What manner of devotion does one build into one’s day? Is it quiet time in the morning, beginning with prayer, reading scripture, and reflecting on one’s spiritual formation? Conversion, after all, is a lifelong journey for everyone, the endeavour to become more Christ-like, to live more God-centred lives. Perhaps for some, listening to hymns helps structure that meditative space. Perhaps one’s thoughts require deliberate articulation, and what issues is a journal entry. Or one of the fascinating, singular poems we come upon here.
In her poem “If Love, Then Love”, Eileen R. Tabios writes: “Every word in action becomes beautiful in the light of its own meaning. // When I read, no one is after me. When I read, I am the one who is chasing, / chasing after God.” As it is written in James 4:8, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”
Anne Lee Tzu Pheng weaves lines about a “mender of holy figurines” contemplating the fine work of restoration. Each religious statue may provide the germane and symbolic for the moment—we see here Jesus, the Holy Infant of Prague, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Anthony and St. Francis. In her poem “For a Franciscan Brother”, Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda depicts a melancholic character, gifted with “a replica of St. Francis”, how he “raised the wooden carving / so high that light from a stained- / glass enlivened the deep-set eyes / that seemed to plead for obedience”. Opening with 1 Corinthians 15:55 as an epigraph, Kemlyn Bappe Tan contemplates the nature of grief: “what remains is choice: / to bury or to scatter? / what are your wishes?... // … death shatters my mind / emotions misaligned: why / do i laugh not cry?”
What Catholic devotions help one foster piety, these paraliturgical expressions of love and fidelity? Is it praying a novena or donning a scapular? Is it the Eucharistic adoration? Perhaps particular processions and pilgrimages pepper your memory. Some important Catholic devotions include the Way of the Cross, the Rosary, the Angelus, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
From Danton Remoto, we receive the poems “Song of the Virgin Mary”, “Song of Mary Magdalene” and “Saint Michael the Archangel Talks to the Virgin Mary”. In “The Ancient Church of Taal”, he opens with this tercet: “My faith is softer / Than the tongue of sand / Of this small island.”
Kimberly K. Williams has a poem on St. Anthony of Padua, and writes: “St. Anthony, / you are everywhere for me: / at home on my altar, in Kiev / underground, on a card / slipped into my wallet, or / helping me find my eye- / glasses in the grass in the side / yard, and in the / museum, inside / the plastic case at the end / of the hall, your hands / aloft, waiting to see / who enters.” In another poem titled “Grace”, Williams shares about maternal patience, and “the great / unease which leads to unwavering // devotion”. Down the page, one will run into Natalie Rae-Fern Koh’s “Devotional”, in which are penned the following lines: “A cry for wholeness sounds something like this: / when worship chafes against the throat; / when we lay prayers down like tiles / in a snaking and eternal mosaic; / when confessions flow out in the dark / Like a hymn: slow and honest.”
Indeed, as with confessions, Tina Kelley pens an epistolary poem “To God”, with lovely declarations of gratitude: “Thank you for the drawstring light of sunset. / Thank you for the tripartite, / folded-double iris center. / And for phosphenes, the glitter I see when I rub my eyes. / Also for the wave-edge trace dance of sandpiper.”
Decluttering our minds and hearts does help our devotional practice. So does decluttering our lived spaces, in an effort to shift a weakness for the material to our yearning for the divine. Heng Siok Tian offers us these confessional lines: “I own more of everything except / certainty and space; / I lose currency / with God. // From my deep dark web, / I flounder, / gasping, / The Lord is my shepherd, / I shall not want, / seeking my lost paradise / where five loaves and two fish suffice.”
In his book, Pope Francis’ Profound Personalism & Poverty, Rev. Robert E. Lauder makes noteworthy how Pope Francis reminds us of the importance of mercy, for Popes like St. John XXIII, Paul VI, St. John Paul II, eventually citing Pope Benedict on the “central role that mercy has in Divine Revelation”: “Mercy is in reality the core of the Gospel message: it is the name of God himself, the face with which he revealed himself in the Old Testament and fully in Jesus Christ, incarnation of Creative and Redemptive Love. The love of mercy also illuminates the face of the Church, and is manifested through the Sacraments, in particular that of Reconciliation, as well as in works of charity, both of community and individuals. Everything that the Church says and does shows that God has mercy for man.”