Discalced Carmelite Friars

Province of St. Therese

Poet and Contemplative

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“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

An Invocation

        Recently I gave the invocation at one of those fundraising banquets, you know the kind.  For what it's worth, here's what I said—with changes, making my words more generic and anonymous.  You can take for yourself from the prayer as much or as little as you want, probably more of the latter than the former.        Some years ago I
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What is Contemplation? -- a Recap

        There are, I think it safe to say, only a few out there in cyber-land who've been wondering what's become of this blog these past couple of months.  Maybe it's dried up under the summer sun and withered on the vine--or so a few of you might have been wondering.  Well, be that as it may, among the possible few who perhaps have been so wondering I
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An Intermezzo

For thus says the Lord,The creator of the heavens,    who is God,The designer and maker of the earth,    who established it;Not as an empty waste did he create it,    but designing it to be lived in:I am the Lord, and there I no other.        —Isa 45: 18        Jesus of Nazareth is God’s
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A First Serving (the poem The Dark Night)--Part Three

    In my previous post on the poem The Dark Night I recounted the simple story of a lovers tryst, told by the woman, which the poem narrates.  But, in doing so, I omitted one key stanza, the central one, which lies at the heart of the poem, namely, stanza 5.  It reads:Night that guided me,Night lovelier than the dawn,O Night that unitesThe lover and beloved,Beloved made one
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A First Serving (the poem The Dark Night)--Part Two

       How does one express in poetry the experience of divine love?  One can try to do so directly, by using direct statement, and writing explicitly religious verse.  St. John of the Cross adopts this approach, and accomplishes it masterfully, in his poem The Living Flame of Love.       But usually this approach—to capture
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A First Serving (the poem The Dark Night)--Part One

        I've been speaking in the opening three posts of this blog—which I've called, "Setting the Table"—about the act of creation, both divine and human.  But I’ve been doing so in much too abstract a way.  It's time to get specific and look at a particular instance of, in this case, poetic creation—a well-known instance, the poem
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Setting the Table—Part Three

        St. John of the Cross has little to say about poetry itself or the process of its composition.  What he does have to say is almost exclusively to be found in the prologue to his commentary on The Spiritual Canticle, where he discusses, briefly, the sources of his inspiration and the manner of his poetic expression.  For example, in the first paragraph
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