Category: poetry


The Meaning of Man

Michelangelo,_Creation_of_Adam_03

 

Love is bitter passion,

a crucifixion is love.

No benefice to man arrives without suffering.

Elixirs, useless should not the sweat of doctors fall into them.

Gold, dross should not the fire of a smith sear it.

Verses, naught without the poet’s tears.

Gardens, barren without the winter’s frost.

How is there a wedding without the bridegroom?

How is there a Mass without the Christ?

Oh, it is of blood and Christ that all love sings!

 

Let me sing of the bridegroom and the priest.

One wraps a bed of roses round his heart,

the other round his feet.

One requires an ass to bear his tokens of love,

the other rides an ass unto his love.

The young groom cries: “I shall be one with her!”

The acolyte says: “I shall be one with all!”

The sons of a groom are honor,

sons of a priest are woe

for the Good Lord deigned one to give life

that the other may sanctify it.

 

Adam was a sinner and so are his children.

The groom needs law and the priest, mercy.

Abraham was a patriarch and so, his children.

The groom’s seed yields flesh and the priest lends spirit.

David was king and so will be his children.

The bridegroom rules his house and the priest, his flock.

Zadok was a priest and so are his children.

The bridegroom offers his blood and the priest, his cross.

Isaiah was a prophet and so, his children.

Both bridegroom and priest foreswear vows.

Eve comforted the stricken Adam and so the wife, her husband.

Mary endured the crucified Christ and so the mother of a priest.

How the wife’s marriage-bed is veiled in purpled silk,

the holy altar swaddled in gold.

 

Hear the story of the pelican.

Who, in winter lost, suffers not her children to starve.

Whose breast is pierced that they may drink her blood,

her death-throes giving life.

 

The father is a warrior, bearing the standard of sacrifice.

He is the pelican with bleeding heart.

 

The husband bleeds in his heart,

the priest, from his hands,

The husband suffers old age,

the priest lost souls.

A marriage unconsummated mourns virginity,

the priest consummates and rejoices in virginity.

For Holy Church is a woman of women

while an earthly wife shall never satisfy.

 

The lyre sings sweetly for a lover.

Chant rings out while asleep.

The marriage bed must be left for toil and work,

whereas the altar bears testimony forever.

Death dissolves husband and wife

but the love of Christ for Church is eternal.

 

A husband bleeds in his heart,

the priest, from his hands.

The husband’s cup flows with wine,

it inflames his lust.

The priest’s chalice holds blood,

it destroys his self-will.

This is the way of man, why for God made him.

Unhappy is the man who lives for himself.

Gracious a man who gives his life in sacrifice.

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Sooner or later, every Catholic “goth” chick will pick up devotion to the Mother of Sorrows. Perfect right? While I wrote some poetry about Our Lady at Calvary, weeping over the crucified Christ, early on in my spiritual journey, it wasn’t until recently that a true devotion emerged. If you venture to read my earlier post “The Mother of a Priest” (June/17/2013), you will learn how a friend’s crisis urged me to cling closely to Our Lady, especially in her sufferings. Now, my love can do nothing but continue and grow for Our Lord’s dear mother as she stood by His side- even at the hour of His bloody execution. How tearful and resolute, she watched her priestly son offer sacrifice!

I am not a mother, nor have I ever been, so it wouldn’t be accurate to say I know the feeling of losing a child. Nor can I imagine the torment of it. However, I have seen things and people that I deeply loved be destroyed, get violently taken from me. I have seen close friends and family suffer. I know that feeling, watching, just wishing you could do something…anything- to take their pain away. I know well this powerlessness, this bleeding compassion, such grave heart-ache.  And if there isn’t some kind of suffering right before me, I can imagine it.

I can’t decide which was more agonizing for our Blessed Mother, seeing the cruel torments inflicted on her son or knowing He so passionately loved these tormentors. That same mankind who, blind to grace, lacking love for God and utterly ungrateful, actually took enjoyment at the victim’s suffering. “He has come to save you, to give you eternal life, to heal you, to deliver you from your demons,” she must have thought, “and here you spit and mock him!” Certainly she may have cried unto the crowd: “Yes, your hatred crushes me- yet even moreso His love!”

This was the High Priest of the New Covenant. Mary clad him in the fair vestments of human flesh. Her lullabies were hymns. She offered the first-fruits of her maternity: warmth and milk to His infancy. Patience and wisdom in tender childhood. Rightfully would a priest lament, should his sacred offering be torn from his hands and desecrated or his holy vessel cast upon the ground.  Would he not rend his garments at seeing the temple destroyed? How much more did Mary lament seeing the immaculate Lamb of God stripped, broken, abused and rejected! How sharply she mourned, seeing the precious temple, born from her womb, destroyed! That men crucified His Only Son was such blasphemy that God Almighty rent the skies in two, snuffed out the sun and draped Calvary in darkness.

Mary spent her whole life preparing that offering, dressing him in garments of virtue, perfuming him with goodly faithfulness. Yet surely, did she know?

Yes, she reckoned the words of Simeon: “This child is set for the fall, as a sign of contradiction and a sword your own heart shall pierce.” She knew it, expected the day, the hour when her dearest son would appear as Messiah- and subsequently fall to dismay. Yet nothing could prepare for the flowing blood, the wounds and tears more bitter than gall. Her pondering heart could not bear the sentence, the scourging, the crown of spines pressed down, the rough, wooden cross and the cold nails. Thus, like Abel, she surrendered her choicest lamb to the cruel altar. Here, commenced the world’s most heart-wrenching liturgy. When Jesus cried out “My God, why hast thou forsaken,” Mary remembered the angel’s greeting “The Lord is with thee.” When her precious son, at last, bowed His head and said “Consummatum est”, she raised her arms, having given everything, and answered: “Fiat.”

But the most beautiful thing about Mary’s sorrow was that it came with true victory. No temporary grief over some earthly loss, her tears conquered evil; they erased the sinful pride of Eve and consecrated womanhood forever. They also consecrated manhood- for at Calvary, Mary showed herself mother to all who would call themselves disciples of Christ. Given the good water of such perfect tears, the bloody cross became a tree of life. At this altar, John the Beloved, made the first act of ministerial priesthood. Taking Jesus’s dead, broken body from the gruesome wood, he laid it like a precious host in Mary’s hands.  There, she also showed herself the mother of all priests.

Words cannot describe what an epic mother Mary was. It is with good reason that Scripture describes in few words her espousal to God. Her betrothal sealed in tears and blood; she emerges as the joyful daughter of Zion, the desired beauty of ages. Christ wore a ring of thorns and she, the wedding-band of blackest sorrow. In a heavenly place no longer sorrowful, Mary still desires we recall and venerate her sorrow, offered alongside the Savior’s passion. The poor, virgin-girl from Nazareth has left us with a resounding declaration that all human weakness can be sanctified, united to His suffering. Her example gives strength to Christians everywhere.

By her great pain, Mary stood as advocate of those in pain, bringing forth her Son’s healing balm. By wretchedness, Mary became a refuge of sinners; ever-beseeching executioners lay down their wicked instruments and turn to God. She cleansed Calvary’s hill with tears, saying to the dust: “From this garden, man will be created again.”

A warrior in her feminine way, Mary Most-Sorrowful drew that sword from her own heart and handed it to Christ so He may at last slay the Serpent! How the black rosebud, bowing her head, bloomed forth the white lily! Weeping, did Mother Mary bury her most-precious wheat and rejoicing, she carried back the Easter sheave.

 

So heartily, I end:

Virgin Most-Sorrowful,

Remove from us the dark veil of sin

so we may greet your Son’s dawning light.

O Widow Un-widowed,

Keep vigil when we lack strength.

Mother of Mercy,

Hold your silver lamp against the night.

O Moon,

Shine upon our graves, guide in death’s grim hour

and hush the avenging angel.

Mother Most-Sorrowful,

Black Rose of Calvary,

pray for us.

Pentecost

pentecost11

 

We heard your voice,
O God, we heard your voice
when the heavens broke open.
-When the fiery tongues descended,
They fell like dew-drops,
They fell as dew from heaven.
-We sang,
O God, we sang with exaltation,
when your Paraclete arrived.
-Oh, our mouths were given speech!
-You untied the old confusion
of languages,
loosed our speech.

 

-Vox tua audivimus,
Deus, vox tua,
ubi ruperunt caelis.
-Linguas igneas ceciderunt
sicut ros,
sicut ros caeli
-Cecinimus
Deus, gaudio
ubi Paracleta venit.
-Ora data orationem.
Confusionam vetam
linguorum solvisti.
Vox nostra solvisti.

Better I say it late than never

We need to bring this back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Late at night, when I should be sleeping, I kept wondering “What does Mary think when looking upon the Eucharist?” and of course I had to write some kind of response to myself. Here is what I came up with:

 

“O Tender flesh that was from my womb formed,

O thou tender, bone of my bone borne.

How can I forget you?

 

Heart of my heart, only love lifted there.

As on the day of agony, outstretched

embracing humanity.

 

I remembered that loss, my loss, their gain.

I remember the child nursing at my breast,

the man who bore God’s Kingdom forth,

the Kind who died to grant re-birth.

 

O thou tenderest, I am cleaved to your side.

My Son, I am amazed,

Love Himself, your Godhead, you hide.”

 

-by Rachel Gohlman

My Testimony:

I have always been quite a counter-culturalist. Celebrating life off the beaten path, finding my own trends and rejecting the dominant, materialist, fame-obsessed lifestyle. This is the story of a nerdy goth girl who is Catholic…or how I managed to incorporate Catholic into being nerdy goth. Whatever way you want to see it.

I mustn’t get preachy; Lord knows I sin as much as the next person. Yet, I’ve noticed my generation’s preoccupation with money, popularity and gratuitous sexual acts. I never considered sex until I was in college, daring as it sounds, and had dated the guy for a year. After getting my heart smashed into pieces and meeting despair head-on, I experienced my wild phase. Physical satisfaction brought nothing but misery at the end. Regardless of how sexy or powerful I seemed, I was still alone.

I absolutely hated my life. Not that I didn’t already hate my life having lived a childhood with emotional and physical abuse, depression and many suicide attempts. Even now, things were not getting any better.  No matter which boyfriend I had, I still cried myself to sleep. It would be my scholarly interests that rescued me, well Something else in the form of scholarly interests….

In life, I desired to learn many languages. I failed at teaching myself Japanese, aced high-school Spanish then forgot it by lack of use, then vowed one winter in college to learn Latin- because it sounds cool. If one wants to hear Japanese, they head to Beni Hana, if it’s Spanish, drive to southwest Chicago, but to hear Latin, ye shall go to church!

My friend, Brad who was a devout Catholic, sometimes to my annoyance, and who I’d met during my senior year, took me to a Latin Mass. This is where encountering the past helps to realize the future. In a drafty cathedral unable to understand anything the minister said, I found God. He was there, hidden in …hoc est corpus meum and laid bare by those very words. I don’t mean to get weird, but it was amazing. My disdain for mainstream culture, unhappiness with hedonism and ancient longing finally found balance! And anyone who thinks goth and Catholic don’t mix ask yourself: Where does death find such beauty and light battle the darkness more than in the spilt blood of One Saving Victim?

I had always been open to supernatural experiences. I was one of those people who’d dabbled in witchcraft and could tell a house was haunted by standing outside of it. Church had never been an experience for me. I grew up going to this Evangelical church called Christian Hills in a wealthy part of town. No one there related to me and I had no friends not to mention a relationship with God was far from my mind. I had heard of a relationship with Jesus but believed myself unworthy of His love. Surely all the suffering I’d endured in life was a sigh He didn’t care for me?

I had only been to two Catholic services before the “awesome Latin Mass” in college. I thought it was kind of strange…all that ritualism and pomp. For some reason it took my love for a foreign language- or a certain supernatural openness to get it. Masses were boring until I had its meaning explained to me. Like always, I sought to understand…

I knew who Jesus was, I knew he died for our sins but I did not know He came down to be present in every Eucharist! I had no idea Catholic beliefs were different, that they believed they ate the real flesh and blood of Jesus Christ according to what He taught in John chapter 6. It didn’t disgust me, in fact it moved me in awe of His love.

When I saw that priest lift the wafer and say “hoc est corpus meum” I felt something special was going on. There was “shininess” to the air. That was the first time I felt…Him!

After leaving the mass I asked Brad if I could be “half Catholic” and it all was just beginning there.

Seeing as I was raised Evangelical Protestant, I knew well to ask Brad where various Catholic beliefs were in the Bible. He’d already shown me the place in John chapter 6 and parts of 1st Corinthians where the Bible described the Eucharist as Jesus’s real Body and Blood and it was a shocking thing for me:

What struck me the most is that Jesus not only loved us enough to die for each one of us but that he loves us enough to actually nourish us with his own flesh and blood.

When I found out that Jesus in the Bible actually says we are to eat his flesh and drink his blood and that Paul calls communion “a participation in the body and blood of Christ, I was overcome with awe and love for Jesus. I had to do something.

…but I wanted to know where the pope was, where all the love for Mary was… where was all the hierarchy… where everything was. It was as if I didn’t want to know any longer but as if I needed to know.

Late into the night, my Catholic friend and I would debate and talk as I pummeled him with questions. At the end of it all, blowing the dust from my Bible and beginning to closely read, I saw that Catholic beliefs were actually Bible based! Slowly, I would go over the Scriptures seeing that Jesus left us a church and left us what Catholics call the “deposit of faith”.  The Bible even mentioned bishops!

Not only was my knowledge of the Scripture affected but my prayer life. Previously, I only addressed God when I wanted something, to get out of trouble- now I was asking Him for things like “truth”. I would learn to pray all over again.

I am a sensible person, always been. Before I commit myself to anything, I investigate it. I needed knowledge and before I decided to attend any RCIA (Rite of Catholic Initiation for Adults- say it ten times fast) classes, I needed reassurance this was what God wanted me to do. I know you’re not supposed to but I asked Him for a sign. He gave me two:

One night, I had a dream about these people singing. They sang about something called “the black hat of the Holy Spirit.” That is strange to say the least. I told my Catholic friend (Brad) about this and he was insistent it had some deep meaning. Whatever… The next day, he asked me to go to the church and pray a rosary with him- this would be the third or fourth rosary I’ve ever said. I knew he liked company so I went. On the way back from the church, walking through an alley, we saw a black hat to the right of us. Not kidding. Brad cried out “The black hat of the Holy Spirit!” It was just too perfect to be a coincidence.

The next Sunday, I went to a night mass with him kind of hoping for a repeat of the godly feeling. During the opening hymn, watching the procession down the aisle, I suddenly wanted to cry. I had a feeling this was where I would finally be accepted, where I finally belonged. It was an overwhelming, heat and weepiness that came over me and I knew it wasn’t normal. Especially for someone like me who barely ever cried. So to RCIA I’d go.

The people there were very inviting (I supposed maybe-coverts got special treatment). I felt so discouraged though because they seemed to have their lives so together…while mine stayed in five hundred pieces. These people were sinners like me, they were struggling, maybe not as bad but still struggling. Some people are very unsure as to switch over religions. I was the type who jumped in remaining ever suspicious that someone would do something wrong…that God would break my heart.

Strange thing was, I couldn’t remain that way forever. It was the liturgical season of Lent and for some reason I loved it, going along, not eating meat on Fridays…acting like I was Catholic already. My logical conclusion is that nothing helps more than practice, I wanted to make sure I could handle this commitment and all that came with it.

For the first time in my life, it felt like I was doing something extra for God, not just honoring Him with my lips, but with my actions and sacrifice. Not that this was easy. Many times I wanted to tell Brad and the Catholics to leave me alone, not that they bothered me- I bothered me. I thought I’d be too selfish, too impious, too smutty to be a Catholic then reminded myself that a relationship with the Lord required work. That work I would have to do….but with the help of someone greater.

~~~
Easter, March 22nd was a night I will never forget. There I accepted Christ into my life. I chose as my patron Saint, Hildegard of Bingen, an abbess who lived in the 11th century when things were old and Medieval. She composed beautiful Latin hymns and was so outspoken to have words with a bishop when he was in error… My kind of lady.

I still remembered my first confession. I was nervous and had a list of sins over a page long, written in Latin to ensure my privacy. After getting it over with, I symbolically tore the paper into shreds and disposed of it. Then I stepped outside and felt sunshine on my face. The birds sang. I oddly felt so alive.

All had been leading to this moment when I approached the Bishop of Peoria who had a fatherly smile and looked kind of like Santa Claus, then was anointed into the Catholic Church. I swear people were purposely hugging me so they could smell the fragrant oil on my forehead. I must not forget Communion, receiving Christ as I never imagined before, present in that little wafer… humbling himself to be one with men…to know what being fully in submission to God meant.

It was epic, as if a long battle had been won, victory declared by the Risen Christ, alleluia!

Ad Majoren Gloriam Dei-

 

lux in tenebrae.

By:  Rachel Marie Gohlman

Easter.

Tall spires,

unshakable and made of grey stone.

Gilded blue and silver against the setting sun.

Gold and white,

the curtains of God’s palace.

His table made immaculate in order to invite the filthy.

Easter-tide alleluia,

lost amongst ecstasy.

Parting the darkness with long notes of the Gloria.

Colorless,

sanctified water and fragrant chrism.

They douse the head in order to give knowledge.

Knowledge,

O happy fault, which makes us saved- and me savable.

Faith, fidelity,

be one and the same. Unsurpassed by time.

Cloak my frail humanity in strength.

Divine light,

revelation of that, which is greater.

Drips and pours over my frame

Quo Vadis?

“My Lord, where do thou walk?”

says the steward of an ancient house.

“I walketh to the gates, where your destiny lay.”

Peered past lakes of youth and gainfully labor’d days, did the wizened disciple

see what plucked him up from peaceful labors there,

though willingly, he followed it.

The gaze of Almighty-God beckoned, he a sinner beset

and he ardently leapt like a shepherd’s lamb to trace

those footsteps of his Lord.

Upon roads cumbersome amidst stones and netted-thorns,

where spoken, the Lord’s name coaxed the very keys of heaven

to fall from their lofty vault.

Gold touched earth, soil renew’d where sprouted forth a Kingdom’s fruits.

Binding and loosing bestow’d upon weak men

and defiance borne toward ruling darkness.

“I shall follow you,”

said the disciple.

Verily did he pass dreary pathways;

raucous squabbling fellow-men,

past grand thoroughfares; sweats, toils and hatred.

Now a ram grown, he drove the flock,

fending away dogs and wolves who

compass’d about, paused shortly afore death.

Verily the threshold thereof, loomed mightily;

its imperial winds howling.

Saith again his Lord:

“Walketh I the gates and twice endure most-bitter passion for thy sake?”

No, twas deigned his courage show and walk him where his Lord should go.

Along the way, tree-necks bow’d, creation hailed:

“Ave! Shepherd who follows his Shepherd, prince trailing after his Prince.”

Verily, did skies still and woods shout praise:

“Salve! Vicar who heeds his General, slave towards his Master.”

And how men bound him,

enemies unknown by God, and took him hither he would not go.

How with mockery,

they grid and carry’d him in conceit

onto that gruesome bough.

There the disciple begged, his head not be exulted

but hung near the ground.

Then, was servant with Master upheld,

everlasting testament given

to goodness, mildness and truth.

In that place, God’s head crown’d to touch the crown of his head.

Bride and Bridegroom together wept and bled.