Thursday, October 29, 2020



Yes, there were other things that I foreknew
but could not bear to tell, seeing her eyes, -
knowing what two-edged anguish Joseph’s heart
was aching from.  For when I prophesied[1]
the sword of sorrow piercing Mary’s soul,
His arms yearned toward her, just as though he said,
“Not while I live to shield!”  But yet he spoke
no word, for Joseph is a silent man.
Such suffer most; I could not bear to say
the half of all I might have prophesied.

I told her of her own sharp sword of woe:
she only looked down at the Babe and smiled;
she scarcely seemed to heed; but had I told
what sword will pierce His Heart one bitter day,
she would have fallen there in the temple court
death-smitten with grief – and so I could not bear
to tell the half of all that I foreknew.

Just as she offered me her turtle doves,
(the price of Him they prized), and reached to take
back to her tender, mothering arms again
her Treasure - and the world’s – my mind’s eye saw
a thing that chills my very blood to tell:
There in the temple court a creature stood,
in form a man, but beast or devil, which,
I know not.  Gropingly, as one insane,
he flung a gift of silver down and cried:
“I cannot take this money, for it burns
my very soul! .... the price of innocent Blood!”[2]

But when I looked again, I only saw
the mother smiling down upon her Child –
and Joseph near them ... No, I could not bear
to tell the half of all that I foreknew.                                     

Sister Mary of the Visitation                                         
Magnificat.  February 1944        

[1] Luke II:25-38
[2] Matthew XXVII:



There is so little left us that you said
who knew so much!  Yet what more could you say,
knowing the Word?  Your lips must still obey
the intuïtions of your soul that fed
on pondered silences, as, wonder-led,
men came with glad-eyed worship, on a day
when God-made-man upon your bosom lay
Who, after, found no place to rest His head.[1]
Because you spoke so little, our slow speech
blessed by your silence vibrates through the world
until all nations, listening attent,
have heard the truth.  Our faltering accents reach
farther than heaven’s loud thunders echoing hurled:
for by your silence we are eloquent.

Sister Mary of the Visitation
Marian Library Collection

[1] Matthew VIII-20

Sunday, August 2, 2020



You laid Him in my arms the night He came,
you took me on the Flight,
and even when you lost your Little Boy
you let me share your fright.

I was at Cana when your quiet word
evoked His wonder-hour,
with you I followed Him when, down long days,
He taught as One with power.

I stood beneath the Cross with you and watched
the heart within you break,
I helped you wrap His Body for the tomb
and wept for pity’s sake.

But in that dawning, going home to you –
beautiful evermore! –
I understood when He went in alone;
and closed the door.

Sister M St Virginia
America.  15 April 1938
Used with permission



Even as children all of us learned of sorrow,
but some of us learned with method in a school
where even children study why tomorrow
will bring them tears.  Thus I, too, heard the rule
from a voice explaining that any exile must languish
away from home when night draws down on him;
I was given the formula for the hour of anguish,
saying it now while day grows grey and grim
across the years I hear St Bernard singing –[1]
out of the valley of tears wherein I grope –
his burden of grief: just as I now am bringing
my grief to her our Sweetness and our Hope
and shadows lift today as long ago,
above New York as once above Clairvaux.

Sister M St Virginia BVM
In: Robert.  1946
Used with permission

[1] Some people, like this author, believe St Bernard of Clairvaux to have written the prayer Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen).  Others, like Sister St Miriam of the Temple CND (cf page 80) ascribe the authorship of this poem to St Herman the Cripple.


                                                                        O you, who wear a diadem of stars,
                                                                        yet visit our drab earth from time to time
                                                                        holding converse with children, poor, unkempt,
                                                            yet pure of heart, great Lady, through the bars
                                                                        and prisons of man’s making and the grime
                                                                        of sin; the darkened regions of contempt,
                                                                        come!  Be our radiant Queen! Light up the way
once more. Bend down in beauty while we pray
of littleness: let there be seen
God's triumph in all hearts. Reign here blest Queen!

Sister M Thuribius
The Apostle. May 1958



                                                MAGNIFICAT IN CRUCE[1]

                                                Three vultures rend the blue Magnificat
                                                that breaks above the cross we grow upon:
                                                blind pride, replumed, and savage might have sought
                                                stability in nails that know the bone;
                                                and by these wounds rich, empty self would claim
                                     the very hour when hunger is fulfilled
                                                and, blessed from end to end in Wisdom’s Name,
                                                deep in the Father’s kiss lone fear is stilled.
                                                But, timed to Seven Words,[2] these three husks fall
     amid the skulls that missed the needle’s eye,
                                     while greening blade the least, full ear, and all
                                                rise in the harvest of a mother’s cry –
                                                our Fiat’s[3] flesh and blood, our last accord –
                                                “My very soul doth magnify the Lord!”
                                                Sister Thomas Aquinas OP

                                                Spirit.  July 1935                       

[1] (My soul) proclaims the greatness of the Cross
[2] Refers to Jesus’ words from the cross.
[3] Let it be done (unto me according to thy Word)


This way went Mary down from Nazareth
into the hearts of men : with simple grace
kissing the quick tears from a child’s small face;
sweeping her cottage clean; each eager breath
lyric with joy; wearing love’s shibboleth
bravely within her young heart’s cloistered place,
knowing its subtle potency to trace
upon the spirit anguish deep as death.

A woman’s heart is pitiful and tender,
quickened with strength too beautiful to tell;
into lone place of your soul, a slender
white peace will creep – her peace, no wind can quell;
and you shall know her love’s most delicate splendour –
when the last lark takes heaven’s blue citadel.
Sister M Thérèse SDS

Now there is Beauty.  1940
Used with permission     

SALUTE (Before the statue of Our Lady of Peace in St Mary Major)

(Before the statue of Our Lady of Peace in St Mary Major[1])

The little lad brushed past me like a dart
thrown by some seraph lurking in the gloom
pushing the opal dusk apart
at arch and chiselled tomb;
where down the tall nave’s pillared road
bright Hymettus marble glowed
this little one
With sweet face bronzed by an Italian sun
came to a crisp halt where
a white madonna waited wistfully
for some small prayer,
or still word spoken to her Child
Who held an olive branch, and smiled.

With ritual of medieval knight
taut at attention, drawn to his full height,
this cherubic recruit
raised a small hand in swift salute
as it were meet
that he salute a lady in the street,
so now this Lady in the dusk-dimmed nave
beneath the multi-shadowed architrave.

But as he turned to go I saw him start
as at some little thought that bruised his heart –
had he heard what the blue winds said
of bitter steel wings overhead? –
Oblivious of discipline
this military mannikin
in one swift bound
climbed to her feet,
and heedless of the worshipper’s critique
leaned close across the rhythms of her gown
and laid a kiss upon her curved, cool cheek,
then scrambled down
and fleet
fled through the pillars to the Roman street.

As when a tired tree against a hill
is rinsed with sudden music and grows still,
so stood I spirit-shaken, pondering
the lonely wisdom of this thing:
not only in lip-rubric told with care
is power of prayer;
there is a luminous leaven
of silence more articulate to bless –
there are some things that must be torn from heaven
by tears and tenderness.
Sister M Thérèse SDS

Give Joan a Sword.  MacMillan. 1945. Used with permission

[1] St Mary Major is one of the four patriarchal basilicas or churches of Rome.  Built in 352 AD, it was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary in 435 AD.  Cf Page 48.

Saturday, June 27, 2020



Tutored by care and weariness and dearth,
we kneel beside
you, Mary, more understandingly[1]
this Christmas-tide.

A longer time we brook the stable floor,
rock-hewn and cold,
mindful a little less of things of sense
now than of old.

We have not asked a blissful cry of stars
blending with wave
on wave of nine-voiced angel chant
above the cave.

Lady of Single Desire, more than fulfilled
one holy night,
teach us to seek, also, only the Child
for our delight.

Sister M Paulinus
America.  26 December 1942

[1] The growth in understanding referred to by the poet arose when America joined World War II on 7 December 1941. 


    ‘But the son of man hath not where to lay his head.”                   Matthew VIII:20

                                                                    We do not find Christ claiming
His world, His sky, His sun.
of myriads of creatures
He said He had but one.

And all that earth could proffer
He never called His own,
Who only had a Mother
as dwelling place and throne

  She was His sole possession           And here His dear head rested             A little Babe contented
   those nine months set apart                (Who was the Lord of earth)                fed at a Mother’s breast,
when He had asked permission              until she found a manger               Who had designed creation
     to live beneath her heart.                  the night she gave Him birth.               and chosen this as best.

The years the Child was growing
in grace and wisdom’s ken
were years of His dependence,
most rich to God and men.

We sense the Man’s nostalgia
for home and hearth and bed:
the Son of Mary has not
whereon to lay His head.

The Gospel tells us plainly
that angry billows swept,
while a very tired Jesus
on a borrowed pillow slept.

With head in thorny helment
He sighed His life’s last breath.
Et inclinato capite ...[2]
He turned toward her in death.

The Friday dark descended
on sin’s most woeful art:
the wounded head was lying
upon the sword-pierced heart.

In borrowed tomb she laid Him
in His last poverty,
till rising He would bring her
His bright humanity.

Who hope to share His glory
for Whom there was no room,
are fashioned as his members
within her spirit’s womb.

The truly poor and lowly
who know this residence
shall live the way of Jesus
     in Mary’s providence.   

Sister Sada Marie.  In: Carmel Bride. 1957.

[1] Where the head rested
[2] And, head bowed,