a pure white candle
and let it, too, proceed
to do its work: to shine in silence,
gather peace for me
in its soft radiance
from all four corners of the room.

I make a cup of tea and break
a wondrous scone
a friend has made.

In silence, too, I have my work
to do. Breath in, breathe
out, ask blessings on
my body’s earth,
and ask for grace
to give my own gift
back to the holy air.

-- Sr. Eileen Lomasney, CSJ
Ballston Lake, N.Y.

The Con
“For your name’s sake, O Lord, save me” -- Psalm 143:11
My days are few in number,
full of trouble and sin.

I have smudged my single copybook,
the erasures all show through.

When I decorously cover the deletions
with fig leaves, they wilt.

If you count all iniquities,
Lord, who will stand?

Must you really insist
on your plan A?

Already I have set out
on my plan B.

Adjust to my facts,
wink, and let me in.

I could give a thousand sterling
reasons why you should,

all of them shabby and shopworn.
A weary God might consider.

But think not of me.
For your sake, save me.

-- Fr. Kilian McDonnell
Collegeville, Minn.

Gonna be like

Heaven gonna smell
like sweet-olive, friend;
Gonna have galleries for sitting
breezes for cooling
singing to joy-up the choir of
souls swinging
a coming-home
flowers gonna jump
into bouquets of beauty
branches gonna clap their leaves
for the God-feel in the air;
sleep gonna be deep
dreams of no more hurt
no pain but the release
of joy sighs
at the taste of
salt rivers flowing
into the ocean
of arms-open

-- Sr. Kimberly M. King, RSCJ
Grand Coteau, La.

The Prayer of Impertinence

“Do not bother me. The door has already been locked.’ -- Luke 11:7
The sun had gone down
the sky is black
the children are in bed
and this joker down the block
pounds on the door.

A friend, traveling
at night to avoid
the heat of day
has arrived at midnight.
His cupboard is bare.

I stumble on the gall
of impertinent neighbors,
who tempt me to reach for
two cobras, three scorpions,
like Judas in the night.

“No bread is baked
till dawn,” he pleads,
“please, three loaves
I ask to feed
my tardy friend.”

I am put upon,
hounded by raids
on my organized buttery
by every mangy,
mannerless beggar.

No, I cannot disturb
the house at this hour.
You want me to clatter
down the stairs,
rumble among the tins.

(If I concede now
they’ll think of me
as a depot, a Safeway
open 24 hours;
they’ll ask on whim.)

But the booming goes on
like symphonic tympanies
in the “1812 Overture,”
rattling the wallboards.
Has Armageddon come?

In a varicose sort of way
I fumble in the dark
toward that shameless,
cheeky bum
assaulting my portal.

Fort Knox could not buy
that bread, wild horses
could not tear those loaves from me.
I’m not just anybody.
I’ve got principles.

But I need my rest.
A crumb for peace.

-- Fr. Kilian McDonnell
Collegeville, Minn.

2002 in Poetry

2001 in Poetry

2000 in Poetry

1999 in Poetry

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National Catholic Reporter, May 24, 2002