Word as witness to the Word
"SOME PEOPLE go to priests; others to poetry …” said British novelist Virginia Woolf. Catholics, of course, know that the two aren’t mutually exclusive: Spirituality and art are richly intertwined in our faith tradition. Over the centuries, countless brothers, sisters, and priests as well as lay faithful have penned song and verse not only as a creative outlet, but also as a shared prayer, an expression of love for God and Creation, and a celebration of life.
This year’s VISION Spotlight showcases the published work of contemporary women and men religious poets and lyricists who are following their call to serve God with their gifts and continuing our Catholic artistic heritage.
JUST TAKE IT
on Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”
Father Larry Janowski, O.F.M.
They love it, my students—memorize the words,
but miss the point about that less-traveled road,
claim Frost a hero for endorsing the holy my way,
though he called this poem “a tricky one, very
tricky,” less about not following the crowd, or
even which path, and more about just making
up your mind. If he could, the poet would nod
to Yogi Berra: If you come to a fork in the road,
take it. In the end, there will always be those
two paths: the one you choose, and the other one.
Pick one—one that loves you back, and if you
still seek some Yankee wisdom, try that other poem,
the one about not standing and waiting too long,
about miles and miles to go, about promises to keep.
Father Larry Janowski, O.F.M., a Franciscan friar for 49 years and writer since he was 8, has written several books, including BrotherKeeper. “Just Take It” was published in VISION Vocation Guide in 2010 and received a first place honor for original poetry by the Catholic Press Association. Janowski sees a clear connection between the vocation of a writer and that of a preacher committed to Christ, the Word made flesh. The two vocations sustain each other because both the preacher and the poet tell the stories of people confronting the hard moments of life as well as the exultant, unpredictable experiences of grace.
Sister Colleen Winston, O.S.B.
He comes, slow like the sun; he comes nudging the darkness from the sky with a quiet stillness and red majesty.
He comes, mighty as hills; he comes greening the world with his life through a pow’r that enfolds us in peace that never ends.
He comes, behind ev’ry face; he comes reaching through dappled, routine days to touch our love and spring it free forever.
Sister Colleen Winston, O.S.B., a member of St. Walburg Monastery since 1959, is principal musician and coordinator of eucharistic liturgies. She has been an educator, columnist, photographer, communication consultant, mentor, media producer, study guide author, musician, composer, and presenter of workshops and retreats. “He Comes” was published in 1973 in Folkhymns for Worship, an out-of-print hymnal, and is used here with permission from North American Liturgy Resources.
Sister Marlou Ricke, F.S.P.A.
Trees dancing in fluorescent sunshine
in radiant façade.
Standing firm in grounded being
in stories found
in yesterday’s meanderings
of ventures unbeknown to humankind.
Creatures great and small
bowing adoration to Creator
living life in core of each creation
creatively being shaped into beings celebrative
of Creator’s all embracive expansiveness.
Stories flow creatively
from firm grounded rootedness
sharing life’s adventures
in sparkling clear waters of refreshment.
Catching sparks of nuances
for creative re-creations
slicing delicious fruits
of tangy serendipity.
Sister Marlou Ricke, F.S.P.A. was a teacher for 20 years in Catholic schools. She has also ministered in creative art therapy and spiritual direction. Her book Dance, Words, Dance!: A Celebration of Expressive Therapy in Story and Poetry Form, in which “Dancing Rootedness” appears, was published in 2007.
Father Walter Bunofsky, S.V.D.
Praise at hand!
Lands within lands, vast grand,
Granite rock shifting sand
Many I’ll visit only in my many mind-meanderings,
Wondering . . . to see them all?
Would take forever and a day!
So I wing my way on fantasy flights.
Grab on to the first passing breeze and fly.
Let the wind lift be high
Atop lofty mountain peaks,
Glide down deep into yawning canyons,
Afloat on every river, stream, and lake,
Lazing on the glistening sands of every beach,
So much to behold – and lo!
To raise one’s eyes in praise
Glory Be! Will take – eternity!
Father Walter Bunofsky, S.V.D. was ordained in 1960. His assignments have included vocation promotion and recruitment, parish ministry, chaplaincy, and spiritual direction. Along the way he learned to play the guitar and the clarinet, compose songs, do woodcarving, and write poetry. He is now in retirement at Divine Word Residence in Illinois. His first poem was “Road Atlas” printed in “Word/USA,” a Divine Word newsletter, in 1988.
HERE I WILL STAY
Sister Carol Piette, M.M.
The Lord has guided me so far
And in His guidance, He has up and dropped me here,
at this time and in this place of history.
To search for and to find Him; Not somewhere else,
And so HERE I WILL STAY,
Until I have found that broken Lord, in all His forms,
And in all His various pieces,
Until I have completely bound-up His wounds and covered His whole Body,
His People, with the rich oil of gladness.
And when that has been done,
He will up and drop me again—
Either into His Promised Kingdom, or into the midst
Of another jigsaw puzzle of
His broken Body, His hurting People.
Sister Carol Piette, M.M., also known as Sister Carla, entered Maryknoll Sisters in 1958. She was sent to Chile, where she was a teacher and a pastoral care worker and continued to serve the poor during Chile’s military coup in 1973. In 1980 she was assigned to El Salvador to accompany internal refugees who were fleeing violence. Piette died on August 24, 1980 while crossing a flooded river in an attempt to help a father return to his family. “Here I Will Stay” was published in her biography, Vessel of Clay: The Inspirational Journey of Sister Carla (2010), by Jacqueline Hansen Maggiore.
AN APPETITE FOR THE FULLNESS OF LIFE
Sister Georgene L. Wilson, O.S.F., D.Min.
In fields of scarcity
Not just for bread or rice to fill the stomach
But for peace, beauty and goodness
To nurture our spirit
Our inner core
For a world we imagine
The world we experience
We seek not only promises of relief
Or healing of our brokenness and loss
We want to eat and rink at the table of full communion.
Sister Georgene L. Wilson, O.S.F., D.Min. is a Wheaton Franciscan who serves as a spiritual development minister. She has been a teacher, preacher, pastoral minister, director of spiritual formation, and a spiritual companion. Wilson says her greatest joy is rooted in allowing Wisdom to use her as a channel for animating beauty and in affirming each person with whom she engages as “already good and incredibly free to love God, self, and all creation as kin in the kin-dom.” “An Appetite for the Fullness of Life” was published in 2011 in Bread and Lace: A Poetry Collection.
Find more poems by religious in our online extra.
- Lives that lead to God: Biographies and memoirs
- Divine design: The holiness of place
- More prayer spaces of religious communities
- More poems by religious
- Vocation takes cultivation
- More gardens of religious communities
- Contemplate the cross
- More crosses of religious communities
- Nourishing body and soul
- The writing life of sisters, brothers, and priests Read More
- Find your spirituality type
- Four steps to hearing your call
- RESOURCE: Seventeen questions about church vocations
- FAQs: Frequently asked questions about vocations
- Celibacy quiz: Can you live a celibate life?