Before entering Carmel I worked at a tea shop that had monthly poetry slams. You can only imagine what sort of crowds of people a tea house can attract. I felt totally out of place-the Roman Catholic with a solid devotion to the Latin Mass, 100% conservative (proud supporter of President Trump) with an ambition to be a bride of Christ. Most customers were the “green people”, obsessed with climate change, yoga people and totally liberal. Not all, of course. You can love tea and be a Republican, but I became very aware of the trend of people who either worked with me or were the regulars. I bought a shirt purposely to wear to work that said: pro- God, pro- gun and pro-life. I also had my usual pair of Our Lady of Guadalupe socks. The only thing I wanted to be known for was my love for Mary, it was hard to stay quiet about that!
I loved this environment, though. The true battlefield, where I felt most at home were environments such as these. I would never preach, but I would answer questions when asked by employees or customers and did my best to show my faith to people through bringing Our Lady’s joy to this tea house. It was one of our monthly poetry nights and I had a shift. It was my first poetry slam that I ever had a shift at and one I ever participated in. This really was not my type of scene, since I was never much of a poetry fan. Providentially, the book I had just finished at the time was John of the Cross’ Dark Night of the Soul, where his entire poem is taken apart and he talks the reader through the meaning. I was never into poetry until John. His poetry set my soul on fire for love of God and the need to share his work with the whole world.
Can you see where I am going with this? I knew I just had to share his poems at poetry night! Employees could share, too; and I was determined. It was pretty crowded. I still remember seeing this hippie guy in his mid 20’s (incredibly friendly) walk in with his guitar and it was obvious he was on drugs. I’ll never forget his expression throughout the poem I read nor what he told me after. It was my turn and I chose a couple pieces of John’s poems. I read them off my phone, I must admit- I was completely unprepared, but I used my acting ability to look like I wasn’t. I prayed that if St. John really was my Carmelite Father, that he would speak through me and reach this crowd who I could tell, did not know God. I took a seat on the stool and adjusted the microphone. I told the audience that I was not going to tell them who it was by until the end of the poem. I wanted them to be completely open minded and then I would surprise them.
As I began reading the poem the room grew dead silent. Some of the works I chose, I myself never actually read and I was completely stunned. It was the most beautiful poetry I had ever recited. I read on and it felt at though St John took over the microphone and I could see the whole room fall into a sort of trance as the words touched their hearts and reached their ears. All of what I read contained one thing: love. The real definition of love. I knew right then and there, that THIS is the love that the whole world hungers for, not just Catholics! I glanced up from reading every once in a while and I could see how there was a mutual hunger for this type of love on the faces surrounding me. When I finished, the room broke out in applause after a moment of complete silence. I told them John’s story- how he was a Carmelite monk from the 1500’s who was locked away in a prison cell and just wrote endless poetry on love of God and how he found it in the solitude of a prison cell.
The hippie guy approached me the moment he had the chance and said that poetry was amazing. I knew John was present and even after all these years, he was still setting hearts on fire for love of God.