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

Reflections on Holy Week – Part 1 of 4

What happened to the body of Jesus after his crucifixion?  Where did it go?  It depends on what me mean by body, right?

By body are we referring to Jesus’ humanity, or, more specifically, to his mortality, his being subject to a finite existence as an isolated and vulnerable self, ultimately beholden to death?

Or, in a similar, but more theological vein, are we referring to his being incarnate—that is, the divine now embodied and comprising a specific and concrete presence among us as one of us, a member of our race or species?

Or are we referring rather precisely to Jesus’ historical presence—that is, his presence within human history, a presence revealed through his acting upon it, his affecting and changing it, even in some measure transforming it?  That is what we must mean when we call Jesus “savior.”  From within human history he propelled it irrevocably in a forward rush of recreative grace, the coming of the Father’s kingdom.

He did so, of course, by means of his active, embodied presence among us.  Thus, can we say that, by the word body, we are referring to Jesus’ life work, his mission, his cause?

Written by Fr. Bonaventure, OCD

Easter Sunday

The two departed for Emmaus late morning;
The heat of the day flopping itself down
In front of them like a hound dog.  Soon the crowds
Would swell and clog the road.
                    The day
Was overcast, our two pilgrims downcast—
He whom they called Master having become outcast.

It almost works with “grown” as well—the day
Was overgrown with dangling, grayish-gold pears,
Their skins pallid with age and sudden disbelief.

The heart of life’s hopefulness had begun to fail,
Pumping at only forty-five percent, as had happened
With my mother.  Then, that morning,
The blood in her veins turned a rusty brown.

Their Master had been outgrown—as in outstripped—
While trying to accomplish what was needed
When at last the hour arrived.  He himself
Had warned us against such a fatal miscalculation:

Seeing how the man was unable to complete his tower,
The onlookers laughed at him and said, “This one began
To build, but didn’t have the wherewithal to finish.”

He, too, had fallen and failed, monumentally,
And our two pilgrims were quite down-grown
About it.  Scarcity conquers all, à la gravity,
Or the simple fact that one can’t pass by unseen
While looking in another’s eyes.  Or maybe you can.


“Along the whole dusty road,” they told us later,
“He had hid himself to our left or right, just
Out of sight among the rocks and olive groves.
Or he’d approached from up ahead, past the rise

In the road, walking towards us with the sun

At his back.”  It’s a little unnerving when you
Think about it.
            My eyelids droop, and a thick
Black curtain falls as though in a darkened theater.
Boom, I snap alert.  Someone’s standing there

In front of me, leaning in like a summer day, the air
Around me buzzing with a now unimpeded embrace.
Then the chapel’s air-conditioning kicks in;
The room returns to its usual half-muffled giggling.

Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD

Holy Saturday

Swaddled in white air, the great ash tree sleeps fitfully.
Shadowless at noon I walk out among the roses and coriander,
A patch of geraniums nearby, all smiles.  Here one talks
About love poems, without the will to write one.
“Oh, I wish I could play the piano like a pro.  Clear and crisp
My interpretation of Prokofiev’s Toccata would be…”
So a voice in my head distractedly declares.

It’s Holy Saturday, and Jesus is in Hell—or Hades,
Sheol, the Pit; he’s paying the piper for us.  Underneath
The Underworld a booming cavern fills with water each spring.
No one can see it, but all can hear it sloshing about
Like milk in the stomach.  Jesus reaches down into the darkness
And, with cupped hands, draws up a drink, his lips
No longer cracked, his tongue no longer swollen and blistered.


In 1308 my ancestors were among those massacred
By Teutonic Knights.  Yet one relative survived, a boy of 13,
Who hid behind sacks of onions in a cellar.  Later
He would set sail on the Baltic Sea, returning to Gdansk
After a decade at sea, older, wiser, weathered, missing
His right eye.  He’d come to fetch himself a bride.

And so my ancestral line awoke, lifting trunk and branches
And silvery buds like so many successful franchises
Dotting the map.  Let a crystalline wave spout upward
As if it were a sperm whale breaking the surface, leaping
Into the light, and flooding the sky with its joie de vivre.

Written by Fr. Bonaventure, OCD

Good Friday

Veneration of the Holy Noose began at 3:45
And lasted a total of 20 seconds.  Only two
From a church full of worshippers stepped forward
To kiss the rope and genuflect before the slowly
Swaying, twisting corpse.  The rest stayed
In their pews, put off by the spectacle,
Unwilling to engage in the travesty.


Canyons roar in the wind.  Trees creak sadly.
Waves throw themselves at the warm sand,
Their bodies emitting an elongated swoosh.
Rocks no longer lie mute, not today,
Not ever; from deep within themselves
They join the chorus.
                At the head of it all
The Maestro opens his arms like a conductor
Summoning up the big finale—now he’s
Locked in place, stiff as a board, the last chord
Still raging.  Screech, scratch, scrape go the violas
Lost somewhere on the crowded stage.


If only I could mourn fully the utter degradation,
The unrelieved anguish, the everlasting
Crush-you-under-my-heel of the one I regarded
As right and worthy of being listened to
With the ears of the soul—a real challenge
For anyone, but somehow strangely satisfying
Even in failure.
            It seems we wanted none of it,
Though.  Like an old dog we put him down,
Till he lost his bark, and we could step over him.

Sunset shone in our faces.  But my eyes,
Thick with tears, couldn’t squint.  Light
Invaded the glass castle that appeared suddenly
Before me.  Blood red were the cannon blasts
That breached its walls.  Soon night tumbled
From the heavens—though not like a fallen angel;
That’s too severe.  Night, rather, brought sleep,
And sleep’s soft blanket.  I saw it all around me.

Written by Fr. Bonaventure, OCD
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