At Christmas Time


Once more dreamscapes of happy
childhood come to life inside the globe.
To enter isn’t hard when you remember how
to Slide – colliding with the grass,
careening through the snow – in laughter
and in sunshine, all wrapped in innocence
of the fresh clean air. It’s a crystal ball you
give a whirl, watching as confetti starts to
swirl – some rise and some fall lightly
against your up-curved palm.

Do you believe the Virgin birthed?
A baby boy named Jesus – whom
angels sang – and shepherds ran to see
laid in a manger bare. On that night
exposed to chill, rousing songs break forth
from hearts once trapped in slumber, still.
Oh yes! Believer! warms Mr. Belafonte.
“Never, have I not believed” that down
from heaven God’s son slipped into Mary’s arms
before his weary head did rest upon a straw laid bed.manger

O marvelous mystery, proclaimed this night.
Enveloping horizons in dazzling array all
baptized races and nations into one. Each
eager to stoke red hot or tinker on icy bells:
Noëls grand or Poems in the common tongue.
Something from the heart born in their
Winter’s land. Lyrics wrapped more warmly
than the naked Infant King – hurling praise
for a Gift they could not bring.

          Great Lord, O mighty king,
          dearest saviour, O how little
          you regard earthly splendour
          He who maintains the whole world
          and created its glory and adornment
          must sleep in a hard crib. [1]

With feather quills to pluck out notes from
ancient harps and chords, where polished
whistles breeze through reeds and scores of
silver trills rising – up in the wind as a
clamorous quivering noise –
         high above our greying heads,
a saintly hymn of praise is lead,
framed five times the length of forty pipes
streaming a Praise of Glory –


[1]       Weihnachtsoratorium 1-8; J.S. Bach BWV 248/1-8



A December Nowel1

An expectant mood clung to these
December weeks spent pacing, for
a boy wearing a name uncomely, even
ungainly to newer ways of thinking.

Emmanuel! drifts into banks
of scattered snowflakes; settling on
frost hidden hearts pulsing for birth.
A flake, dusting the eye of countless masses.

But days passed by at Bolt-like speed,
breaking the ribbon at Midnight when
strains of a morning Canticle gave voice
to the mute and narrow winter.  There,

radiance reveled forth! It frolicked about
blazing candles, as the Spirit seemed to
billow up, on a bed of sacred coals
blistering ancient resins – kissing our eyes
with a fragrance thick in tones celestial,
solemn and sweet.

Forever singing the goodness of the Lord2
around an earthy chamber of enthronement
where swirls of hay adorn a bed for the One
and only One…we pause…

Hearts, hands, vestments and voices, gilded
together by the light, smells and sounds.  There
in gentle courtesy – certainly more than giddy –
giving our best, our doddering address
to the wee bairn3.


Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with us to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel
Hark! The Herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Numbered notes:
1  –  Nowel – a Christmas song or shout of joy (Old English)
2  –  Psalm 89
3  –  wee bairn – tiny child or baby (Old English/Scottish)


The Evensong

Music is the noise I love most;
dance the action paired with it.
Through the ear – melodies and rhymes –
pulse thru channels to the heart.
Quickening in beat. Widening the chambers.
Stirring limbs to roll, tap, bounce and sway.

An ebbing tide slowly gives way,
revealing a temporal drift in
all created gifts. A transitory need
quickly filled… its flagging
strength lets go; and simply dies away.

September’s ubiquitous cicada
make this hour their own.
Grating out a shrill unvaried
Love song – appealing –
to, just, one, female.
Their tune – rising and falling –

The hour slogs on toward dusk.
As a limping breeze trips over the
notes of their rasping voices –
darkness puts an end to the recital.

Families retreat indoors with a hush,
and all around the neighbouring village,
a covering of quiet blankets all
eager for its nourishment.

The time of Vespers alights; roosting in solitude.

Like a teaspoon of sugar,
deeply recessed silence courses
through the veins, becoming grains
of coal that catch fire
and glow – to the beat of a
yearned for harmony…

A porch light flickers at the dark –
a single night cricket chirps in reply.

Guide for reading:
It is time set aside for evening prayer during the month of September. Summer has not yet ended and the heat causes the poet’s hyper-sensitivity to movement and sound. There is a seeking and a letting go that takes place as the poet negotiates with her interior and exterior environment.

In stanzas 3 and 4 the high-pitched noise of hundreds of cicada lend a strident tone to the atmosphere. Then finally like a roosting bird, stillness and quiet arrive and it is most welcome.

In stanza 7 the mixed imagery of sugar’s sweetness paired with burning coals suggests a longing for the sacred; there may even have been a sacred joining but the grace of the Evensong slips away; leaving only the chirping of a single cricket and a flickering porch light in the darkness.

Tibicien linnei (aka annual cicada) original photo by Bruce Marlin

Why did I cry?

It is a tumultuous year,
where the fruits of seeds
sown long ago
are ripening in the sun.
One with floating corn silk hair
above a boisterous mouth,
bereft of tender sentiment
and pandering to fear.
The other grim and shrilling
draped like chairman Mao
Tse-tung,a visage that once
enjoyed protection in the womb.
Both promise their very selves as
America’s future dream.

But near and far the sounds
of thunder – herald rain storms,
earthquakes, bombs and
tumbling concrete. Telling
tales of hundreds to millions
of broken lives, bodies and hearts.
Our world is bursting with
anguish – and I cried.

Not just because the waves of
despair and depression threaten
to drown me in their tide. No.
I cried also because my heart
was moved to pray for  it could
not coax my mind to build either
rational or reasonable petitions.
It knew only how to soak itself
in tears for countless souls in pain.

More than this I cannot do when
grief is at its peak – than simply
stand or kneel with God –
heart pleading onto heart
completely drenched (confused)
by the storms of human crisis.

Comment about the poem:
Today – August 27th – on the feast of St Monica, I am reminded of the power tears have when praying to God. She who spent so many years, drenching the earth with her tears for her son who would become the great St. Augustine. Tears are a language simple and clear in sentiment for they come from the very depths of the heart.


Something about Listening

The following excerpt is from a reflection written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer OCD

When we “listen deeply” to, say, natural sounds, the thing we are actually hearing can, of course, vary.  It may be the sound of wind at the window, or of geese honking as they fly by overhead, or of a distant train, or of waves washing against the shore, or of rain pounding the roof, or the murmur of water running over stone along a creek bed.

These are each particularly haunting natural sounds.  Or at least I find them so.  And when I listen to them, I hear, yes, the sound itself.  But I hear, “deeply,” something else, something hidden yet present within the sound.  You might say the sounds have acquired a kind of sacramental quality to them.  They help make present the sacred.

It is an interesting topic.  Here is a link to the original post: Listening Deeply

Fr. Sauer is the Provincial Delegate to the Discalced Carmelite Seculars of the Province of St Therese (aka the Oklahoma Province)


would that I had known

How foolish, tired and worn
in mind, and heart and bone
I found myself strapped,
poorly prepped and mussed
on a journey
too much rushed.
No one bent their ear so
a hole I dug – myself –
forth with and placed my goal.
Leaving there a soul in
darkness grasped – clung to –
much like rotted dung.
Ashes choked my tongue
where bitter bile did ooze
and jagged marks
compete with depression’s
blue and black waves.

A swift purple dash
stokes across the sky.
As days light fades,
traces of cheery swallows
flit about, lifting
me from  misery.
Their wings taunt
my spirits forward to a
warmly glowing sunset, where
burnished orange, braces
the slant of grey clouds.
On the morrow this glorious
orb will rise once more;
as must I – to face again
a casket void of talent.
Would that I had known this
journey would be harder.

Then the Son’s amber
golden eyes, reflect rays
of grandeur and treacle
in two words –
“Trust! Me!”  And
Promises to take me
– on Farther –
through my sisters
and my brother.
Thus illumined
in Paschal light
let the Spirit’s pall
carry me on a carpet
according to His Will.

taken in Warsaw, POLAND by Elizabeth

a journey into prayer – part 4

Secular Discalced Carmelites have a required discipline of setting aside at least 30 minutes each day for Mental Prayer.  And this is a unique type of prayer involving the use of the mind.  Yet the mind is not focused on being discursive or meditative – at least those aspects are not necessary  – because the focus is on presence; on being present to God in an attitude of loving quiet solitude.  By its very definition, it is a simple form of prayer; however it is not easy to do and requires two things in abundance – patience and perseverance…that is what makes it a discipline.  These 30 minutes set aside for Mental Prayer are separate and apart from other types of prayer – such as the Liturgy of the Hours, adoration, personal devotions such as the Rosary and the like.  (As you continue to read the rest of this post, I hope to put a bit more context around Mental Prayer for better understanding.)

Also, as our calling is under the protection and patronage of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the character and practice of our prayer life is patterned after the Blessed Virgin Mary.  She who by example, teaches us to ponder all things in the heart – which is naturally contemplative in character. But what does this mean; to pattern our prayer life after that of the Virgin Mary?

In the gospels Mary doesn’t say much, and in the few instances in which we encounter her, she isn’t endowed with answers constructed like doctoral thesis or anything in the manner of a long winded or complex treatise on faith. Instead her position is one of witness to a profound faith.  Her rare dialogue is that of asking simple, direct and pertinent questions, or making equally simple, direct and pertinent statements. Her open and humble – direct and uncomplicated example teaches how one can, and should interact with Jesus; the son of God; second person of the most Holy Trinity – or so it seems to me.

Other structures for our life of prayer come from the writings and teachings of both St Teresa of Jesus and St John of the Cross. It is our way – our calling –  to seek friendship and union with God; and it is a way particularly suited to those called to live this life. Formation received for this calling expresses itself in a daily routine of making space and time for interior and exterior silence – which requires effort, fidelity and perseverance – for we give ourselves over to a meditative and contemplative life within the context to our primary responsibilities.

That this life of prayer requires effort is to say, it requires making a choice from day to day.  Our choice is to say YES, so as to remain oriented towards God.  We make a choice to turn away from exterior noise, distraction and whatever makes up our everyday routine; or whatever develops in our lives that is not routine.  And so we turn away from that which is our secular and active life, for 30 minutes of Mental prayer.  In saying Yes we turn towards the Divine – to God – and we seek solitude by entering into our room of prayer so as to be alone with Him.  Once there we again choose to turn our minds and hearts away from any interior noise of personal concerns, hardships and numerous distractions that interrupt our efforts to be lovingly present and attentive to God – who is already waiting for us to be with Him.

Fidelity to this way of living orients the heart, the mind, the whole self towards a loving encounter with God.  There are many levels and layers that go beyond the boundary of the natural; making us appreciative of mystery; especially to the awareness that God does speak to us.  He does so in and through the holy scriptures; through people in our lives; in situations we find ourselves; in the stirrings of our hearts encouraging us to fulfill our duties; and to so many other ways in which we grow in a loving knowledge of Him.

All this may sound complex, even undoable and at times it is quite difficult to just sit still.  But just as each geographic region has its own compliment of seasons, so too does each soul; for every soul is unique and unrepeatable.  And every soul that has begun to pray, goes through many different stages of prayer.  More than anything, what is most needed is determination to persevere; something  Pope Francis spoke about just recently during his Wednesday general audience.

Ah yes!  Saint Teresa and Saint John of the Cross were declared doctors of the church because they not only lived heroic lives of prayer but were granted singular graces to adequately describe these mysteries associated with prayer and they did it with authenticity, clarity and delicacy so as to teach a world of Christians how to follow this path…take this journey…

…in ending this series I wish to point out, that prayer truly is a journey – one that should take us into a loving encounter with God.  Its end and goal being full communion with the God we know, who loves us.

taken by Elizabeth in Wroclaw, POLAND