1. Vincent de Paul’s
On a Sunday in 1622,
on a royal barge on the Seine,
Vincent is chaplain to the galleys
and can promenade in the sun with the wealthy ladies
in their golden brocaded gowns.
This day he is below decks with the galley-slaves
when one exhausted oarsman expires.
The huge oar is coming down and will crush three men.
No time to think, Vincent pushes the man aside,
seizes the oar and the seat of a slave.
2. Dorothy Day’s
On a Wednesday in April 1906,
when Dorothy was only eight,
the San Andreas broke the earth.
She woke to see fire everywhere
and buildings swaying like trees.
In her journal she recalled sad people
coming over in boats from Oakland
to the shore of San Francisco Bay,
being received with blankets and mercy.
She was struck that grown-ups could care for strangers,
and so, she grew up to do that.
3. Thomas Merton’s
On a Tuesday in March 1958,
a monk goes to a doctor’s appointment
in Louisville, Kentucky.
At the corner of Fourth and Walnut
he is waiting for the lights
when, suddenly shaken,
he sees all of us
shining like suns,
shimmering with divine radiance.
Shuddering in incarnate joy,
he delights and laughs,
grateful to see our secret beauty.
But how can he tell us?