Gospel & Universe

Canticle to the Stars

This page contains two poems. The first uses the "Canticle of the Sun" by Saint Francis in a sort of agnostic prayer — directed at the mystery of the universe, and at the hopeful notion that this mystery is involved in the greater mystery of God. The second poem imagines God as the Maker of infinite worlds. 

Sorella Luna - Quadrant by Quadrant


Sorella Luna


Nessun Uomo è Degno di Menzionarti

No Man is Worthy to Mention You

(Saint Francis, "Canticle of the Sun")


I don't pray to a God that doesn't exist;

I pray to a God that I hope does exist.


Why would my doubt bother God?

Fundamentalists say it does

but they chart a course that reason can't follow

because it circumvents science and history.

Why would God deny the facts of nature or the course of time?

Laudato si, mi Signore, per frate Uento
et per aere et nubilo et sereno et onne tempo,
per lo quale, a le Tue creature dài sustentamento

Praised be to 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.

(Saint Francis, "Canticle of the Sun")

It may be necessary to apologize for a million things

but science, history, and nature aren't among them.

It may be necessary to apologize for blind faith 

but not faith itself

for faith is the other side of the coin

that the undecided toss

so many times

and it almost always turns up tails

and hooves

so many goats

and not so many lambs

so many questions and quandaries

and never a capitalized Answer.


I've resigned myself to the notion that I may never find

what other people are looking for

yet I also suspect that behind each of their prayers lies a question

and every question opens out into a realm of questions

large as this universe

and other universes yet to scan.


In our unending quest, religion gives us a pause

in which to explore a special form of charity, love, and sacrifice.

There's no arguing with that path.

But if along the Christian path one learns to limit God's love

to only that which one loves

or to only those who one understands

then one might pause again.

God isn't in the business of onlies.

One might think again of the cross and Saint Francis

and leave the judgments to God

or to his angels

or to the courts of this world.

One might help to make the laws more just,

to help make the world make sense

by helping others

not onto a limited path that few can follow

through the eye of a needle

but onto a path everyone can follow,

down the thoroughfares of democracy

civility, forgiveness, and humility

second chances and open institutions

to call Sister J a Brother

like Saint Francis did

Laudato si, mi Signore, per sor'Acqua,
la quale è multo utile et humile et pretiosa et casta.

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

to call Sister Moon a priest and a woman the pope

opening the door to the other half of the human race;

to stop guarding privilege in the name of tradition

and to recognize that some traditions belong

in the wastebasket of time.



Quadrant by Quadrant


The Atheist


God sat back in his easy chair and laughed

a jovial laugh

when he saw the atheist

with no reason beyond the firing of his neurons

and with no vision, save the seeing of his eyes

proclaim the infinite richness of the universe


Long Before and Long After


And he laughed when he heard the pundits puzzle

over the idea of eternity

and how in the heavens space could go on forever without end


He laughed so hard

that he put three more quadrants of infinity

(three quadrants packed with everything

including all the other quadrants)

next to the other 375 billion quadrants

that had been circling around the Norma Cluster 

long before consciousness sparked in the brain of homo habilus

and long after a last frail finger pressed the button of a machine

in a place they called "The Holy Land"


He could barely place the three quadrants down at the proper angles

because he was still in the aftershocks of laughter

turning over in his mind their perplexity

which had something to do with a father and a son

and what they called the afterlife


Next: 5. Almost Existential ❧ Poor, Bare, Forked

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