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.