(A poem written shortly after moving in near Saint Mary’s Cathedral.)
The gas heater is hissing gently.
Whenever the temperature falls
it ignites and burns for a while.
The wind outside, too,
can be heard blowing through the vent.
Every hour the church bell rings,
echoing through the air.
The cars come in droves,
their engines rumbling
—I just barely hear them—
as parents drive to pick up
their children from the school.
Some children stay,
and I hear their happy voices
as they play on the playground.
Then these children also
go home to their families.
And it is quiet.
The heater continues to burn, softly.
It is nearing five o’clock
when I will fix myself a little supper.
Then I will continue working
on my image of Mary and her Child.
Perhaps I will write some too,
if thoughts come and the heart expands.
I remember: today is Friday.
Stations of the Cross begins at seven.
Cars will come then too,
the engines gently sounding.
Maybe I will go to pray there,
or maybe I will stay here alone.
Ah…but I am united,
even if they do not know,
yet, that I am here with them,
and even if they never,
in this life, understand.
Thank you, my God,
for leading me to this desert.
Here is the solitude, Lord,
that you have been gently preparing.
It is not what I expected,
but it is so beautiful.
I wanted so much, you know,
to disappear, to be hidden from all.
I thought I had to renounce all contact with the world,
dissociating myself, to be immersed in you,
in the mystery of your Crucified and Risen Son,
and, in him, to be united mysteriously to all.
And then, Father, you showed me
that it is not necessary to be cut off
in that particular way
to be so profoundly enfolded by the mystery.
But you brought the two strands together,
beautifully, in a way I could not have known:
the desire to be alone for you, my God,
and yet the desire to draw near to them,
my brothers and sisters, in love.
Yes, the path of each person is unique,
and even in a single vocation
the call for each is unrepeatable,
enclosed within your hands, beautiful,
a mystery that is yours alone,
yet given completely, in love, to us.
How beautiful, indeed, my God,
that never do you speak a general word,
but every time it is the only one:
your gift of love to your beloved child,
no other but this one.
I am so grateful to be living,
my loving Father, this hermit-life,
but you have taught me, more and more,
that before I am a hermit,
I am simply a child, no more, no less.
And this remains always true…
how joyful, how deeply joyful it is.
From this radiant perspective
which has grown in me through the years,
I glimpse the light of your own vision
which gazes upon your children,
touched to the heart by the beauty
which you have placed in them,
unrepeatable, unique, in every life,
in the inmost heart of every person.
What a romance this life is, my God,
between you and every person!
Here I am: a virgin, a solitary,
a poor and lowly man,
and yet I feel that I have
let go of a single woman,
have stepped away from so many
relationships and possibilities,
only to embrace the whole world
from within your loving Heart,
in the purity and passion
of that Divine Romance
which burns, eternally,
within your tender breast.