the ice drifted out fish, otter, loons released lake ripples broadly green gradually overcomes brown building up diversity's wisdom awoke, rising, bold every budding leaf shows how justice demands change love is feeding others love is breakfast on the beach love is going out the boat moves over horizons, maps, mystery the plain of blue water the egg cracks open baby robin sings a song yes to this new life love is giving love. open. community. love frees all to be
our bodies make lines
and our hearts beat
make us more honest in
prepare us, Mystery,
for an eternity
with you, true Love
create in us clean hearts
draw us closer–
Love, we are yours
You are our heartbeat
You are our way
help us fast, pray
lines of ash pressed into
our faces, worn with love
the lines of time move
forward; we embrace
death comes for us all
our graves are ahead
dust. ash. dust. ash
our bodies make lines
and our hearts beat
So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
The two narratives
when the waters churn
and the fears rise,
when the winds blow
and doubts intensify,
when the flames destroy
and homes burn to ash.
Every surrender surfaces
acts of courage and love.
Community is formed
around the cross of loss.
When suffering blinds us from
“trust in God” it is OK to scream
or cry or wonder if we’re being
ignored by the God of love,
to acknowledge the ache
of possible abandonment.
And in the still of the storm,
the heroes and the victims,
who are helpers and hurting
(all of us wear both badges)
make known the power of God’s
presence and the might of love.
This is our story of salvation,
this is the story of Incarnational
transformation. Although we are
frozen in fear, we arise to schlep
out junk. We splurge no more so
we can contribute more cash.
We grip arms as one
steadily moving forward
toward Sunday’s true joy.
Yes, by “love one another”
God remains real
in the midst of disaster.
i’d like a compass
with you at the north
and my sisters in the west
i’ll keep it in my pocket
and take it out for direction
when i can’t remember
the skin i’m in or
the rhythm of my own song
to the south are the mountains,
pink rhododendrons and sweet tea
east is where the sun rises
and the Christ-light
finds me always
on the way home
About the Rabble Rouser:
Sister Sarah Hennessy is a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration based in La Crosse, Wisconsin. She grew up in North Carolina as an active Quaker and became a Catholic in 2000. For her, Jesus’ messy business includes falling in love with Christ AND with the People of God! Her heart is on fire for the Hispanic community, poetry, playing guitar and accompanying people through birth, death and the living that comes in between. She currently ministers as the perpetual adoration coordinator at St. Rose Convent, as a Mary of the Angels Chapel tour guide, and a volunteer at Franciscan Hospitality House.
Most days, our schedules are clogged
with avoidance: We’d rather ignore
the inevitable smudge of human decay.
This morning though, Ash Wednesday,
we step into lines and confront
the truth of pain.
We allow strangers to mark us
with a message of paradox.
Remember, you are dust. To dust you will return.
Flecks of once joyous palms, now black grime
Color the firm skin of the young,
Fall into the creased skin of the old.
Repent and believe in the Gospel.
In somber silence we gaze at faces
that will all end up in the grave.
A unity emerges with fresh freedom.
Life after death.
Off to meetings, appointments, repentance or avoidance—
yet some will wear their marks with pride.
We all are moving in the same direction.
This is a complicated world,
but not for the sake of trying.
How do we respond? What is it that I have done?
Have I tried to lay in the long grass,
to wake early and see my breath?
When did I last wait to hear,
Not answer, not voice, but a bird,
the woodpecker’s sharp tap outside the bedroom window.
I don’t remember when I last walked in the rain
to look up and see the downpour.
Am I afraid of getting wet, of tracking mud?
How quickly I forget my coat, a pair of boots
Do I even remember where in the closet they are stored?
I must go out this next time.
I must remember that it is expected of me
to not remain dry
to track mud onto the floor boards.
It is expected that I do not remain a stoic philosopher forever.
Good reflection never came from sitting at the altar.
Unless I propose to be a monk,
but even the monk must laugh
and he does look up into the rain.
This is a complicated world
but made less so because I am not a monk
however much I would like to be.
And although not a religious
I will still pray.
Perhaps I will even pray tonight.
Perhaps my words will carry hints of the sacred.
It is a sacred found in the ordinary;
Alive and riveted by this complicated, imperfect world.
Alive and riveted by this complicated, imperfect life.
And my feet have been introduced to mud,
my hair drips rain.
Maybe I shall yet live
or at the very least I will try.
About the Rabble Rouser
Michael Krueger first met Sister Julia in La Crosse, Wisconsin, as an undergraduate student at Viterbo University and dishwasher at St. Rose Convent. She was the only sister who didn’t leave a generous tip. (All joking aside, the one and only tip he actually received was the priceless call to FSPA affiliation in 2009). He credits that “top-notch Franciscan education” for putting him on a path to La Crosse’s Place of Grace Catholic Worker House (where he lived for two-and-a-half years), SOA peace vigils, work with developmentally disabled adults (inspired by Jean Vanier and L’Arche), commitment to social justice and a chance dinner with Roy Bourgeois. He currently lives near Madison with his wife and young daughter, and recently joined efforts to begin a Catholic Worker community there.
Red broth, steaming soup, vegetables
just picked, now my lunch; I slurp life in.
Sister Laura on the line, “Sister Rita is dying.
I’ll put the phone to her ear. Say what you’d
can’t talk, won’t respond. Say your good-bye.”
A pause. My lungs expand, mind races, I search
for words just-right. I mutter, “Thank you,”
“I love you,” “Pray for me,” “Enjoy freedom,”
She moans acceptance. The words echo—
feel blank, all seems hollow—
Red broth, steaming soup, life once fresh
now my lunch; hot liquid tasted,
Minutes later I hem black cloth for prayer,
black cloth for teens needing gifts from God—
Dedicated to Sister Rita Rathburn, FSPA, who was a sister, friend, and coach for me in the craft of writing. She died on Monday. May she rest in peace.
Happy Feast of St. Clare! The following prose-poetry is dedicated to her.
This past Monday I drove north, from Kansas City to La Crosse, through lush fields of green growing up towards the sky. As I moved, my eyes focused on the constant road. It was an all-day drive after a two-month pilgrimage of study, retreat, service, connecting and contemplation in states called Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. (At one point this summer I also saw South Dakota from the other side of the Missouri River in Sioux City, Iowa.)
Now I am back in Wisconsin resisting (partly) a necessary reset of my mind after an experience among a community of creative Christians at The Glen Workshop: I am trying to write an academic paper while poetry in my memory and future propel me backward and forward–as the language of academia conflicts with what my soul desires. This tension is a bit like the thunderstorms that clouds can create; the electricity of the different parts of my mind can also create downpours.
Driving north over concrete and asphalt my gaze floated upward toward the expansive sky, bright blue and full of the puffs of evolving white clouds–clouds slow dancing with cheer and optimism. The clouds moved, merged, formed shapes of glory, as The Great Artist presented signs and affirmations by way of the best piece of interactive installation art ever made: this infinite, expanding universe. With each opening created in the clouds, I pondered my constant sense that The Great Artist was providing encouraging nods of “Keep moving in the right direction” and “Yes, you are part of my wonders, too.”
In the silver machine of mystery (the car, so it is to me) I listened to phenomenal podcasts as I made my way over horizons and toward my home. The words of poets, scientists and journalists multiplied my awe for the beauty and complexity of God’s creation, of this world made so multidimensional by the way we humans interact with God’s doings and pretty much make messes all over the place. I was completely blown away when I heard Paulo Coelho speak about his journey into becoming a writer. I was inspired by how Naomi Shihab Nye overturns the poetry found in ordinary life. I was flabbergasted by the scientific discoveries being made about the intelligence of the forest. And, I was horrified by the reality of what life is like for refugees in Greece nowadays. In each story told, the true wildness of who God made us to be and who we are was exposed: we are one, the body of Christ revealed by way of loving, enfleshed in service and creativity.
Across the expansive sky I saw diamonds and other mysterious shapes made from clouds. I saw hearts form, widen, evolve. Over rolling plains of farmland, human stories sort-of hugged me in the car container from all sides; tales of tough Truth and invitations to participate in God’s goodness came at me in surround sound. I gasped and grinned for the beauty of the images combined with Truth made into sounds, for the swirling mess of life and beauty enfleshed everywhere.
Hands on steering wheel, mind awake, foot on pedal, eyes wide open, heart expanding. Through God, in God, and by God the clouds moved. And so did I. So did all of us, as one.
are in ordinary time.
Alleluia for the sunset each day.
Alleluia for sniffing wilted lilac blossoms.
Alleluia for pauses in the rushed, packed scheduled life.
Christ comes to us is the cracks of our life, in the common mystery:
Slicing orange cheddar for a quick snack, the sweetness of a fresh mandarin,
the glow of the candlelight, the joy in a dear friend’s voice,
an unexpected “thank you” from a tired teen.
Now we are in ordinary time.
The fire in us burns
as one informed
Like loon encounters
Communion with the Creator
can come like loon encounters,
when you are simply rowing
through life and enjoying
the ride, then-ah-behold:
the sight of loon dancing, diving,
singing, playing. The surprise of beauty,
of scenery, of simplicity. Many ecstasies
come in these off-shore liminalities
but I must keep rowing, allowing
the beyond-me to be
bigger. Hold me Waves.
Hold me Harmony!
Surrender to the way
As this water flows
within the container
of Love-lake true-
my self shall surrender
to the way of these loons.
They give into the breezes
of belonging, the diving
of self, of yes.
Their freedom is found
in being who they
were designed to be best.