Thursday, December 26, 2019



“She was a virgin even of herself.” – Père Francoise OCD

In a house of mirrors that coveted her image
she never walked
with her own beauty
nor made a feast of her goodness,
inviting friends from the far and wide.
She never sat down with her own innocence
to dialogue together,
nor called a stranger in
to sit at her hearth and be glorified.

She was a maiden promised to one lover
whom she was always seeking.
Though he hid in her heartbeat and settled himself
behind her breath,
he was distance, too.  Journeys dwindled to places
beside her own, and miles melted beneath
her steps of wanting.  She could by-pass all
meadows that trap us with their poisonous flowers
and their soliciting pools
and winding lanes that skirt the only death.

She was out on a road alone, hastening onward,
gathering  all as a gift, the small and great
fragments of mystery and reality.
Everything was for Him, even her own being.
Since love marks neither measurement nor weight
she carried all, without touching or tasting.

Life, which comes as a virgin to us all,
most safely came to her.
Time, when she passed, remained inviolate.

                                                            (1976; 1984)

Jessica Powers (Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit OCD)
From: The Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers.  Page 57.
Published by ICS Publications, Washingon DC.
All copyrights, Carmelite Monastery, Milwaukee, WI.
Used with permission.



There was nothing in the Virgin’s soul
that belonged to the Virgin –
no word, no thought, no image, no intent.
She was a pure, transparent pool reflecting
God, only God.
She held His burnished day; she held His night
of planet-glow or shade inscrutable.
God was her sky and she who mirrored Him
became His firmament.

When I so much as turn my thoughts toward her
my spirit is enisled in her repose.
And when I gaze into her selfless depths
an anguish in me grows
to hold such blueness and to hold such fire.
I pray to hollow out my earth and be
filled with these waters of transparency.
I think that one could die of this desire,
seeing oneself dry earth or stubborn sod.
Oh, to become a pure pool like the Virgin,
water that lost the semblances of water
and was a sky like God.
                                                            Jessica Powers (Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit OCD)
                                                            From: The Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers. Page 63.
                                                                         Published by ICS Publications, Washington, D.C.
                                                                        All copyrights, Carmelite Monastery, Milwaukee, WI.                                                                                                  Used with permission


Light is intensely the inhabitant
of this unsullied place of consecration,
the  Virgin’s heart.  Light is itself the air
and firmament and sea and foliage.
Her thoughts are Godward mirrors, one in their

I enter this pure area where light
dwells by divine election, and I go
into the long noon of her adoration
where an eternal silence drifts like snow.
There are no words here save the Word of God,
pondered on without syllable or stir,
nor do I speak, save by determined presence.
I kneel down in the Virgin’s radiation
and gaze at God with her.
Jessica Powers (Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit OCD)
From: The House at Rest, page 47.
Published by the Carmelite Monastery, Milwaukee, WI. 
All copyrights, Carmelite Monastery, Milwaukee, WI.
Used with permission



With thanks to Youtube

Saturday, October 19, 2019



Across the miles, dear friend, I send
a shining Christmas prayer
wrapped in a flame of starlight
and blue-white crystal air.

It sings of a royal Baby
with heaven in His eyes,
of little eager gestures
and glances angel-wise.

It sings of a darling Lady
whose smile is shadowed sun,
telling of Love’s sweet loving
and a grief it has begun.

It sings the noble quiet
of rough, brown, tender hands
whose wealth is their great yearning
to do her dear commands.

And when this prayer has reached you,
Oh, tell the Glorious Three
that you have received my message,
and send one back to me.

Sister Michael Marie IWBS
Sign.  December 1946


We who companion Christ brave death with Him
and seal upon our souls His tragic story;
as Mary pondered on no golden dream,
but a clear vision, tinged with blood and glory.
Yet in Gethsemane we fall asleep
but a stone’s throw from where His blood is sweat,
or seek the fires of an outer court
and all our vaunted loyalties forget.

O Mary, sure of sight and strong of soul,
lend us thy constancy in seeing far.
Fulfil of sorrowing our mystic seven;
redeem our holocaust and make it whole
lest the night find us, clutching some cold star,
slain in the very vestibule of heaven.

Sister M Michael SSJ
Spirit.  September 1949

Used with permission


Seven times seven
the beads I toll, [1]
chiming the music of your griefs
about my soul.

Long since my sires
and their sires before
changed their charms against the storm,
against the hoar.

Charm for the foal,
a charm against rain
potent potion for the new-bud life, and
woman in pain.

Poor were my sires
with never a bead
to fling at the Ivory Tower  [2]
and cry their need.

Seven times seven                                                                   the beads I press,
succour the seed of my sires, Queen,                                  
in this distress.                                                                         
Sister Maura SSND
Initiate the heart.  1946
Used with permission

[1] This is a reference to the dolours rosary, which consists of seven sets of seven beads.  Each set represents one of the seven sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
[2] “Tower of Ivory” is one of the titles of praise used in the Litany to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The poet is sorrowful because her pagan ancestors, though loyal to their own pagan deities, were deprived of the solace she finds in turning to God’s mother for comfort.

Monday, October 7, 2019



This is not a background picturesque;
(flats and sets) for cloister garth in novel or in play:
suggestion of the medieval in the costume; frustration in the spirit;
“sad and serene” in a half-resisted, half-desired hideaway.

Curl of a copper-foil moon
On a Christmas tree; no stars.  The starched white frame
Of wimple and of veil a cyclotron
Where ash-gray, jewel wings cavort in candle flame
Warm, stammering light.

The nuns walk in processional
Between the hydrangea blossoms cowled in heat,
Crisp holly and smooth-leaved rhododendron shrubs.
Twigs and broken brush snap like puppies at the slow-paced feet;
Wax melts to candle wyvern [1] and to gargoyle.

The nuns pray, “Hail Mary ... Holy Mary ...”
And the valley prays; the tennis court; the parking lot;
Terrace and lawn and road; the sweet gum prays;
The hawthorn; Spanish oak; yew and maple trees; the knot
Of new-born mockingbirds nestling in the lime; a family of owls,
The squirrels, the kitten and the dog.  “Hail Mary full of grace ... Holy Mary ...”

This is nothing like the neat enclosure
(sets and flats) of Spanish “Cradle Song,” or – French and quaint –
the nuns of “Cyrano de Bergerac.”  These are not nuns of time or place,
but God.

Queen and Lady, though nuns and night and prayer
Are mummers at your throne, it is you who walk with them,
It is you who carry light – a quiet semaphore to God;
It is your country lane they walk; your Bethlehem;
Your Nazareth; Gethsemane; and Ephesus.

Lady, it is your silence
In which they walk back to the cloister, to stifling cell
-          and hot and heavy muslin of the bed.

Lady, it is your joy
That rocks the campus like a cradle
through the summer night, so that the Little Boy
(still in exile) does not weep,
but laughs in His Father’s providence, and falls
(as Péguy [2] says men should) content to sleep.

Sister Maura SSND
Spirit.  1953-54

[1] monstrous image
[2] Charles Péguy (1873-1914), Catholic writer, publisher and poet.  His works include a collection of poems in praise of the Blessed Virgin.



This is the Virgin Mother.  How young she is.
Only as old as prophecy: seven swords ...
and the Child for the rise and fall of many; [1] as
young as the joy of mothering God.  No words

On her lips, but the eyes lowered to the Child in her arms,
And children to the last generation of all.  The veil
And hair blown back by desert simoom, the storms
Of heat and sand swirling past the Nile.

But everything is tranquil in this carven face,
This woman’s poise, these cradling hands that hold
Redemption like a Little One.  Peace
Is the triumph of faith.  If the virginal veil is belled

To the winds, the heart is undisturbed.  And I,
Kneeling, read this braille – wood, and know why.

Sister Maura SSND
Spiritual Life.  1959.  Used with permission

[1] Luke II:34



Once I looked up: Hail Mary.  It means
Ave Maria, 1 & 2.  A quote
from Poe? [1]  or Scott [2] has some romantic lines
on it.  No.  Schubert, [3] of course.  Trite

as melodies go, but good for popular appeal.
1. the salutation of the angel;  2.
 one of the small beads on a rosary.  That is all
      the dictionary tells.  My mother knew

another meaning.  She gave it to me with
singing, skipping, laughing, listening, and waiting
for birthdays.  She read the tidings to me, breath
gentled to the sound of Gabriel’s greeting.

Hail Mary.  Two words to say and know
God walked in Paradise and thought of you.

Sister Maura SSND
Spirit.  1967-1968
Used with permission

[1] Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) wrote a Marian praise poem entitled “Hymn”.
[2] Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) wrote a Marian praise poem entitled “Ave Maria”.  It is found in Canto IV of  “The Lady of the Lake”.
[3] The composer Franz Schubert ( 1797-1828) set the “Ave Maria” by Scott in its German translation to music.  The composition to this day enjoys great popular appeal.