Convivium was a project of Cardus 2011‑2022, and is preserved here for archival purposes.
Special Collection: Reader PoetrySpecial Collection: Reader Poetry

Special Collection: Reader Poetry

Convivium recently asked for poets of faith to submit a reflection on the intersection of the divine in their city. Dive into the responses we received from readers!

12 minute read

We recently asked our readers the following questions: 

What is it about your city that makes your heart sing? 

Where do you encounter the sacred in the spaces you call home? 

Does your city teem with the sacred?

Is "every bush aflame" or just your bus stop?

These readers go in search for the intersection of the divine in their own urban context. Below are the responses we received!

Fr. Jeffrey D. Stephaniuk is a parish priest with the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon. He studied philosophy and theology at the University of St. Michael's College, University of Toronto, where he was introduced to the writings of Jacques Maritain. He then received his BEd at the University of Saskatchewan. He was the editor of Saskatchewan Choose Life News for several years. He also translates articles from Ukrainian into English, especially about the war in Ukraine. Fr. Jeffrey lives with his family in Wynyard, Saskatchewan.

Life in Wynyard
by Fr. Jeffrey D. Stephaniuk

What I owe to Wynyard
Where I was born
Is my chance at life
Outside the womb
And if anyone gets mad at me
Saying, “Go back to where
You came from”
I would have nowhere to go
One does not simply return
To pre-natal life
An impossibility
Like being forced back
Into non-existence
That’s not in the nature
Of our immortal soul

This is where I am from
A town named after a castle
A royal namesake overseas
Whose new owners send brochures
To our town council
“Come and visit” Wynyard Hall
So christened in Saskatchewan
By a railroad man’s wife
When Canadian Pacific chose this site
In its man-against-nature epic fight
Painfully harsh winters
Marshes and terrain not easy to tame
To build a functioning thoroughfare
East and West and South
And wealth development
A future for its inhabitants
Who quickly moved
The designation of this place
From hamlet to village to town
Very early in the twentieth century
The iron railroad
Cementing a prairie oasis

Which brings me to the cement
In the town sidewalks
And the year of construction
Scratched into the corner of many random slabs
1962: the year I was born here
Fewer than twenty years after
The end of the Second World War
Soldiers returned to civilian life
As military veterans
To build and develop
They had had enough
With all the destruction and ruin
I was born a son into just such a family
A child as a sign and a comfort
That dad was forging a protection
Against the memories of war
He always was a blacksmith
And a jack-of-all-trades
In more ways than one

I see this year marked everywhere
When I go for walks and runs
Behind my daughter as she rides
And weaves her bike around the block
Passing the courthouse and the church
And the Legion Hall
1959, the year my brother was born
1962, and again 1962
Much of contemporary Wynyard’s
Contours and geometry
Were shaped and etched into the earth
Over 50 years ago
An achievement then
A metaphor for vigilance now
Being in danger
Of crumbling back into dust
Through neglect and disrepair
In favour of new construction
A promise of a richer future
To the east around the hospital

A town that has become a new stability
For those retired from their farms
And those enticed by industry
At Big Quill Lake
And the chicken plant
Immigrant families from India and the Philippines
Who hear the CPR train horns in the middle of the night
For the first time
In a community
Heavy with a satisfying sleep
From work and family cares
Or fatigued by faults
Of one's own making
Burdens and debt
And oppressive government taxes
I likewise have been disturbed
From my restless rest
Sleep interrupted by trains
That punctuate the silence before dawn
Like the trumpet blast of an angel
Practicing for an audition
To be the trumpeter
At the Last Judgement

What I owe to Wynyard
A proverbial terminus
A location from which to begin
And a place to which to return
As to a proper end
Live up to the royal dignity
Of one's name
Just as I owe to my father
My resolve
That what he has initiated
Won’t be allowed to disintegrate
And what I owe to my mother
My gratitude
For my chance at life
And Life

Amber Cummings works full time at home raising four boys in beautiful Ladner, BC where the Fraser River meets the Georgia Strait. She enjoys writing, photography, hiking and consuming vast quantities of literature.

Canticle for ordinary time
by Amber Cummings

Wonders never cease-
this is what needs to be said
over and over to the desolate.
The murmuration of starlings
above a highway
the path of moonlight on water
the sweet unfolding of a woman
and a man in the night
the soughing of wind
in the deodar cedar
the human voice raised in song.

Night swimming in Howe Sound
like floating in a sea of stars,
where every stroke and kick
sparks blue fire.
The stillness of a heron
on his bank at daybreak
the sudden wet twisting
of a newborn’s body onto the bed
and first cry,
the soft red glow of the sanctuary lamp
patient beacon of a preposterous message-
that God hides in the most ordinary of substances
and waits and waits and waits for us.

Chiara Bertoglio (born in Turin) is a concert pianist, musicologist and theologian from Italy. She is particularly interested in the relationship between music and the Christian faith, about which she has written several books; the most recent of them, Reforming Music (De Gruyter, 2017) discusses the role of music in the sixteenth-century Reformations.

Poem by Chiara Bertoglio

By the great river, slowly
unfolding and embracing the town.
          Blessed be Thou, o Lord.

By the solemn basilicas, watchfully
surveying the thousand-eyed city.
          Blessed be Thou, o Lord.

By the softly-carpeted hills, by the swarming
roads, by the arrow-shaped Mole.
          Blessed be Thou, o Lord.

By the multicoloured crowd, painting the market
of Porta Palazzo with cries and shouts.
          Blessed be Thou, o Lord.

By the young Samaritans who serve the poor
and the disabled, seeing You in them, at the Cottolengo.
          Blessed be Thou, o Lord.

By the old widower who comes daily to your feast
and whose eyes fill suddenly with tears.
          Blessed be Thou, o Lord.

By the children who are so few nowadays, but
so precious and so little and so small and so smiling.
          Blessed be Thou, o Lord.

By the lonely priest, tired by the day and the days,
and yet faithful in your service, even in despair.
          Blessed be Thou, o Lord.

By the barren woman, whose cursed womb craves
to become a warm nest for a God-given child.
          Blessed be Thou, o Lord.

By the patients at Molinette, at San Giovanni, at Candiolo,
at the many hospitals of the city, who try and grasp your mantle.
          Blessed be Thou, o Lord.

Blessed be Thou, o Lord, for your ever-surprising presence
amid the daily cares and tiresome worries of our days, amid
our efforts to ignore you, amid our anguish that you may leave us.
Blessed be Thou, o Lord, who are found wandering
in the tree-framed, in the soul-searching streets
of Turin. 

Raymond Peringer was born of Austrian parents at high noon on Easter in the Extraordinary Holy Year of 1933 in Toronto as Raumund Puhringer. Baptized in St. Patrick's Catholic Church, raised at 328 George Street (demolished in 1991), and 161 Crescent Road. Raised my own family at 49 Parkhurst Blvd in Leaside -- all places of happy memory in the great city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Ode to Toronto
by Raymond Peringer

Dear earth of my city:
From you we draw our strength.
Land for which many have died,
But elsewhere.
Land where many have been born
And nourished.
Land which has welcomed many
Who prospered.
Land which inspires many
Who create.

Under your roofs we find shelter;
In your schools, growth;
In your libraries, ideas;
In your parks, recreation;
From your platforms, culture;
In your laws, protection;
In your streets, each other;
In your places of worship, ourselves;
In your cemeteries, final rest.

Environment impelled,
We renew our city each day:
Reverencing the past,
Enjoying the present,
Planning the future.
Like Ancient Athens's youth,
Let us pledge to make our city
Not only not less, but greater
Better and more beautiful
Than it was given to us.

Reg Harbeck is a Wycliffe Bible Translators missionaries’ kid who grew up in the Presbyterian church and felt called when finishing his Bachelor’s degree to live his identity as a “small ‘c’ catholic” by joining the Roman Catholic church as a fulfilment, not a rejection, of his Protestant Christian upbringing. Reg has written poetry most of his life (for example, see http://RegsRhymes.blogspot.ca) and always thought and prayed and discussed deeply about his faith journey. After three decades as a computer scientist, Reg is now taking a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Humanities degree at Trinity Western University with the aim of becoming more fully and credibly engaged in the discourse about bringing technology and humanity together, particularly through a deeper recognition of the essential meaning of “humanity”.

A Sign of Coming Together
by Reg Harbeck

O missionary zeal that went out to tell the world
Of God's redeeming goodness in the person of His son:
So heartfelt were the words as the message was unfurled,
More credible from many than if only shared by one.

So often we've bemoaned that so divided we became
As consequence of conflict and disparate emphases,
And yet, as still one body, we brought goodness all the same,
In person of our Lord who blessed these opportunities.

Now, generations later, as we walk the streets of town
We see the intersections of our catholicity
As bringing us together through our mother of renown:
May all denominations embrace her maternity!

Photo by Reg Harbeck

Leanna Cappiello is an artist, teacher and writer with a heart for story. It was during her Drama in Education & Community degree at the University of Windsor that she was acquainted with the power and depth of live theatre. Keeping the passion alive, she completed her B.Ed at Queen's and went on to study Theology at the Master's level at Regis College at the University of Toronto.

Leanna has worked in hospitals, theatres, classrooms and churches, all with the intention of reuniting the long-lost lovers of art and religion. Most recently, her involvement in the Magdala project brought her to Rome in 2016 to co-present an original case study on feminine theology. Her virtual fingerprints can be found on the Catholic Register, Busted Halo, CBC's Generation Why Magazine and Salt+Light Media, where she muses about faith as a Millennial in Canada.

Of Grit and Grace
by Leanna Cappiello

I have always known a duality inside me.
    Deep rooted but never known,
    Where was wholeness, holiness,
    When I felt somehow incomplete?

Born and bred among Caledon farmland—where wide open spaces, weeping willows and sweetgrass parks ruled my imagination. As a child, I would wake early to the sound of whispering fields. Gasping the seasonal air into my thirsty lungs, I’d wonder what it would be like to live in the backyard, watching the clouds turn into stars.

I spent my days warming the frost with the summer sun. I spent my nights by the bonfire out back with a happy puppy. I planted seeds and kept caterpillars. I ran through the acres with my eyes closed, just to feel the thrill of going nowhere fast.

Each branch, each stone, each insect and animal was precious and worthy of being examined. In a dreamlike state, I would walk to a nearby apple tree and sit there for hours, thinking, writing, reading, make-believing. I was building a rich inner life. It was a world where nature was King, and I was its Queen – always exploring, cultivating, enhancing, collecting, expanding.

I carried this whimsy and grace into my teens and early adulthood. I was rooted. This was home.

But it wasn’t all homey. Sometimes, boredom took over. It was isolating, threatening, maddening.

There grew an edge inside me that I could never name;
    A dark, sharp corner that seemed curious, dangerous,
    always looking for a place to put itself,
    never satisfied.

In this state of inner madness, I moved to Toronto alone. The stench of street meat, the hum of the crowds, the rugged partiers, the underground pubs, the concrete ramps and sky-high buildings – they ignited a dormant part of me. My thirst once quenched by fresh air was now quieted with coffee and beer. Oh, and the people I’d meet! I wanted to meet every stranger, know every story.

I took photos, attended concerts and ventured as far as my stream-of-consciousness would take me. I explored old buildings, stopped to enjoy street jazz, crossed every museum and gallery off my mental list. I ate foreign foods, learned greeting phrases from every language, and heard the best turns-of-phrases from poetry slams and comedy clubs.

My tiny bachelor apartment was only good for hat-hanging, so I was often out walking. I still craved expanse, just different now. Whenever I was restless—which was most of the time— I would meet an old friend or make a new one. I was still running, just different now: eyes wide open and focused straight ahead to the concrete jungle.

A grit was developing in me, my wings were expanding, and it felt like home.

But there was a part of it that felt tired. I got overworked. I was losing my care, becoming cynical.

Where was my desire for my graced life?
    Did I still crave the simple pleasures,
    The clouds and the stars,
    The fields and the frost,
    The acres of apple trees?

I’ve felt quiet and I’ve known chaos. And my biology seems to change when I’m in one home and then the next. Like the heart, it can have more than one place to live. And though naming the darkness was scary, it made me whole. I know God gets that. In fact, I think He made it that way.

I’ve been given a playground made up of trees and dirt, solitude and silence.
    I’ve been given a stomping ground with buildings and cafes, neighbours and noise.
    Both needed to ignite the fire, storm the castle and fight the dragons.
    I now know that wholeness can mean more than one.
    It can be embracing all things meant for you.
    For me: a divine duality,
    Of grit and grace.

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