My friend unlocks the heavy wooden door,
A shaft of
light pierces the desolate dark,
A puff of air freshens musty silence.
chapel, French style, bulky wooden pews
With broad unpadded kneelers.
Now no Kyries for daily Mass -- only
Dust and boarded up stained glass
Altar barren, Gregorian chant mute.
I bow my head, sorry I had
We walk on the tile floor, footprints in dust.
frenchy narrow stalls line the walls.
The marble floor apse is missing the
The brass communion rail with fleur-de-lis.
Nuns chant of Compline
in ethereal tones
Now fades and blends with angel choirs.
I step boldly
into the sacristy
Where priests vested in fiddleback chasubles
to us student girls.
Free to roam as if backstage at the Met
On a dim
day after the last curtain
My school days seem that remote, the school
To a rolling park where lusty cheers
From soccer fields invade
Of the brownstone place rooted in holiness.
come after dark.
A fire here, graffiti there, hip-high weeds
Cry out for
the Irish gardeners.
The chapel looms, like the Mariners ship.
vaulted ceiling an upturned hull.
A ghostly presence in a corner of the
Outside, inside, an unresponsive limbo.
Where lived the grandeur and
Of the old schools heart.
-- Cecelia Johnson
The Lepers Who Let Us Embrace Them
Youthful, healthy, oozing joy,
Francis gets the
Yet what of one who watched
him coming, dreading
The first numbness in his hand
had been the signal; then
flaking skin; now the stink of
decay: a body rotting from
It was enough: watching fingers,
toes, limbs left behind like
trash. He did not need the wealthy
boy, did not want to be a
Which one is named saint? One rose
beyond hostility and shame
Centuries owe the leper thanks; he,
-- Kathy Coffey
Our Lady of the Pines Retreat
Dawns and dusks are dangerous
Daisies, freshly bloomed,
barely stretched out infant
when snap! -- off with their heads!
And the stems
stand witness to another heist
of the marauding
Retreatants love their sightings
Sister Rose, though,
trying to trink the
with colorful blooms for Jubilee Day,
is not so
Shes researched solutions
but coyote urine is
So deer continue to hide
in nearby groves
and spy on her
when she goes to night prayer,
and tiptoe with ballerina grace
across the grounds
Or what might have been
-- Sr. Patricia Schnapp, RSM
The Color of Underground Seas
Where it surfaces, up from the
Sunlessness, bubbled in wellheads that plumb
their water is mined clear
As liquefied diamonds, faceted by the
In any system of pivots spinning false rainbows
Over the corn.
The true rainbows arch
Underground, colors solidly fixed in a
Beneath rock ceilings, in narrow layers of dark,
rivers run into rainbow caves,
And the light is the surface water
Through strata of amethyst, sapphire, and jade.
-- Nancy G. Westerfield
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National Catholic Reporter, October 18,