A few years ago, I discovered Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit, a Discalced Carmelite nun who lived a faithful life as a member of the Mother of God Carmel in Pewaukee, Wisconsin.
That life-giving commitment is in itself worthy of our thanksgiving and praise. Yet Sister Miriam, born in 1905 as Jessica Powers, was also a prolific poet. Nearly 300 of her 400 poems have been published in periodicals and books, including America Magazine, the sign, and Commonweal.
This is the first of her poems that I fell in love with:
I am alone in the dark, and I am thinking
what darkness would be mine if I could see
the ruin I wrought in every place I wandered
and if I could not be
aware of One who follows after me.
Whom do I love, O God, when I love Thee?
The great Undoer who has torn apart
the walls I built against a human heart,
the Mender who has sewn together the hedges
through which I broke when I went seeking ill,
the Love who follows and forgives me still.
Fumbler and fool that I am, with things around me
and of fragile make like souls, how I am blessed
and to hear behind me footsteps of a Savior!
I sing to the east; I sing to the lighted west:
God is my repairer of fences, turning my paths into rest.
Isaiah 58:12 (Douay)
"Jessica Powers is an artist, painting in words the movements of the heart, the aspirations of the soul, the homelessness of a pilgrim people, the joys and sufferings of the mystic, the song and dance of those in love, the beauties of creation," noted Bishop Robert Morneau in the Introduction of “The Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers,” an anthology of her poetry which she approved five weeks before her death in 1988.
Sister Miriam's "Scotch-Irish ancestry, her many years of rural living, her love of St. John of the Cross, her desire to draw people into the presence of God,” wrote Bishop Morneau, “have all radically influenced her poetry and her life"--and that of her readers.
Jessica Powers, Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit, served God in the midst of her people--and the song she heard in her heart continues to bless us today.
For a Lover of Nature
Your Valley trails its beauty through your poems,
the kindly woods, the majestic river.
Earth is your god-or goddess, you declare,
mindful of what good time must one day give her
of all you have. Water and rocks and trees
hold primal words born out of genesis.
But love is older than these...
Go here to see the entire poem, "For a Lover of Nature."