Poetic risks and Priestly songs

Giotto Di Bondone’s “St Francis preaching to the birds.” wikipedia.org

A bit of a literary menagerie today, as I lacked the time to tidy up. First, some poetry.

“Poetry is what gets lost in translation.”
― Robert Frost

“Poetry might be defined as the clear expression of mixed feelings.”
― W.H. Auden

Another experiment in audio. Like last week’s it was done on the fly. It’s about 13 minutes long. For those who are more visual learners, I also include part of what I say in pdf (here). Listen here for the audio recitation:

Now, some St. Francis.

As today is also the overrun feast of St Francis of Assisi, in his honor I will also quote a few stanzas from his Canticle of Creatures. The first words of the first stanza, “Be praised,” are the first two words that open Pope Francis’ ecological justice encyclical, Laudato Si.

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praise be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon
and the stars, in heaven you formed them
clear and precious and beautiful.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene,
and every kind of weather through which
You give sustenance to Your creatures.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you light the night and he is beautiful
and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains us and governs us and who produces
varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Lastly, a few amateur pix I snapped over the last 3 weeks that were inspired by a new habit, inspired by Laudato Si, of praying St. Francis’ Canticle. It’s heightened my awareness of being a royal priest (1 Pet. 2:9) who, on behalf of the entire natural order (Rom. 8:19-21), is called to give ceaseless praise to the Creator of creation (Dan. 3:57-88). But I can’t do that well if I don’t open my five senses to take the world in so I can lift it up.


Muddy splash on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain


Sunrise on the eastbound of I-10 (disclaimer: taken by the passenger)


Cumulonimbus to the east (I ♥ cumulonimbi)


A neighbor’s snapdragons

10 comments on “Poetic risks and Priestly songs

  1. Téo van der Weele says:

    I love this man´s poetry…

    If you can´t get it from this page, go to the url



  2. Jennifer says:

    Dear Dr. Tom,
    Thank you for taking a poetic risk with us readers! Very moving. And the pictures… ahhhh breathing in deeply God’s beautiful creation. Those waves! Those skies. WOW. Thank you!

    St. Francis’ poem and the Prayer from the Fiery Furnace (which I always imagine he must have been thinking of when he composed this) always light my imagination on fire.

    Peace and joy!

  3. Melissa T says:

    Dr. Tom,
    Thank you for yielding to many of our requests to have a weekly audio reflection…it’s a lovely way, especially on Sundays, to center my heart and mind before the day begins and we are off to Mass! And thank you for ‘risking’ it and sharing the most beautiful poetry of yours for us to drink in and mull over; it’s a gift you are sharing with the rest of us and if you don’t risk it…you never know who you have the opportunity to reach! I found the poem, ‘Stripped Bare’ quite profound and contemplative, especially as the Eucharist, the Source and Summit of our faith and it’s Adoration, is a dear devotion of mine. A thousand ‘Thank Yous’!

  4. nos the cloud watcher says:

    When we were little my beautiful mom would nurture our imagination on car rides to see GODS handiwork as an artist . HIS canvas the sky HIS visuals the clouds. She would say oh look I see a horse in that cloud or a bird . her lead would have us all chiming in our interpretations of GODS handiwork… well dr. kneel in loving memory of my beautiful creative mom I share with all what I see in your GOD created sunset … look closely at the sunset and you’ll see a silhouette of a papa bear and a momma bear or in the speak of beloved St Francis — brother and sister bear. P.B.W.Y.A.A.

  5. jma says:

    Dr. Neal, I have been reading your blog for a while now and I just wanted to thank you! Although it may sound strange, you’ve opened up for me the reality of a deep prayer life in a married person. I’d never really encountered the depth of relationship in prayer that I personally desired to have in anyone I knew who was married – and so your example has really freed my heart! It’s so good to see in you that reality the Lord has been revealing to me, Anyway, thank you for your example and love! And thank you for sharing your poetry – the risk paid off 😉 I pray for you and your family.
    PS- You teach (quite well, I’d add) some of my best friends 🙂

    • jma, your gracious words are very encouraging and affirm I am communicating precisely what I hope I am: that lay men and women, regardless of their vocational state in life, career or life-circumstances are called into the depths of the spiritual life where they are. Your testimony here makes me more happy than you could imagine! And I am glad that I know, unknowingly, your friends. Thank you for writing. Many blessings, Dr. Neal

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