More poems by religious
PRAYING AT THE EDGE
Sister Carol L. Thresher, S.D.S.
sweat-drenching … prayer.
Body screams, “No!”
but an inside timid whisper breathes, “Stay.”
And so I do
for moments … when courage comes
touching the only ground I know
silent seconds lengthen…
And then body snatches back to safety and unknowing.
The edge recedes
But fingers are soiled
with smudges of Holy Ground.
Carol Thresher, a Sister of the Divine Savior (Salvatorian Sisters), was a teacher for 10 years, serving in Milwaukee at Mother of Good Counsel and Divine Savior Holy Angels High School. After eight years with Milwaukee’s Justice and Peace Center, she was missioned to Brazil. There she served among the poor for 18 years with the SDS São Paulo Province. While there, she also helped develop programs for Salvatorian spirituality retreats, which led to international formation work. This formation ministry eventually took her to Rome, Africa, India, England, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and the Philippines, where she saw how the Salvatorian family serves the neediest people worldwide. In 2000 she returned to the United States, and after completing a Master of Arts degree in biblical theology at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, she spent a year as a member of the Jordan Ministry Team in Tucson, Arizona. In 2003 she was called to leadership by the Salvatorian Sisters, and served both as team member and provincial leader until July 2015. She currently lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and devotes her time to research, writing, and program development in the area of Salvatorian ongoing formation and history.
She says, “Poems grow inside me over a period of time. They come to birth in the depths of my own personal work with the God of my life. Eventually some of them do move to the level of words and at times actually come to be written down. Other times, they continue to live as an inner word that may never seek articulation.”
“Praying at the Edge” was published in the Summer 2005 edition of The Occasional Papers, the journal of the Leadership Conference for Women Religious (LCWR), when Sister Thresher served as North American Provincial for the SDS Congregation.
IMAGINING THE JOURNEY
Sister Chris Koellhoffer, I.H.M.
NOTE: On December 2, 2010, I was a member of a delegation in El Salvador marking the 30th anniversary of the martyrdom of Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan—four churchwomen who gave their lives in solidarity with the poor. We retraced the route from the San Salvador airport that the four women were taking on December 2, 1980, when they were ambushed by military forces. When we came to a turn leading to a narrow, deserted road, we were told that, at this point, the women knew with terrible certainty what was about to happen to them. Haunted by that remembrance, I wrote the poem, “Imagining the Journey,” in my journal.
What did they do, I wonder,
when the road turned toward death?
Gaze at the sleeping corn,
longing to taste harvest?
Pass by the gnarled ginger root tree,
with hope for the next day’s shade?
Did they sense the holy ones
gathered around them,
arms outstretched in welcome?
Did they reach for the hand of another
who also trembled,
finding comfort and courage in her clasp?
Did they, I wonder,
hold the shining beauty of this world
for one last fleeting moment?
Chris Koellhoffer, a Sister, Servant of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Scranton, Pennsylvania, is an author, presenter, and spiritual guide who engages in mobile spirituality ministry, offering retreats, presentations, and programs to connect the soul of a group with the soul of the universe. Her worldview has been profoundly shaped by people on the margins, by the power of story, and by the arts.
With a background in communications and spirituality, Koellhoffer has had experience as a teacher and school administrator, director of communications, television producer, pastoral associate, and spiritual director. She is a long-time contributor to Living Faith, Journey, and other spiritual publications, and is the author of Longing for the Endless Immensity (2014), Advent Here and Now (2010), With Jesus Today: A Contemporary Way of the Cross (2015), and Pope Francis: Living Advent with Peace & Joy (2015).
Koellhoffer says she writes both poetry and prose because she simply can’t help herself. For her, writing is soul work that puts flesh on the inner life and extracts meaning from everyday living in our beautiful, yet wounded world. Her blog, Mining the Now, can be found at www.chriskoellhofferihm.org.
“Imagining the Journey” was published in Review for Religious, Vol. 70.4, 2011.
Sister Germaine Hustedde, P.H.J.C.
‘Adore the Lord in His holy attire’ —
Fleecy clouds and sunset fire!
Oft, He dons the purpling morn
Fashioned by the zephyrs borne
Across the far-flung outer space,
Which eons of time cannot efface.
Sometimes robed in golden glow,
Or sculpted in folds of fallen snow.
Veiled in leafy spring-time green
Studded with emerald dewy sheen.
Arrayed at times in regal splendor
Of myriad diamonds - the sunshine vendor.
Clothed in light or darkling velvet
Jeweled with stars and the signet moon,
Veiled in the cry of the distant loon…
There’s nothing of God’s creation
That beggars our imagination!
Nature is a garment woven fine;
The immense wardrobe of Love Divine.”
Sister Germaine Hustedde is a Poor Handmaid of Jesus Christ, currently living in Donaldson, Indiana. Her religious commitment has taken her to four continents and involved her in such ministry as child care, teaching at every level through primary, secondary, and college, retreat and counseling ministry, congregational administrative assignments in Germany, and missionary endeavors in both India and Africa. Hustedde holds a master’s degree in education administration from Loyola University in Chicago, a master’s degree in spirituality and religion from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Graduate Theological Foundation in Indiana.
“God’s Apparel” was published in Hustedde’s book of poetry, Let Love In (2012). In the forward, she wrote:
“Even as a child, I loved Nursery Rhymes, and the lilting melody of songs expressing joy, happiness and various human emotions. In high school, our English teacher delighted me with the reading and study of classic poetry even though it was tough medicine for some of the boys in class. It was this same high school teacher who encouraged me to write poetry, and through whose interest, my very first poem was published in a high school anthology.
Over the years, poetry has helped me to express compassion, longing, forgiveness, joy, as well as pain, and gratitude. It has been a source of welcoming love into my life.
Now, as I bring together pieces I have written over the years, I find the spiritual threads of my life’s weaving the substratum of nearly all the poetry I have written. It merely points out to me that the ‘Ground of my Being’ is the radical foundation of my life (my First Love) and I sing grateful praise for that awareness.”
REJOICE, ALL-HOLY VIRGIN
Father Andrew Hofer, O.P.
Rejoice, all-holy Virgin, so filled with wondrous grace,
conceived without a blemish, without a sinful trace.
For you received beforehand, when you first came to be,
The merit of Christ’s passion, His grace that sets us free.
Rejoice, all-holy Virgin, prepared for fame renowned,
The Temple of the Most High, in you the Lord is found.
You are the boast of Zion, the ark of finest gold,
The holy of all holies, the throne of Him foretold.
Rejoice, all-holy Virgin, predestined in delight,
In beauty you were chosen and blameless in His sight.
For in the time of fullness to bring all things as one
The Lord bestowed His Wisdom as Jesus Christ your Son.
Rejoice, all-holy Virgin, humanity’s new Eve,
As Mother of the Living, all grace you did receive.
You bore the Mighty Victor to crush the serpent’s head,
To Him be ev’ry honor, and ev’ry praise be said.
Rejoice, all-holy Virgin, and magnify the Lord,
The Father, Son, and Spirit, the Three and One adored.
We join your song of praises to Him whom you believed
And ever call you blessed, in holiness conceived.
Father Andrew Hofer, O.P. is a Dominican friar in Washington, D.C. He is the youngest of 10 children and grew up on a farm in southeast Kansas. He entered the U.S. Eastern Dominican Province of St. Joseph, and during his novitiate learned how to write hymn lyrics. During initial formation he wrote lyrics for many hymns.
“Rejoice, all-holy Virgin” is one hymn from his time as a student brother at the Priory of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. while he was attending the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception (Dominican House of Studies). The hymn honors the patronal Solemnity. It was first published in 1999 in the monthly spiritual aid Magnificat, which has annually printed verses from this hymn for its prayer on December 8 for many years.
Hofer’s hymn lyrics appear regularly in Magnificat and in hymnals published by International Liturgy Publications. They can also be found in the journals Sacred Music and Review for Religious and in the book Praying with Saint Paul (2008).
Hofer has been a parochial vicar in Rhode Island, a missionary in Kenya, and a doctoral student at the University of Notre Dame. He is now again at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., where he serves as master of students, master of cooperator brothers in formation, and associate professor of patristics and ancient languages.
GOD OF MYSTERY
Sister Laurentia Doyle, O.S.B.
Lord, God, you are mystery.
You who had no beginning,
who has no end.
You created all things out of love,
have created me your weak and fickle creature
so that one day I may live with you.
Lord, God, your love is mystery.
Who could fathom its depths?
The world and all it holds reflects your beauty.
In that love you sent your Son,
your only Son,
not just to share our life,
but to suffer, to die, that I might live,
that I might know the height,
the depth of your love,
that I might know the length,
the breadth of your desire for my love.
O God, you love me as a father,
a loving father who cares for his child,
who strengthens me in my weakness,
comforts me in my sadness,
waits for me in my doubts,
loves me in my sinfulness.
Loving God, you care for me as a shepherd,
a shepherd who searches for his lost lamb,
who guides his sheep through places of danger,
who protects me from danger,
who provides refreshment in due time,
who lays down his life that I may live.
God of time,
Lord of each moment,
each event of my life,
teach me, help me to recognize your touch.
You have loved me,
I surrender to the power of your love.
Sister Laurentia Doyle, O.S.B., is a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and lives in Clyde, Missouri. She was born in Ironwood, Michigan. Shortly after high school graduation, she entered a Benedictine community in Duluth, Minnesota. She taught school for 25 years before realizing her religious calling was a contemplative one.
She was attracted to the Benedictine Sisters’ emphasis on prayer and their devotion to the Eucharist and eventually transferred when she was 44. Today she works in the Benedictine Sisters’ altar bread department preparing hosts for the celebration of the Eucharist. The Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration are the largest religious producers of altar breads in the United States.
Doyle enjoys writing poetry and was inspired to pen “God of Mystery” while pondering the vastness and mystery of God’s love. It was published in the May/June 2015 issue of the devotional magazine Spirit & Life.
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