Food For The Journey,
November 18, 2015
By Eileen Guerin

Like the Latin term for the Holy Eucharist received to accompany a human soul as it transits the route from life to afterlife – Viaticum – this small book of poems transported my soul….

Full of intimate yet universally-felt accounts of sorrow, mourning and gratefulness for the life and death of Blessed Pope John Paul II, Nine Days took me on a virtual journey with the author through the deep and bounteous riches of our Catholic heritage as the death and funeral of JPII was experienced. Various interconnected poems mine the depths of sorrow while proclaiming the perennial hope that rests in the Christian faith.

Musings upon time, as the author struggled to place her mind in Rome while living halfway around the world eight time zones’ away, and her focus on the reassuring beauty of creation abounding in her private garden, imbue the work with a unique voice which invokes the eternal aspect of time and the transcendence of natural law. There is simple beauty noted – impressions of red and white hues flow through the poems, as with the flowing cassocks and scarlet berettas of the procession of Cardinals in Rome, the tulips emerging in the distant garden, the simple and bold colors of the Polish flag, and the blood and water image of the Divine Mercy devotion. All is truth and goodness and beauty in the midst of a personal sorrow.

The catholicity of Catholicism is also in full flower in these poems, with references to the papal address “urbi et orbi,” “locutions,” the “sacred liturgy celebrated continually,” “oceans of mercy” and JPII’s first proclamation, “Do Not Fear.” It is a universal faith that is celebrated, but with rich Slavic overtones. The author’s sensitivity to the suffering Christ and this echo in JPII’s life and death imbue the poems with this sensibility. The frequent forays into Polish history and lore, the ode to humble Sister Sobodka, the Pope’s housekeeper, and the nod to Russian papal portraitist Natalia Tsarkova extend this feel in the work. The faith is familiar, yet in some ways strange to this Catholic reader whose roots lie in the Emerald Isle; we worship the same God but express our devotion in diverse voices.

I consumed this work with gratefulness and savored its insights and impressions. It is hoped that more writings from this author will be published in the future!