Discalced Carmelite Friars

Province of St. Therese

Poet and Contemplative

“From the abundance of his spirit [the poet] pours out secrets and mysteries rather than rational explanation” (Prologue, The Spiritual Canticle).

“In contemplation God teaches the soul very quietly and secretly, without its knowing how, without the sound of words” (Chapter 39, The Spiritual Canticle).

In the spirit of St. John of the Cross, this blog reflects on the contemplative experience and the poetic experience, sometimes separately and distinctly, sometimes in common, as mutually enlightening.

I will also post to this blog, from time to time, my own poetry, with a short interpretive note attached.

~ Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD

Three Genuflections - Part 2 of 3

2.  Prayer in St. Anselm’s Chapel, Canterbury Cathedral

God, All-knowing Father,
Your Spirit finds shelter in our hearts
Urging us to seek the untarnished splendor of the good,
The sure way of the true, the pure elation of the beautiful.

Awaken Your Spirit within us to illumine and uplift
All thinkers, poets, writers, novelists, musicians, craftsmen, artists.

In all things true and good and beautiful that issue from their hands
May Your name ring forth throughout creation;
May You delight once more in this Eden of Yours, our earth.

We ask this through Jesus Christ Your Son,
Whose holiness is Your holiness among us.

Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD

Three Genuflections – Part 1 of 3

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

1.  An Early Christian Hymn
~Phil 2:6-11

Though He bore the condition of a god,
Jesus did not consider being equal to God
Something to insist on.

Instead, He let it go and stepped down,
Accepting the condition of a slave
Like that of any human being;

And sharing also in our sinful state,
He further humbled himself,
Becoming subservient even to death
—Indeed, death by crucifixion.

For this reason God greatly exalted Him,
Shouting forth His name
Louder than any other name,

So that at the name of Jesus
Every knee must one day bend
—In heaven, on earth, and under the earth—

And every tongue one day confess
That He, Jesus Christ, is Lord
To the glory and grandeur of God the Father.

Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD

God's Desire

This is how you are to pray:
Our Father in heaven,
     hallowed be your name,
     your kingdom come,
     your will be done,
     on earth as in heaven…
Mt. 6:9-10

As a student at the University of Illinois, like most others I used to go home for the weekend every so often.   For me, though, that meant only an hour’s ride by bus across the cornfields of the Illinois prairie.  It would be late Friday afternoon.  I’d be cruising along, quietly ensconced in my seat on the bus, looking out the window.  Usually the sun would be sinking in the West, the sky softening as night drew near streaked with the varied reds of sunset.  And all around, of course, was the far expanse of the prairie.

Gliding along, gazing out the window of the bus, feeling almost as though suspended in time, I’d sometimes feel, if only for a brief moment, as if something truly wonderful or miraculous, something world-redeeming or revelatory, were about to happen—and I were set to be its witness.  Of course, nothing ever did, except maybe the desire itself.  But that in itself was wonderful enough—a moment charged with such expectancy and longing.

As I think back on such moments, and others like them, from my vantage point today, I believe God was teaching me through these moments how to pray.  Of course, the 

moments were not, in themselves, prayer, at least not explicitly.  But by them God was, nonetheless, softening the earth of my soul, readying it for prayer.  And when, through the gift of His Word awakening my understanding, God began to rain down a clearer, more defined awareness of Himself—doing so through preaching, church life and practice, the example of other people, my participation in Eucharist—then it become easy to see whom and what I had, through all these years, been longing for.

“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  It was that final, full Sabbath of God’s goodness, of his love and peace, celebrated by all creation, there where we shall at last be able to truly keep holy the Father’s name—this was that something wonderful and miraculous, world-redeeming and revelatory, that seemed just about to happen, although delayed once more, but happening, nonetheless, in my desire for it.

And so by God’s help we learn inwardly how to pray, not by a multiplication of words, but to pray by means of a longing that is also a way of paying quiet, loving attention to the one who knows our needs even before we ask—indeed, who has what we might call a”grand plan” for each and all of us.  We learn to pray, that is, by means of a longing that is also a way of waiting expectantly upon God as though upon something or someone wonderful and miraculous, world-redeeming and revelatory just about to happen.

We wait, in other words, that His Will be done upon earth.  We learn to pray as though standing upon the verge of God’s kingdom, where we can let God’s desire for that kingdom take root in our lives and bear fruit in time.

We all undoubtedly have our own stories of such moments in our lives where, it is clear to us now, God was there teaching us how to pray—softening the earth, readying the soil.  And when, with the gift of further formation in God’s Word, God implants His desire in our hearts, then, as though from a wellspring, He can began to bring forth that fruit of grace He has instilled in us through prayer.

It is the fruit of His Will being done upon earth whenever we are true to our truest selves and deepest longings.  After all, without such an inner teaching from God’s Holy Spirit, the OurFather is itself just a multiplication of words.  But our Lord has given it to us to be a Word that speaks his desire for us. Thus, He catches up our own deepest longing for Him and makes of it true prayer.

Written by Fr. Bonaventure, OCD
Comments (1)

God’s Time

Image by GK von Skoddeheimen from Pixabay

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance…
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.
Eccl. 3:4, 6-8

Time is not just a ticking off of uniform moments, one after another, each no different than the other.  Rather, time’s passage brings forth out of its varied moments the moment that has just now come to be—in which opportunities have grown ripe, or insights have crystallized, where calls to action have rallied forth and grabbed hold of our determination, or the surfacing of realistic hopes, or freakish, unimagined turns-of-events, or suddenly materialized positive circumstances—all of which seem exquisitely timed—have imposed themselves on our receptive hearts as nothing less than the workings of divine grace.  It is the moment, therefore, where choices emerge that must be made right now, for to delay another moment would be a failure of will to correspond with grace.

Time, in this sense, passes more like the notes of a melody than numbers on a timeline.  We must listen hard to hear the melody and stay in tune; but when we come to the last note, we have not the Endwe have the Song

For there is “a time to weep, and a time to laughter.”  You would think that most of us would have little trouble recognizing such moments when they come.  To weep when we feel like weeping, to laugh when we are glad.  But we know it’s not so easy as that.  We know how hard it is for us to learn how to weep, in a way that is natural and fitting, real and honest; and, by the same token, to learn how to laugh and rejoice when the heart is full and glad.  Moreover, there are moments ripe for weeping or for laughing even harder to recognize—namely, moments in which we are called to set our own selves aside and share in another’s joy or sorrow.  But how often we are out of joint with such moments when they present themselves to us.

And there is “a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast a way.”  Are there ever moments in life when it’s no longer proper or fitting to go on seeking, to persist in seeking—for aren’t we all always called to seek; aren’t we all always called to be seekers along life’s pilgrim way?  Of course, when precisely the one thing being asked of us is to stop, step aside, and acknowledge the fact that we have received, speaking in our hearts of what we have been given with words of gratitude and joy.

Thus, we repeatedly acknowledge that our lives themselves and the gifts that fill them as from God’s hand—and we simply accept that fact for what it is.  They are precious gifts because they hold within them God the Giver, and God asks us to stop and cherish, to keep his gifts from time to time, so that we might thus cherish the Giver.

Of course, later will come the moment to cast God’s gifts away, so to speak, to cast them behind us.  Or there will come the moment in which these gifts will be taken away from us, the moment of loss.  But when that time comes, it will be because God is only continuing to ask us to cherish the Giver in his gifts—only now by casting off his old gifts so as to seek new gifts from the Giver.

“A time to love, and a time to hate.”  I’m not sure what “a time to hate” might look like.  How do we recognize it when it arrives?  Maybe it looks like this—

We can know that a time to hate has arrived and grown ripe in our hearts when we also know—in our heart of hearts—that now, more than ever, at this very moment, it is the time to begin really, truly to love, the time when it is especially difficult to choose love over hate.

“A time to be silent, and a time to speak.”  Since God has made everything appropriate to its time, we are called by this timeliness, when it is necessary, to speak—in prayer or meditation or spiritual direction or prayer-journaling or personal reflection; for then we can better attend to, by our efforts to name them, those moments of light and grace, of blessing or crisis, which the Spirit has breathed into our lives.

Yet, since God has put the timeless into our hearts, there are also those moments in prayer, meditation, perhaps even in spiritual direction, journaling, reflection, when it is best to keep silence.  Or maybe it’s better put this way—there are moments when it is best to fall silent.

We strive to speak in prayer, for example, if only to speak the one word “Lord.”  And then, failing that, we fall silent.  And our silence itself names the moment.  It’s not the silence of one who has nothing to say; it’s the silence of one who knows that now is the time to keep silence.

Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD

See Older Posts...