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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Wanderings of an Ordinary Pilgrim

In Wanderings of an Ordinary Pilgrim by Tim Bete, who kindly sent me a copy to review, a collection of accessible poems takes us on a tour of the seeker’s life in Christ. As is common with many of us, the life-themes fall into one of four sections:

Departures such as “After the Fall” and “Where is My Heart?”
Journeys with “Wheels Down” and a “Bus Trip to Pope Francis”
Sojourns into “The Church” and the “Divine Office of the Shovel”
Returns of feeling “Orphaned” or looking “Over My Shoulder”

In the “Preface,” the poet says, “When I read poetry, I often wonder what inspired the poet to use a certain metaphor or phrase. At the end of this book, I’ve included notes that provide a few thoughts on some of the poems.”

The back matter also contains a few thoughts “About the Author,” who happens to be Poetry Editor for the Catholic Poetry Room on the Integrated Catholic Life website and, therefore, undoubtedly reads poems on all levels of spiritual and/or literary quality. In addition, the poet belongs to the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites, a family of men and women around the world who focus on “being” and, like Mary, pondering or contemplating thoughts of Jesus.

For instance, in “The Word”:

I read the Word
and the Word in my soul
called back – an echo
a heart beating;
and I knew the Word lived.

Besides the faith illustrated in these poems, readers will likely connect with the doubts and honesty expressed, for example, in this last quatrain of “The Overseer”:

Such an amiable God,
who willing watches the mundane
parts of my life – parts that sometimes
don’t interest even me.

Unexpected humor also arises, for example, in “Lost Things,” which opens with these words:

St. Anthony of Lisbon,
patron saint of lost things,
did not answer the prayer
to find my lost youth.

In case you’re not familiar with St. Anthony, who was born in Lisbon, Portugal, the poet included an explanation for “Lost Things” in the “Notes” section at the back of the book. Or, if you’re like me and had heard of St. Anthony as the patron of lost things but didn’t know why, the poet tells us:

“He has this title because a novice who left his community took with him St. Anthony’s Psalter (Book of Psalms). Anthony prayed for the return of the book and eventually the novice rejoined the Franciscan Order, bringing with him Anthony’s book.”

As one who often prays head-on, I’m drawn to this way of praying small for what’s little and lost to be returned and letting God bring largely more than anything asked or imagined.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2019, poet-writer, reviewer

Click to order Wanderings of an Ordinary Pilgrim, paperback edition.


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