The BLOG: Voices

Poem: First Friday vigil

With Pope Francis’ recent visit to dangerous, drug-torn cities and villages in Mexico, Joan Pendergast revisits a poem she wrote when then-Pope John Paul II underwent a similar voyage.

Written by Joan Pendergast
March 4, 1983

There you are Lord, right before me,
We are face to face.
I came tonight to visit you
In your holy place.
You are present on the altar
Naked and alone,
You drew me to adore you
In a time of coming home.

It’s all night vigil worship time
A privilege that’s quite dear,
Priests carry you from your tabernacle
To your altar white and clear.
There are candles on each side of you
It’s quiet and peaceful here.
Each person comes to sit with you,
To listen and to hear.

I settle down, the hour is good.
It’s eleven-thirty tonight.
It’s just so good to be with you.
Everything seems so right.

It struck me first that there you are
A flat round piece of bread.
My savior, God, my friend indeed,
So small and yet so big.

You are vulnerable beyond belief
You’re waiting there for us,
To come and spend an hour with you
To share tonight . . . in grief.

I only know about this grief
From what went through my soul,
For each time when I looked at you
My heart was torn in two.

It just kept happening to me
My eyes would fill with tears.
The only thing that struck me
Was your vul-ner-a-bil-i-ty.

Then , Pope John Paul Two came to mind,
He’s visiting your people.
He said “I came to share your pain,”
To war-torn Central America.

I caught a glimpse of who You are
And who this great saint is.
I saw your vulnerability
As dependent upon friends.

John Paul Two is you down there
Your hands and feet on earth.
He’s there to bring the heart of God
Which always brings new birth.

Your loving presence in that man,
Is being fought against.
Today in Central America
There’s a clash between life and death.

He’s come to love each person
“because they’re human beings,”
To stir them to your goodness,
To your great way of seeing.
Showing that God’s plan for life
Is not in fear and killing.

Your seeing reflects the Father’s heart
His plan for life’s forgotten,
In the hatred, fear and violence
Which corrupt life – make it rotten.

John Paul Two’s in danger now
Because he dared to go
To heal the broken – hearted,
The oppressors want his head.

I thank you Lord that your word goes forth
In our free American press,
And I thank you for the microphones
That carry you thru crowd’s stress
Many hearts thru this brave man
Who’s dedicated to You,
Are being healed and strengthened –
They will make it through.

So Dear Lord, my Jesus
I close my time tonight,
With asking you a question:
How can I ease your plight?

I want to hug you tight
So this grief and pain will go.
But in my hugging clinging clutch,
You’re asking me to go.

You whisper in my heart
What you told your good friend Peter:
‘if you love me you will feed my sheep,’
We must go on to others.

I don’t feel any great relief
In hearing these bold words.
Because I want the pain to leave
And not feel it any more.

As long as people suffer
That pain won’t go away,
Because, if I’m in your heart Lord,
That’s where I’m called to be.

It’s only in my being there
That pain will go away.
I’m called to bring you into it.
To light the dark away.

I think of Your descent to Hell
When you were crucified,
You told the cruel dark forces there
That you had come to reign.

Some people choose to ignore John Paul
Some don’t listen to you
Why should I expect differently
If I’m in love with you?

I renounce the powers of darkness
And all the forces of hell.
That’s what John Paul Two’s about.
He’s confronting them just like you.

Yesterday while giving a speech,
He was shouted down two times.
He called for SILENCE – then he said;
“I love the Mosquito Indians.”

Be still and know that God is God
And He’s a God of love.
I’ll risk my life in war- torn strife,
Just to tell you that.

Take heart big world reduced to fear,
Your God is one who comes,
To meet you where it hurts the most,
With truth, love gentleness.

He fights the forces of destruction
With “be quiet” and “be still,”
‘I love my people” is what he says,
For all the world to know.

I can love you into life
If you’ll just listen to me.
But first we have to quiet things down,
So your hearts can contemplate.

During this intimate short block of time,
I let my sobs run wild.
I was glad when two new people arrived.
I wasn’t so alone.

They brought me reality of the Mystical Body
Where you live on this touraine.
We do need each other for full life in you.
There is no corner in truth.
You’ve spread it around in everyone’s heart,
Only You could suffer alone.
Because You are God.
But . . .one
So really you weren’t alone either – were You?
Neither are we,
Nor are those in Central America.

I know I carry the world within me
There’s lots to examine there,
Central America is a big battleground example
Of life lived everywhere.

When we’re all caught up and whirling about,
We need to be quiet and go apart,
To listen to that small whisper within,
That’s You my God, who’s free from sin.

You like war even less than we.
Protect the Pope and set us free.
Mary, please pray for each of us
That we’ll desire who we’re created to be.

I can see you now Jesus, embracing your people,
Loving your life into them.
Praying with them and consoling their hearts.
Especially the one’s who’d kill John.

John’s entrance there brings the life of Your Spirit,
He’s a herald like his forbear the Baptist.
You love through your people who usher you in,
By the every-day, ordinary humanity of men.

Jesus, even if Juan Pablo Dos dies,
And I plead don’t let it happen,
You’re there in a new and wonderful way.
You multiplied loaves and fish one day.

John’s visit has quickened the life of Your Spirit
In the souls of men, women and children,
They’re richer than ever because he went there.
That’s your victory over death isn’t it?

You’re a wonderful God
And I love you so,
I’m glad You’re bigger than me.
Of course I’ll do whatever I can.
The main thing is letting You be . . . God.

I love You Lord with my whole heart.
At least right now I do.
I want to console this terrible pain . . .
My call is to CHERISH YOU!