Apparently Irish poet John O’Donohue, well-known for his Celtic spiritually, was a good friend of some of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. In fact, he’d come to San Antonio, and elsewhere, at their request. I only learned about this recently.
It’s not surprising, I suppose, given that many of the Sisters came over from Ireland years ago. Some may even have been from County Clare where he was born.
Sr. Brigid, my spiritual companion and probably my biggest supporter in San Antonio, knew him well. She hails from County Kildaire, where O’Donohue spent his early years as a novitiate. At my farewell luncheon I listened to her and other friends tell amusing stories about John as if he were an endeared brother.
I sat there wondering, how could this be?
I mean, not only because I love John O’Donohue’s poetry. Although that’s certainly true. Ever since I came across his writing a couple of years after his death in 2008, I’ve claimed him as one of my favorite poets. From the first lines I read — and I can’t even recall which poem it was — my heart lifted. My imagination blossomed. My longing awakened.
But beyond being excited and delighted about the Sisters’ special friendship with O’Donohue came another realization.
Many months before I ever considered leaving my home in Virginia I would choose and reflect on selected poems taken from his wonderful collection called To Bless the Space Between Us. One of my favorites was, and continues to be, a blessing “For Longing.”
This poem resonated with something in me I couldn’t name. But I felt it in the depths of my heart and soul. O’Donohue put me in touch with my divine longing.
Musing over those lines of poetry created a restlessness that encouraged me to take risks. To seek something beyond the familiarity of home. To imagine the possibilities of truly following my heart.
Ironically, O’Donohue’s words brought me to Incarnate Word Missionaries. They connected me with the Sisters he held so dear. And in doing so, have enabled me to learn some of the most important lessons I needed on this journey. Lessons about trusting myself and trusting my inner being, which I know as God responding to my longing. And lessons about what it means to follow your heart when nothing about doing so seems to make any sense.
Once again I see the synchronicity of events. And I’m shown something much more — the connection between heaven and earth.
The most beautiful thing about us is our longing; this longing is spiritual and has great depth and wisdom.