IV. 2 THREE DIALOGUES I am Always in Your Midst
Mother Ursula (Superior, kneeling before an altar with a picture or statue of St. Angela Merici(66)):
As I’ve done so often, I come to you at night,
Oh faithful mother, to pour into your good heart
The heavy burden of cares.
In the noise of day I am less aware of them.
Then tasks press upon me, people come,
They call me here; they call me there.
Everyone wants advice and comfort and help from this one
The neediest of all, who from herself
Can do nothing at all, and only from God’s hand
Receives from moment to moment
What at that time she needs for them.
There is no time or space left for concerns about the future.
Then at night the still cell surrounds me
That is greatly loved and so often longed for earnestly.
Then out of the darkness there creeps something like a dark shadow
That whispers anxious questions to my ears:
The great host of daughters, richly gifted,
By long efforts appropriately equipped
To work gladly in the service of the Lord;
Full of burning desire to ignite
God’s light in young human souls,
As their holy vocation requires
What is to become of them if suddenly
All of this should end, and when our vineyard
Passes from our hands to others?
What will become of them, become of our young people?
What am I to do, tell me, when young souls come
Knocking for entrance eagerly and in high spirits
Because God’s call points them to his way?
May I consecrate their lives to an uncertain fate?
Saint Angela (speaks from the picture):
You could indeed give the answer yourself,
Have often enough, when others questioned you like this,
Led them to clarity and peace.
But I know well that one is wise for others
And for oneself as helpless as a child.
That’s why it’s right for you to come to mother,
And I will gladly help you bear your burden
You who bear the burdens of so many.
How good it feels to become a child again
And rest without cares in mother’s arms.
The gentle hand drives off the fever’s heat,
And every pain is lessened before the tender eyes.
Will you now advise me what to do?
I’ll listen calmly and obey, oh so gladly!
Let’s do it as in your schools:
There the teacher is quiet and the student speaks.
What do you think has made your mother great
And pleasing in the eyes of God?
What has evoked blessing on her work?
What an immense question for a little child!
Are not God’s thoughts about us actually
As high above us as the dome of heaven?
But I will risk the answer that occurs to me.
From tenderest youth, you have listened
To every stirring in the depths of your soul
That is only perceived in deepest silence.
And like a creature, that without turning
Goes sometimes forward, sometimes back, freely winged,
Even, according to the Spirit’s movement that drives it,
So you follow the call of the tender voice,
A willing instrument in the Lord’s hand.
I listened to his word of course,
That’s true. And it is also true
That I would gladly be his instrument.
But don’t you know that the day was already waning,
That I didn’t see the way clearly until evening?
Did I not lose much time by hesitating?
You put me to the test, but it seems to me
As though now I’ve found the proper guiding thread.
In unswerving faithfulness you waited
Patiently year by year; nor right nor left
Did you swerve from the path, although in the dark night
It always remained hidden from your sight.
Like that star that once led the wise men,
Above your head there shone the lofty goal
That early on had already won your young heart,
And then radiated in ever new clarity.
Hidden from the world, you persisted
Like our dear Lord, who for thirty years
In a narrow orbit spent his time
Doing lowly work according to human standards,
Instead of mighty deeds to earn great fame.
Even longer than he himself you remained in silence,
And in the silence God’s work ripened.
You’ve recognized it: that is what God likes
Patient waiting till the hour comes
That he determines; in the dark to wander
As the Spirit’s quiet movement leads us,
And unseen by human eyes,
To gather the flowers that bloom along the path.
The little buds daily given us at the hand of the Mother
Of the Son of God
He takes them to his heart: there they bloom
And never wither; their fragrance
Spreads sweet and strong with wonderful healing power,
Over all the world, closing wounds
That people’s “mighty deeds” produce in it.
This is the “little way” of great wisdom
That the flower of Carmel taught us.
Now I see that it is our way, too,
As it was yours for the longest time.
External action in a definite form,
To which we are accustomed, that we trust and love,
It is not reality, it can shatter
And maybe it is then that first the essence is revealed.
We will remain faithful at our posts
As long as it is pleasing to our Lord and God.
And our efforts will be as diligent
As if we never had to think about an end.
But if tomorrow or the next day
He takes our cherished work from our busy hands,
We will recognize that he can get along without us, too;
And willingly we follow where he leads
Be it to Egypt, be it to Nazareth.
Now where is the concern for your daughters?
Are you as sure that they too understand
The way that now is in your sight?
The young energies that want to get moving,
How are you going to steer them onto a new road?
You do not frighten me with this probing question.
To be sure, I cannot say in a single word
How I would help myself if I could;
But I think that if I carry in my heart
With very special love each soul
That God entrusts to me, as you command
And strongly suggest to every mother,
Then at the right moment the Spirit will
Show me what is needed for each one.
Of course, the Lord leads each on her own path,
And what we call “fate” is the artist’s doing,
The eternal Artist, who creates material for himself
And forms it into images in various ways:
By gentle finger strokes and also by chisel blows.
But he does not work on dead material;
His greatest creative joy in fact is
That under his hand the image stirs,
That life pours forth to meet him.
The life that he himself has placed in it
And that now answers him from within
To chisel blows or quiet finger stroke.
So we collaborate with God on his work of art.
But not just ourselves does he allow us thus to form
According to his suggestion: often a person does not hear
The soft voice that speaks within.
Perhaps she hears the soft beating of the wings
Of the dove, but does not understand where its flight
Is drawing her. Then someone else must come,
Gifted with a finer ear attuned and keener sight,
And disclose the meaning of the obscure words.
This is the guide’s wonderful gift,
The highest that, according to a sage’s word,
The Creator has given to the creation:
To be his fellow worker in the salvation of souls.
Then build God’s kingdom
According to the wonderful fluttering of his Spirit,
And be sure that nothing will be lacking.
The vineyard that demands your efforts,
Even if it be a different one than up to now,
A different one than you yourself had thought.
Then you have one more question to resolve
To which you sought an answer tonight:
May you bind still other human beings
To an uncertain fate?
How foolish now this doubt appears to me!
If God’s call sounds within a soul,
When he leads it to our house’s door
And to knock hard why should we not open
The door wide, our arms and our heart?
If he shows the way, then he also knows
That it is not a wrong track where people suddenly get lost;
No spurious way that ends in desert sands.
That step by step the road will be revealed,
I firmly believe. And in fact what is certain?
Where is “certain fate”? Yes, we see
And it’s good that we are so confronted
How around us structures are becoming ruins
That seemed to us to have been raised for eternity.
One thing alone is certain: that God is
And that his hand holds us in being.
Then even if around us the whole world falls to wrack and ruin,
We are not ruined if we hold ourselves to him.
Hold fast to this and so fortify those who are yours.
Morning is dawning, a new day is breaking.
I greet it as though reborn
With its young light. I thank you
For your attentive solace during this night.
Oh, how faithfully you fulfill the promise
That you once made at your departure
To remain forever in our midst
With Christ, our heavenly spouse!
Therefore even now I won’t say good-bye to you.
The voice may be silent that came to me
Tonight with a motherly tone.
Yet I know the mother is always at my side.
With her blessing, I go into the day.
Te Deum laudamus[We Praise Thee]
For December 7, 1940 [Feast of St Ambrose]
Ambrose (kneeling in his room before the opened Holy Scriptures):
Now the last one is gone. I thank you, O Lord,
For this quiet hour in the night.
You know how much I like to serve your flock;
I want to be a good shepherd to your lambs,
That’s why this door is open day and night,
And anyone can enter unannounced.
Oh, how much suffering and bitter need is brought in here
The burden becomes almost too great for this father’s heart.
But you, my God, you surely know our weakness
And at the right time remove the yoke from our shoulders.
You give me rest, and from this book,
The holy book, you speak to me
And pour new strength into my soul.
(He opens it, makes a great sign of the cross, and begins to read silently.)
Augustine (appears in the door and remains standing, hesitant):
He is alone I could go to him
And let him know the struggles of my heart.
But he is speaking with his God,
Seeking rest and refreshment in the Scriptures
After a long day’s work and care.
Oh no, I’ll not disturb him.
I’ll kneel down a little here;
Then I’ll surely take something of his peace with me.
Ambrose (looks up):
What was that? Didn’t I hear a rustling at the door?
(He gets up.)
Come closer, friend, you who come at night.
In the dark I cannot see who you are.
(He goes to the door with the lamp.)
Is it possible? Augustine? Peace be with you!
You dear, infrequent guest, please do come in.
(He takes him by the hand, leads him in, shows him a seat, and sits down facing him.)
Oh, how your goodness shames me, holy man!
I really have not earned such a welcome.
Don’t you remember how happily I greeted you
When you stood here before me for the first time?
You, the star of oratory
That stirred Carthage to amazement,
That did not even find its match in Rome,
I was happy to see
Within the confines of my Milan.
Oh, if you had only seen into my heart!
I wasn’t worthy to be seen by you.
I saw you often when I spoke to the people.
Your burning eye hung on my lips.
Your mouth overflowed with heavenly wisdom.
But I was not interested in wisdom.
I did not come for wisdom.
I only heard how you put together the words;
Only an orator’s magic power attracted me.
That, whatyou spoke Christ’s holy doctrine
I wasn’t eager to know, it seemed like vanity to me,
Already refuted by my teachers long ago.
But while I listened to the wordsalone,
I was drawn I hardly noticed it into the meaning.
word of Scripture oft repeated
Deeply affected me and gave me much to think about:
“The letter deadens,” you said, “The spirit gives life.”
When the Manichæans laughed over the Word of Christ,
Was not this because those fools
Only understood what they were reading literally,
While the spirit remained sealed to them?
But the Holy Spirit’s ray fell on you.
Thank him who freed you from error’s chains,
And thank her, too, who interceded for you.
O Augustine, thank God for your mother.
She is your angel before the eternal throne;
Her commerce is in heaven, and her petitions
Fall, like steady drops, heavily into the bowl
Yes, I surely know what would I have become without her?
Oh, how many hot tears did I cost her,
I, her unfaithful son, who really don’t deserve it!
Therefore, she now weeps sweet tears of joy,
And she is richly rewarded for all her suffering.
She already wept tears of joy when she perceived
That I had escaped the Manichæan net.
I was still deep in night, tormented by doubts.
But she assured me optimistically
That the day of peace was now no longer far away.
While still alive, she was to see me entirely safe.
The Lord himself probably gave her certainty.
Her firm faith did not mislead her.
But I still had a long way to go.
My teaching post had become unbearable for me.
The frivolous game of the orator’s art rankled me.
I sought truth, and I no longer desired to waste
The spirit of my youth in colorful pretense.
From Milan I fled into isolation.
My spirit brooded in unrest.
I waited here for you how much I wanted
With God’s help to guide you to the harbor!
Oh, how often I stood here on this threshold!
You did not see. There came crowds of people
Who sought help from the good shepherd.
I looked on for a little while and then silently went away.
At times I also came upon you alone, like today,
Immersed in the study of your beloved books.
Then I did not risk shortening your meager rest.
I knelt here a little near you
And discreetly slipped away. Today, too,
It would have happened thus if you had not discovered me.
Thank my angel who led my eye to you.
But tell me now what brought you here.
I already wrote you that God’s ray lit on me.
Before my eyes stood all the misery of my life.
It choked me, clamped my chest,
I could no longer breathe at home
And fled out into the open.
In the garden I sought a quiet place,
Fled into the presence of the faithful friend himself.
Finally, a stream of tears burst forth.
Then from a neighbor’s house there urged itself on me
A child’s voice singing clearly.
I heard the words, “Take and read.”
Again and again it rang in my ears
As children endlessly repeat.
But to me it comes from another world:
It is the call of the Lord! I leap up
And rush to Alypius who is still sitting and thinking.
The book lies beside him where I was reading it.
I open it. There stands for me the instruction;
I found it clear in the Apostle’s word:
“Give up feasting and carousing at last,
Arise from the bed of soft sensory lust.
Renounce all the contention of frivolous ambition.
Look instead at Jesus Christ, the Lord.”
Then the night receded, and day began
I took to the road in the presence of the Lord,
My friend Alypius hand in hand with me.
Thank God, who had mercy on you!
How wonderful are your ways, Lord!
I wrote to you and asked for your advice.
You recommended to me a good teacher.
In the prophecy of Isaiah I found
The servant of God, the lamb, that suffered for us.
And things grew brighter and brighter in my eyes.
We did not rush, yet let us now speak to you
In longing and in humility:
Lead us to the baptismal font and wash us clean.
Oh, bless you, my beloved son!
There is no one whom I have led with greater joy
To the holy bath that gives new life.
Come soon and bring me your faithful friend.
There is yet a third person whom we are leading to you:
Adeodatus, my beloved child.
No doubt a child of sin through my fault;
But now the child of grace through God’s goodness.
He is a youth, almost still a boy in years,
But with more wisdom than his father.
He brings the Lord an undefiled heart,
And it is pure hearts who see God.
So soon a thrice-blessed day will beam for us.
O Augustine, don’t look back into the dark anymore.
Before me now radiant lies your path.
The light that God ignited in your heart,
Will shine brightly into the farthest times,
The whole church will be filled with it.
And countless hearts will be inflamed
By the love consuming your great heart.
Oh look with me up to the throne
Of the thrice Holy One!
Don’t you hear the choir of holy spirits?
They sing their holy songs of praise
Full of thanks in inexpressibly great joy,
Because the lost son has found his way to the Father.
(Both stand listening; then Ambrose intones:)
Augustine (sings the second half-verse, then alternately together with the invisible choirs.)
Conversations at Night
Mother (at night in her cell, having fallen asleep while writing; awakens with a start):
The pen fell from my tired hand.
So much I still intended to do today.
Yet midnight is near and nature
Demands her due and won’t be pressured.
I’ll try to finish just this oneletter.
(Writes a little; her head again sinks onto the table two clangs of the bell she jumps up):
The turn(67)now in the middle of the night?
Now there’s a rapping at the door it’s opening. My Jesus, help!
A womanly form (enters, dressed like a pilgrim; speaks):
Peace be with you!
Oh, don’t be afraid! What’s approaching you at night
Is a supplicant who has no other weapons
Than raised hands.
Oh, so speak!
I’ll gladly do whatever you ask
If it’s within my power. The fear has vanished.
Your word is mild and your expression peaceful.
It seems to me to be coming from eternity,
And it arouses a longing for heaven in my heart.
So come and rest. You’ve surely traveled a long way.
(Points her to a seat.)
Thank you for your goodness. Yes, I have traveled far
From land to land and from door to door.
I am seeking lodgings.
Looking for lodgings? How the word touches me!
I am reminded of that pure one, the Immaculate,
Who once about this time also sought lodgings.
Oh tell me! Are you she herself, the Virgin Mother?
Stranger (raises her up):
I am not she but I know her very well,
And it is my joy to serve her.
I am of her people, her blood,
And once I risked my life for this people.
You recall her when you hear my name.
My life serves as a image of hers for you.
A riddle, unusually hard to understand
How am I to grasp it?
You are a woman whom we recognize as an “example”?
You staked your life for your people?
And you certainly had no weapon, either, then,
Except those hands raised in supplication?
So are you Esther, then, the queen?
That is what people called me. You know my fate.
As much as is in the holy books.
It always touched me: As a tender child
You lost your father and your mother.
The good uncle was father to me and mother.
But no he led me to the real Father,
The Father of all of us high in heaven.
My uncle’s heart burned hot with passion,
In holy ardor for God and for his people.
He raised me for them. So I grew up
Far from home and yet protected
As in the temple’s quiet sanctuary.
I read the holy Scriptures of these people,
Who were now enslaved in a strange land,
And fervently implored that a savior come to them.
Like our dear Lady, and also like her,
Suddenly an unforeseen fate befell you.
The king’s messengers traveled throughout the land
To look for the most beautiful bride for the king.
I was called to the palace before I knew it.
The eye of the Lord fell on the poor maidservant.
When I read of it in the Book of Books,
My heart became so heavy that it seemed to me
I saw your soul full of deep pain
And unshed tears.
It was hard indeed.
Yet it was God’s will, and I remained
The poor maidservant of the Lord at the king’s palace.
My faithful uncle followed after me.
He often came to the palace’s door and brought news
Of our people’s needs and danger.
So there came the day when I approached the king
To plead for rescue from the deadly enemy.
Life or death hung on his gaze.
I leaned on the shoulders of my maid.
But I was not alarmed before my husband’s wrath.
The eye that met mine was entirely friendly.
In full favor, he handed me the scepter.
Then my spirit was borne out of time and place.
High in the clouds there was another throne,
On which there sits the Lord of Lords, before whom pales
The earthly lord’s vain glory.
He himself, the Eternal, bowed down
And promised me the salvation of my people.
I sank down before the throne of the Highest as though dead.
I found myself again in the arms of my husband.
He addressed me lovingly and said that any wish
Whatever it might be he would grant to me.
This is how the highest Lord freed his people
Through Esther, his maidservant, from the hands of Haman.
And today another Haman
Has sworn to annihilate them in bitter hate.
Is this in fact why Esther has returned?
You’re the one who says so
Yes, I am traveling through the world
To plead for lodgings for the homeless,
The people so scattered and trampled
That still cannot die.
Don’t you die as other people die?
Were you carried off like Elijah
Who, as people say, also wanders as a pilgrim?
I died a human death, was buried
With royal pomp; but an angel accompanied
My soul, its guardian,
To the place of peace; it found its rest
in Abraham’s bosom with its ancestors.
In the bosom of Abraham like Lazarus?
Like all who faithfully have served the Lord
As their ancestors did. We waited there in peace,
Still far from the light, so always in longing.
But there came a day when, through all of creation,
There occurred a fissure. All the elements seemed
To be in revolt, night enveloped
The world at noon. But in the midst of the night
There stood, as if illumined by lightning, a barren mountain,
And on the mountain a cross on which someone hung
Bleeding from a thousand wounds; a thirst came over us
To drink ourselves well from this fountain of wounds.
The cross vanished into night, yet our night
Was suddenly penetrated by a new light,
Of which we had never had any idea: a sweet, blessed light.
It streamed from the wounds of that man
Who had just died on the cross; now he stood
In our midst. He himself was the light,
The eternal light, that we had longed for from of old,
The Father’s reflection and the salvation of the people.
He spread his arms wide and spoke
With a voice full of heavenly timbre:
Come to me all you who have faithfully served
The Father and lived in hope
Of the redeemer; see, he is with you,
He fetches you home to his Father’s kingdom.
What happened then, there are no words to describe.
All of us who had awaited blessedness,
We were now at our goal in the heart of Jesus.
That’s enough, or my heart will break
In longing for such great blessedness.
But no speak further, speak of the homeland!
Now in the mirror of eternal clarity, I saw
What happened after that on earth.
I saw the church grow out of my people,
A tenderly blooming sprig, saw that her heart was
The unblemished, pure, shoot of David.
I saw flowing down from Jesus’ heart
The fullness of grace into the Virgin’s heart.
From there it flows to the members as the stream of life.
And again there came a day when she the Blessed One
Was borne on high by a choir of angels
Up to the throne of the Almighty.
Her head was adorned with a crown of stars
And like the sun she was bathed in heavenly light.
But now I knew that I was bound to her
From eternity in accordance with God’s direction forever.
My life was only a beam of hers.
And you left this blessed light
To tread the paths of earth again?
That is her will, and mine as well.
The church had blossomed, but the masses
Of the people remained distant, far from the Lord
And his mother, enemies of the cross.
The people are in confusion and cannot find rest,
An object of disdain and scorn:
It will be thus until the final battle.
But before the cross appears again in heaven,
Even before Elijah comes to gather his own,
The good Shepherd goes silently through the lands.
Now and then he gathers from the depths of the abyss
A little lamb, shelters it at his heart.
And then others always follow him.
But there above at the throne of grace
The Mother ceaselessly pleads for her people.
She seeks souls to help her pray.
Then only when Israel has found the Lord,
Only then when he has received his own,
Will he come in manifest glory.
And we must pray for this second coming.
Like once the first I understand exactly.
You were the pathfinder for the first coming.
Now you are clearing the way to the kingdom of glory.
You came to me do I now understand the message?
The Queen of Carmel sent you.
Where else was she to find hearts prepared
If not in her quiet sanctuary?
Her people, which are yours: your Israel,
I’ll take it up into the lodgings of my heart.
Praying secretly and sacrificing secretly,
I’ll take it home to my Savior’s heart.
You have understood, and so I can depart.
I am sure the guest will not be forgotten
Who came to you at the hour of midnight.
We’ll meet again on the great day,
The day of manifest glory,
When above the head of the Queen of Carmel
The crown of stars will gleam brilliantly,
Because the twelve tribes will have found their Lord.
Copyright ICS Publications. used with permission