Category Archives: poems

Healing Prayer for Sexual Abuse

I wrote this several years ago as part of a healing prayer service for sexual abuse.   Besides being a wound from my own childhood,  I believe speaking out openly and honestly about it has allowed me to help others and to heal.

The larger prayer service was published in a now defunct liturgy magazine, and won an award from the American and Canadian Catholic Press Association.

PDF FORM Healing Prayer Service for Abuse CELEBRATE March April 2007

Excerpts from Psalm  55      


Give ear to my prayer, O God; do not hide yourself from my supplication. Attend to me, and answer me; I am troubled in my complaint.

There are many reasons why abuse may remain hidden.  An abuser may manipulate, bribe, coerce or threaten a child to prevent them from telling anyone about the abuse. Depending on their age and stage of development, a child may not be able to communicate what has happened to them, or they may fear they will not be believed. They may be convinced that the abuse is their fault and, if they tell anyone about it, they will be punished. They may fear that they or the abuser will be removed from the home, or suffer other consequences. They may feel ashamed and want to keep the abuse (and related family problems) secret to avoid being stigmatized or have their sexual identity questioned.[i]

My heart is in anguish within me, the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.

 It may sound strange, but people sometimes have trouble recognizing that they are being abused. For example, Sometimes people have been abused but don’t think of it that way. Recognizing abuse may be especially difficult for someone who has lived with it for many years. A person might think that it’s just the way things are and that there’s nothing that can be done about it. People who are abused might mistakenly think they bring it on themselves by misbehaving or by not living up to someone’s expectations.[ii]

And I say, ‘O that I had wings like a dove!

I would fly away and be at rest; truly, I would flee far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; I would hurry to find a shelter for myself from the raging wind and tempest.’

One study on women’s abuse related: “Family friends and acquaintances compose the largest group of perpetrators (28 percent), followed by such relatives as uncles and cousins (18 percent), stepfathers (12 percent), male siblings (10 percent), biological fathers (10 percent), boyfriends of the child’s mother (9 percent), grandfathers and stepgrandfathers (7 percent), and strangers (4 percent).”  The researcher was struck by the fact that 10 percent were biological fathers and only 4 percent were strangers.  “Which means,” he said, “86 percent of the perpetrators were known to the family, but were someone other than the child’s father.” [iii]

It is not enemies who taunt me— I could bear that; it is not adversaries who deal insolently with me— I could hide from them.

“Like in the general population, child sex abuse in the Catholic Church appears to be committed by men close to the children they allegedly abuse, many appear to use grooming tactics to entice children into complying with the abuse, and the abuse occurs in the home of the alleged abuser or victim,”[iv]

 But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend, with whom I kept pleasant company; we walked in the house of God with the throng.

 about the same incidence of abuse occurs among all the socio-economic classes.  “about 85 percent of the offenders [of child sexual abuse] are family members, babysitters, neighbors, family friends or relatives.  About one in six child molesters are other children.”[v]

But I call upon God, and the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he will hear my voice.

Sexual abuse is especially complicated because of the power differential between the adult and child, because of the negotiations that must occur between adult and child, and because the child has no way to assimilate the experience into a mature understanding of intimacy. Regardless of the child’s behavior or reactions, it is the responsibility of the adult not to engage in sexual acts with children. Sexual abuse is never the child’s fault.

Sexual abusers can be:

parents, siblings, or other relatives, childcare professionals

clergy, teachers, or athletic coaches,   neighbors or friends   strangers [vi]

He will redeem me unharmed  from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me. God, who is enthroned from of old,  will hear, and will humble them— because they do not change, and do not fear God.

Girls and boys are affected differently by abuse. Compared to boys, girls are more likely to internalize their response to violence, and experience, for example, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, low self-esteem and psychological disorders. Boys are more likely to externalize their response to violence, displaying, for example, increased aggression, delinquency and spousal abuse.[vii]

My companion laid hands on a friend and violated a covenant with me with speech smoother than butter, but with a heart set on war; with words that were softer than oil, but in fact were drawn swords.

We are all born innocent. Due to sexual abuse or subsequent sexual behavior, you may erroneously believe that you are bad, damaged goods, an object for someone else’s use. Let the past be past, and give yourself a healthy start. You are not strapped to the negative labels an offender may have called you or to the way you saw yourself as a result of the abuse. Now you have choice and can assert your true self with others. Old labels will disappear as you stop believing them and stop acting in ways that reinforce them.[viii]

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

[i]  Child Abuse Factsheet: Department of Justice Canada

[ii] Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh

[iii]   Sexual Abuse In Social Context: Catholic Clergy and Other Abusers  citing works of  (Wade F. Horn, “Common-sense article about abuse,” Washington Times, February 6, 2001, p. E1.)

[iv] American Catholic  article on Clergy Sex Abuse, Citing the John Jay Report (

[v]  Sexual Abuse In Social Context: Catholic Clergy and Other Abusers  citing works of  (Dr. Garth A. Rattray,  “Child Month and Paedophilia,” The Gleaner, May 14, 2002.)

[vi]  Help Guide  Child Abuse

[vii]  Child Abuse Factsheet: Department of Justice Canada

[viii]  Sexual Healing  by Wendy Maltz

This compilation of Psalm 55 and facts ©2006 Jill Maria Murdy. It may be used freely as a means of helping others heal.  It is a portion of a larger prayer service that was originally held at Saint Frances Cabrini Parish, West Bend, WI. 53095.



You Are Dust

Yesterday I played for three Ash Wednesday Services. Sometimes when you are so very close to the liturgy, you can get caught in the mechanics and logistics of making sure everything is set out correct and you didn’t forget anything; hoping the cantor gets it, having to pitch in for the sacristan who couldn’t make it, hoping the adjustment the sound crew made on the mics was correct, wondering why the numbers of people are different than last year, thinking about how much there is to do between Lent and Easter…. ya da yad…..

I have to say I was blessed with two moments of grace yesterday. During the evening liturgy, during the distribution of ashes, there was a minister very near the piano. We were doing Rory Cooney ‘s “Hold Us in Your Mercy: Penitential Litany” which is so perfect for that time. But instead of just hearing the two part call /response between the cantor/congregation, I heard it as a four part canon, as I could continually hear the woman distributing ashes saying “Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return” and the “Amens.” It was such a rich cacophony of sound…… and a full blessing. Sometimes, hearing the minister can be distracting while playing, but this time I was able to fully enter into it.

Then when I got home from my long day, a young parent contacted me. Her son was so very excited that we had done one of my songs that day, and told his mom “Did you know Jill Maria Murdy WROTE it?” It was just such a sweet and gentle moment….and it revived my drooping spirits.

Winter Blasts

Winter blasts, earth cold and dormant,

Seeds lie planted deep within

Slowly life begins her myst’ry

Healing stillness, cleansing sin

Teach us how to wait in patience,

Trusting in your constant love,

We like wheat, once sown in darkness

Bursting through to light above.


Fearful still, we find resistance,

Stubbornly we won’t let go

Holding burdens ever closely,

Doubting we can ever grow

Coax us gently, draw us nearer

That we may be born again

Finding joy, eternal richness

Rising from the single grain.


Ecclesiastes and the Lion King





Perhaps it sounds like a joke to start out a post with “What do sacred scripture and “The Lion King”have in common?”  but there really is an answer, and  a good reason for this post.  Well, at least I’d like to think so.   You could some it up by saying  “Turn, turn, turn”  or   “The Circle of Life.”

Let me explain further.

Many of us don’t know a lot of scripture.   But many others don’t know the scripture that they  DO know.  For example, if I said, “Can you quote me the third chapter of Ecclesiastes?”  you will probably respond “Can I whoee the whatza?”   or  “Sorry, I have no clue.” But if I flip on the 1965 hit “Turn, Turn, Turn” by the Byrds, chances are you will be able to sing it almost word for word.

This text is taken almost word for word from scriptures.     Here is the citation from the New American Bible.

There is an appointed time for everything,

and a time for every affair under the heavens.

A time to give birth, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.

A time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to tear down, and a time to build.

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;

a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.

A time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away.

A time to rend, and a time to sew;

a time to be silent, and a time to speak.

A time to love, and a time to hate;

a time of war, and a time of peace.


Because of the association with the song, many pastors shy away from it, and yet, this is a very universal scripture. It fits most of life’s situations one way or another, yet remains very personal, and helps one gain a healthy perspective on much of life.   I have seen it used at times of great joy, or people cling to it at times of sorrow.     For many it is a passage of strength.

I loved the movie version of  “the Lion King” to be sure, and was known to sing “Hakuna Mattata” etc.  In fact, back in the monastery, one of the Sisters lovingly called me “Pumba” But one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had in my life was the opening scene to the Broadway version of the Lion King.    I am sure that I was so moved, so happy, that I could have left at that point without even seeing the rest of the show.    The music and symbolism and everything converged in an extremely powerful manner.


Here are the lyrics   (Melody Elton John – Lyrics  Tim Rice)

From the day we arrive on the planet

And blinking, step into the sun

There’s more to see than can ever be seen

More to do than can ever be done


 There’s far too much to take in here

More to find than can ever be found

But the sun rolling high

Through the sapphire sky

Keeps great and small on the endless round


It’s the Circle of Life

And it moves us all

Through despair and hope

Through faith and love

Till we find our place

On the path unwinding

In the Circle

The Circle of Life


It’s the Circle of Life

And it moves us all

Through despair and hope

Through faith and love

Till we find our place

On the path unwinding

In the Circle

The Circle of Life


I know that in comparing and contrasting these two I’m not in original territory, as others have remarked on the similarities.    However what I AM aware of is just how much I’ve been experiencing that circle, that turning in my own life, and in the lives of those who are around me.

Within one twenty four hour period this week, I saw or heard about the following:

Experienced the much anticipated meeting of a friend’s young grandchild

Prayed for two people began radiation or chemotherapy for cancer

Heard a beautiful young woman began a new ministry as cantor

Watched a woman found the inner strength and self worth to leave an abusive relationship

Sobbed when the nineteen year old son of someone I went to college with was killed in a farm accident

Rejoiced as a cousin gave birth to beautiful twins

I was just struck yet again by how many events go on around us all the time, and how rapidly life moves and changes.  The circle goes awfully fast sometimes and once more, it is bigger than me and beyond my understanding.   It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes by T.S. Elliot “We had the experience but missed the meaning. ”      Don’t miss the meanings of the moments in your life.   Sometimes we have to live, and just figure it out all later along the way.




The passage is taken from Eliot’s  “The Four Quartets”    #3  “The Dry Salvages”

I’m adding it to the post for your perusal.


I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river

Is a strong brown god – sullen, untamed and intractable,

Patient to some degree, at first recognized as a frontier;

Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyer of commerce;

Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.

The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten

By the dwellers in cities – ever, however, implacable,

Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder

Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, unpropitiated

By worshippers of the machine, but waiting, watching and waiting.

His rhythm was present in the nursery bedroom,

In the rank ailanthus of the April dooryard,

In the smell of grapes on the autumn table,

And the evening circle in the winter gaslight.


The river is within us, the sea is all about us;

The sea is the land’s edge also, the granite

Into which it reaches, the beaches where it tosses

Its hints of earlier and other creation:

The starfish, the horseshoe crab, the whale’s backbone;

The pools where it offers to our curiosity

The more delicate algae and the sea anemone.

It tosses up our losses, the torn seine,

The shattered lobsterpot, the broken oar

And the gear of foreign dead men. The sea has many voices,

Many gods and many voices.

The salt is on the briar rose,

The fog is in the fir trees.

The sea howl

And the sea yelp, are different voices

Often together heard: the whine in the rigging,

The menace and caress of wave that breaks on water,

The distant rote in the granite teeth,

And the wailing warning from the approaching headland

Are all sea voices, and the heaving groaner

Rounded homewards, and the seagull:

And under the oppression of the silent fog

The tolling bell

Measures time not our time, rung by the unhurried

Ground swell, a time

Older than the time of chronometers, older

Than time counted by anxious worried women

Lying awake, calculating the future,

Trying to unweave, unwind, unravel

And piece together the past and the future,

Between midnight and dawn, when the past is all deception,

The future futureless, before the morning watch

When time stops and time is never ending;

And the ground swell, that is and was from the beginning,


The bell.





Where is there an end to it, the soundless wailing,

The silent withering of autumn flowers

Dropping their petals and remaining motionless;

Where is there an end to the drifting wreckage,

The prayer of the bone on the beach, the unprayable

Prayer at the calamitous annunciation?


There is no end, but addition: the trailing

Consequence of further days and hours,

While emotion takes to itself the emotionless

Years of living among the breakage

Of what was believed in as the most reliable –

And therefore the fittest for renunciation.


There is the final addition, the failing

Pride or resentment at failing powers,

The unattached devotion which might pass for devotionless,

In a drifting boat with a slow leakage,

The silent listening to the undeniable

Clamour of the bell of the last annunciation.


Where is the end of them, the fishermen sailing

Into the wind’s tail, where the fog cowers?

We cannot think of a time that is oceanless

Or of an ocean not littered with wastage

Or of a future that is not liable

Like the past, to have no destination.


We have to think of them as forever bailing,

Setting and hauling, while the North East lowers

Over shallow banks unchanging and erosionless

Or drawing their money, drying sails at dockage;

Not as making a trip that will be unpayable

For a haul that will not bear examination.


There is no end of it, the voiceless wailing,

No end to the withering of withered flowers,

To the movement of pain that is painless and motionless,

To the drift of the sea and the drifting wreckage,

The bone’s prayer to Death its God. Only the hardly, barely prayable

Prayer of the one Annunciation.


It seems, as one becomes older,

That the past has another pattern, and ceases to be a mere sequence –

Or even development: the latter a partial fallacy

Encouraged by superficial notions of evolution,

Which becomes, in the popular mind, a means of disowning the past.

The moments of happiness – not the sense of well-being,

Fruition, fulfilment, security or affection,

Or even a very good dinner, but the sudden illumination –

We had the experience but missed the meaning,   (Emphasis Mine  JMM)

And approach to the meaning restores the experience

In a different form, beyond any meaning

We can assign to happiness. I have said before

That the past experience revived in the meaning

Is not the experience of one life only

But of many generations – not forgetting

Something that is probably quite ineffable:

The backward look behind the assurance

Of recorded history, the backward half-look

Over the shoulder, towards the primitive terror.

Now, we come to discover that the moments of agony

(Whether, or not, due to misunderstanding,

Having hopes for the wrong things or dreaded the wrong things,

Is not the question) are likewise permanent

With such permanence as time has. We appreciate this better

In the agony of others, nearly experienced,

Involving ourselves, than in our own.

For our own past is covered by the currents of action,

But the torment of others remains an experience

Unqualified, unworn by subsequent attrition.

People change, and smile: but the agony abides.

Time the destroyer is time the preserver,

Like the river with its cargo of dead negroes, cows and chicken coops,

The bitter apple and the bite in the apple.

And the ragged rock in the restless waters,

Waves wash over it, fogs conceal it;

On a halcyon day it is merely a monument,

In navigable weather it is always a seamark

To lay a course by: but in the sombre season

Or the sudden fury; is what it always was.





I sometimes wonder if that is what Krishna meant –

Among other things – or one way of putting the same thing:

That the future is a faded song, a Royal Rose or a lavender spray

Of wistful regret for those who are not yet here to regret,

Pressed between yellow leaves of a book that has never been opened.

And the way up is the way down, the way forward is the way back.

You cannot face it steadily, but this thing is sure,

That time is no healer: the patient is no longer here.

When the train starts, and the passengers are settled

To fruit, periodicals and business letters

(And those who saw them off have left the platform)

Their faces relax from grief into relief,

To the sleepy rhythm of a hundred hours.

Fare forward, travelers! not escaping from the past

Into different lives, or into any future;

You are not the same people who left the station

Or who will arrive at any terminus,

While the narrowing rails slide together behind you;

And on the deck of the drumming liner

Watching the furrow that widens behind you,

You shall not think ‘the past is finished”

Or ‘the future is before us”

At nightfall, in the rigging and the aerial

Is a voice descanting (though not to the ear,

The murmuring shell of time, and not in any language)

””””””””””””””””Fare forward, you who think that you are voyaging;

You are not those who saw the harbour

Receding, or those who will disembark,

Here between the hither and the farther shore

While time is withdrawn, consider the future

And the past with an equal mind.

At the moment which is not of action or inaction

You can receive this: “on whatever sphere of being

The mind of man may be intent

At the time of death” – that is the one action

(And the time of death is every moment)

Which shall fructify in the lives of others:

And do not think of the fruit of action.

Fare forward.

O voyagers, O seamen,

You who come to port, and you whose bodies

Will suffer the trial and judgement of the sea,

Or whatever event, this is your real destination.”””””””””

So Krishna, as when he admonished Arjuna

On the field of battle.

Not fare well,

But fare forward, voyagers.





Lady, whose shrine stands on the promontory,

Pray for all those who are in ships, those

Whose business has to do with fish, and

Those concerned with every lawful traffic

And those who conduct them.


Repeat a prayer also on behalf of

Women who have seen their sons or husbands

Setting forth, and not returning:

Figlia del tuo figlio,

Queen of Heaven.


Also pray for those who were in ships, and

Ended their voyage on the sand, in the sea’s lips

Or in the dath throat which will not reject them

Or wherever cannot reach them the sound of the sea bell’s

Perpetual angelus.


To communicate with Mars, converse with spirits,

To report the behaviour of the sea monster,

Describe the horoscope, haruspicate or scry,

Observe disease in signatures, evoke

Biography from the wrinkles of the palm

And tragedy from fingers; release omens

By sortilege, or tea leaves, riddle the inevitable

With playing cards, fiddle with pentagrams

Or barbituric acids, or dissect

The recurrent image into pre-conscious terrors –

To explore the womb, or tomb, or dreams; all these are usual

Pastimes and drugs, and features of the press:

And always will be, some of them especially

When there is distress of nations and perplexity

Whether on the shores of Asia, or in the Edgware Road.

Men’s curiosity searches past and future

And clings to that dimension. But to apprehend

The point of intersection of the timeless

With time, is an occupation for the saint –

No occupation either, but something given

And taken, in a lifetime’s death in love,

Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender.

For most of us, there is only the unattended

Moment, the moment in and out of time,

The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,

The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning

Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply

That it is not heard at all, but you are the music

While the music lasts. These are only hints and guesses,

Hints followed by guesses; and the rest

Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.

The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation.

Here the impossible union

Of spheres of existence is actual,

Here the past and future

Are conquered, and reconciled,

Where action were otherwise movement

Of that which is only moved

And has in it no source of movement –

Driven by daemonic, chthonic

Powers. And right action is freedom

From past and future also.

For most of us, this is the aim

Never here to be realised;

Who are only undefeated

Because we have gone on trying;

We, content at the last

If our temporal reversion nourish

(Not too far from the yew-tree)

The life of significant soil.

For the Love of Mosquitoes


I woke up this morning, and started to grumble because it seems overcast again. I made a pot of coffee and then started scratching my finger. I have a danged MOSQUITO BITE right by the knuckle on top of my third finger. It is annoying, but a reminder of what a wonderful evening I had yesterday.

Last night, I sat around a campfire with a group of people, and the topic was HOPE. We had a wonderful, in depth discussion on times when life has been good, or when it has felt hopeless, and how grateful we were for the gifts God had given us. Then I prayed with the scriptures of the day and they help one put it all in perspective. It is all in Christ.

From the beginning of Paul’s second letter to Corinthians

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of compassion and the God of all encouragement,
who encourages us in our every affliction,
so that we may be able to encourage
those who are in any affliction
with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.

For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us,
so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow.
If we are afflicted,
it is for your encouragement and salvation;
if we are encouraged,
it is for your encouragement,
which enables you to endure the same sufferings that we suffer.

Our hope for you is firm,
for we know that as you share in the sufferings,
you also share in the encouragement.

Followed by “Taste and See that the Lord is Good” for a Psalm and the Beatitudes for the gospel.


After our discussion last night, a friend and I pulled out the guitars, and a bunch stayed and we sang around the campfire for an hour and a half, enjoying the fire, the laughter, the camaraderie, the fresh air, summer, life. It was THEN that the stinking mosquito bit me.

And yet as itchy as it may be today it is my reminder that “our hope for you is firm, for we know that as you share in the sufferings you also share in the encouragement ” It is also a reminder of what a wonderful time I had last night, and to enjoy the day.


You’ve Got to Smell the Lilacs While They Are In Bloom

Prologue:  Lilacs change very quickly, and in that sense, the post is almost past its time.  I started it and was not able to finish my thoughts until now.  I’ve actually been working on this post off and on or a week and a half.  And yet, because of that, it is important I finish it. 


I’m in a musing mode, so this is a reflection on an episode that happened over twenty years ago, along with the events of this week, and the common thread running through them all.  Lilacs.  Life. Living.

In the spring of 1991, I was a young Benedictine Sister.   I was going to school full time at Dickinson State University, and lived in a small house three blocks from the school with a couple of my  Sisters.  It was very convenient. I could pray in the morning, go to classes, come home for dinner and prayers with the Sisters and go back and hit the practice rooms at night.   It was also twenty miles from Sacred Heart Monastery, so I could return quickly and frequently.

So, I was combining university life as a music major , monastic life, and daily living like preparing meals, shopping for groceries, mowing the lawn, and taking care of the garden. It was a wonderful time.  Then the phone rings on the evening of May 20, 1991. It is my Mother.  She says, “Hey Jill Maria, what do you have going this week?  I have my garden all in, and have a bunch of extra tomato plants.  I’m thinking of bringing them over.”

I said, “Our Sister Josephine died, today, and we will have her funeral,  but other than that I’m free.”   Mom said, “Oh, I would like to go to that.  I am coming over.  It will be good to see you.”

Now, that is all well and good, but let me put it in perspective.  Mother lived eight hours away in Chinook, Montana; and I was in Dickinson/Richardton, North Dakota.   So for Mom to pick up and say,  “I’m going to drive eight hours to bring you a few tomato plants….” and to do so in the middle of the week without taking my Dad on the road trip was all a little bit unusual.

a_yellow_butterfly_on_my_lilac_bush.previewWell, she came, and it was gorgeous Spring weather.   She got out of the car and hugged me, saying  “You’ve got to smell the lilacs while they’re in bloom.”  Fine…. and I  happy to see Mom.  But it was still all a bit strange. We had coffee and a good time and planted the tomatoes.

That night we went to Sister Josephine’s Wake.   Now, Josie was from Hershey Pennsylvania, and always had a bit of candy to give, especially to “the Fathers,”  so that night we passed out Hershey’s Candy Bars to everyone after the service.   The next day we buried Sister Josephine.   It is a short walk from Sacred Heart Monastery Chapel to the cemetery where we laid Sister with all her old friends.   On the way we sang  “Jesus Remember Me,”   and “Surrexit Christus”   as the casket was lowering in the ground.   It was a beautiful, fresh day, with lilacs and spring, and resurrection, and hope.  We were laying to rest a Sister who lived a long full life.

Throughout her days with me, Mom kept remarking in a sing song voice,  “You’ve got to smell the lilacs while they are in bloom!”   She left, I smiled, and didn’t think too much about it, getting back to life as usual.     That week I got a letter from Ma saying  “Thank you for being there for me.”  It was an unusual statement, and I could of just taken it as meaning she had a good time, but it began to  niggle away inside me….   I started praying hard for Mom, and dreaming about her.   In retrospect, I am pretty sure she already knew she was sick, and that she was somehow sharing it with me.  I think that experience of the joyful, playful funeral gave her an important piece that she needed at that time.

Life went on.  The lilacs faded.  Summer came and we had glorious tomatoes.   That October, I got a call from Dad on a Monday night telling me,  “Your Dear Mother is quite ill.”     They found cancer, and were doing biopsies.  On Friday, I talked to the Folks again.  Mother told me herself they were estimating she had six months.

My whole family was together for Thanksgiving that year.  It was the last time we were ever all together at 700 Minnesota.   Usually, when Mom cooked, you stayed out of the way, and let her, because you couldn’t do it as well or as fast as she could, but this year was different .  She wanted me by her side.

There is a moment in the Catholic Mass called the Anamnesis, or remembering, during the institution narrative, as Jesus tells the disciples  “Do this in memory of me. ”   For me, that last Thanksgiving was an anamnetic experience.    Mother would tell me,  “Remember, we always put the cranberries in this red dish.”   “Remember, this plate came from your brother.”     “Remember…..”   I always remember.

Mother died March 20, 1992.  That spring, I looked out at the garden, remembered her tomato plants and the lilacs, and wept.   I don’t think I could smell the lilacs that year.   I wanted nothing to do with the garden.  None of the other Sisters had time so it sat dormant.

I graduated from DSU,  and made my final profession of vows that summer.   I was no longer living at the Dickinson house.    So imagine my surprise when my dear friend Sister Brigid called me, saying, “Come by the house, I’ve got something to show you.”    We prayed together and had coffee and talked, and she said,   “Lets take a walk out back.”    There in the garden were tomato plants.  They had reseeded themselves.    How amazing that life is.   There again was a simple but beautiful example of the resurrection. Mother was teaching me, showing me.


Fast forward a few years to 2002.  As much as I loved the Sisters and the monastic lifestyle, it was becoming apparent that for a number of personal reasons, I needed to make a change, so I  made the difficult decision to leave Sacred Heart Monastery.  I entered a three year leave of absence, called exclaustration. During this time, I could return to religious life, or make a decision to sever my formal ties with the community.

It was a challenging time.   I was starting a new ministry as director of music and liturgy in a large parish.   It was a huge transition.   I worked hard and there was a lot to learn, a lot to wrap my head around.  I was living in a simple apartment most of the year.    But basically, I was 40, and starting over from scratch.   In the spring of 2003, I decided it was time to buy a house.    If I decided to return to the Monastery, I could always sell it.     If not, well then, the best way to get equity was to purchase property.  (LOL  remember it was 2003, not 2013!!!)

The market was hot.  I placed offers on a couple homes and didn’t get them.   Then my Realtor said, “there is this place on Hilltop I want you to check out.”   Hmmm… I read the add for the place in the paper, and it was not at all what I was thinking of, and the front looked kind of blah.   But I dutifully went to check it out one Sunday afternoon.   Ironically, the selling Realtor had a flat tire, and never showed, but by the time I drove up the lovely meandering street to the top  I was charmed by the street and the neighborhood.

866018779_ee6d568da6_zI  had not seen the inside of the place yet, but there was this great little brass sign out front that said, “On this site in 1897, nothing happened.”   It tickled me so much, I knew I was home.     A few days later when we could reschedule a private viewing, my Realtor was grinning from ear to ear.  She’d walked through the house and already “knew” it was for me.  The flat ranch layout was wonderfully kind on bad knees.  An older couple had the house first, so there handicapped rails and many other extras. So many of the features were things I didn’t know I was looking for, but were perfect when I saw them.

We made the offer and the process started.   A friend of mine had helped me find my mortgage, and worked for the bank whom I got it through.   However he  chose to come to the signing as my friend and support, rather than in a professional bank position.  I was nervous and extremely emotional.   As another old friend would say, I was weepy with “boogery t-shirts.”   I used my friend’s handkerchief, and don’t know if I ever returned it to him.

Throughout the proceedings I kept thinking,  “Dear God, am I doing the right thing?  Should I be buying this house?  Oh, I wish I could talk to Mom.”    I talked to Dad, and Aunt Donna was a great help, but I was still missing Mom.  After I signed the papers on the house, and I was given the keys, the friend from the bank came with me to do my first walk through.  I opened the kitchen double doors and walked out  onto the patio, and breathed, and cried.
There, filling the air, filling the yard was a large lilac bush in full bloom.  Mother was with me.  Smiling and blessing me.    It was such a wonderful gift.      I smiled and laughed and cried some more and breathed it in, thinking ” You’ve got to smell the lilacs while they are in bloom.”


This spring 2013 has been strange on many levels.   The weather has done a number on just about everybody’s psyche.  Rain, snow, storms have created many natural disasters, and there have been many violent man made disasters this year, including school shootings and bombings.  In April I turned 50.  This is supposed to be a milestone, but I’m not sure about that yet.  Actually, I am.  I am sure that I am grateful, and that life is not to be taken for granted.   I am reminded of the shortness of the span of the lilac in so many ways.

In my family, my Mother was 60 going on 25 when she died.  My Grandmother was 52, my Uncle, 49, and another Aunt at 63.  My Cousin passed away at 30.   So there is definitely a history of that demon cancer.  However my Grandfather was in his 90’s when he died, and  another Uncle led a good full life, so I’m not being a woman of doom.    I just am reminded that one cannot take life for granted.

In my work at the parish, I deal with life and death on a regular basis, as  we see weddings, baptisms, first communions, confirmations,  and funerals.   The cycle continues on and on.  But our source of hope and salvation is in that, in the Resurrection.

Ecclesiastes tells us:

Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth,

vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!

What profit have we from all the toil

which we toil at under the sun?

One generation departs and another generation comes,

but the world forever stays.

Yet, there are times when simply speaking, “it ain’t easy.” Within the last  two weeks, there have been six deaths within the parish, including a dear old friend, and a man in his 50’s.  Three friends lost their Mothers on or near Mother’s day, and I attended two of those funerals.   And it was the first anniversary of a sweet friend’s Father, who died a senseless death right before Memorial day last year.

Today, my Dad called, telling me that my  Step-Sister Jody died after a three year  battle with pancreatic cancer. May she rest in peace.  It is ironic to me that I work with funerals and families all the time, and yet feel so helpless to help my own family so far away. So  what can I do?  Pray.

All in all, it leaves me in a place of wonder, recognizing that God is God, and I am not.  There are many things I’ll never be able to understand, and there is probably no scripture, no hymn, no poem, no image that can change that.   There are may things I cannot fathom or comprehend.    This is when I must just turn it over to God and ask  him to increase my faith.

But this is when I must combine the wisdom of Rosemarie and the wisdom of Quoeleth…”What profit have we from all the toil?”  “You’ve got to smell the lilacs while the are in bloom.”   There are seasons and times when we definitely need to toil and to toil hard, but I need to remember to smell the lilacs, or the roses, or the crocuses; or listen to the chickadee, robin, cardinal, loon;   look at the sunrise, sunset, stars, clouds, and moon.

If I do not take the time to be grateful for all life, and to put it all in perspective,  then I am of no good to anyone else, and no good to myself.  I’m no longer serving and praising God if I’m slaving or murmuring.   None of us knows if we will live another day, another year, or another thirty years.    There are chronic illnesses, debilitating diseases, and  unfathomable accidents.  We may waste away slowly,  or be gone in the blink of an eye.   But it is life!  So hang on, live it, and be grateful.

Thank you to all those who have gone before me, and for the  wisdom you have taught me. I pray that I may always live my life fully, gratefully.  

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,

Let Perpetual Light shine upon them. 

May they rest in peace.  AMEN. 


An Epiclesis

In our parish, we will be bringing the Altar Bells back to the liturgy in a few weeks.  There are many different feelings and theological pros and cons for this, but we wish to help the congregation be more attentive at these key moments.

 (For a Video of Server Instructions see here.) 

This week, when I was training the altar servers, I was trying to explain the first place you ring, which is during the epiclesis; that is the calling down of the Holy Spirit to transform the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.  This can be complex for the kids to learn so you teach them to “Watch Father’s hands…”   when he puts them in an out stretched position,  he calls down the Spirit.

Anyways,  in the process, I was reminded of a poem I wrote a few years ago and thought it was appropriate to bring it round again on Pentecost!


An epiclesis

An epiclesis . . .
Holy Spirit coming down,
making her way here.

See how we call you forth
through groans and pray’rs and silence
that you might complete

our unfinished thoughts-
actions begun in earnest-
gently left aside.

O see us wanting
that which we cannot fathom-
that which saves us,

or perhaps raging,
as agony becomes us
and we cannot grasp

your presence within,
among, around, all through us
O sweet, healing balm.

Yours is the comfort,
seeking life, creating it
refreshing Spirit,

renewing the face
of the earth, of our being
as we wait in hope.

O great breath of God,
the source of all compassion
fill us with your love.

An epiclesis . . .
taking the ordinary,
creating anew.

Weep You No More Sad Fountains


I’ve entitled this post “Weep You No More Sad Fountains” But it could easily be called “Joy Comes”    or  “Sleep.”

In life,   we all have good days and bad days.

For me , yesterday was a bad day and I’m still having a hard time shaking it.    Yet it is funny where our minds go to help us heal.   In this case it brought me to two poems.   Well, a psalm and a poem.  Yes that’s right.  Two poems. Two songs. Maybe three

The first is Psalm 30

I praise you, LORD, for you raised me up

and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.

O LORD, my God,

I cried out to you for help and you healed me.

LORD, you brought my soul up from Sheol;

you let me live, from going down to the pit.


Sing praise to the LORD, you faithful;

give thanks to his holy memory.

For his anger lasts but a moment;

his favor a lifetime.

At dusk weeping comes for the night;

but at dawn there is rejoicing.

Those lines, “weeping comes for the night, but at dawn there is rejoicing.” have brought me solace through many a difficult time.   The sentiment of the whole psalm is rich as I could so relate to the feeling of going down, down, down into the pit.

And as loose association would have it, the second poem is one that I sang in a voice recital.   In hindsight that grouping of songs was probably a bummer…. because  I know I did two versions of “Weep You No More Sad Fountains”   and one of “Slow, Slow, Fresh Font.”   As an exercise in comparing and contrasting musical interpretations it was wonderful for me as a voice student but probably a lot of dark for those in attendance.    Hmm… I should see if I can find the videos of that.

In this song it is the beautiful line that  “sleep is a reconciling,  a rest that peace begets”  that has reminded me many a time to “go to sleep it will be better tomorrow.”  Though sometimes,  that dark night that strikes is even harder to deal with. When you can’t sleep, you can’t pray, you can’t be awake, and you are just not sure how to be.  It is a matter of waiting

Weep You No More Sad Fountains

Weep you no more, sad fountains;

What need you flow so fast?

Look how the snowy mountains

Heaven’s sun doth gently waste!

But my sun’s heavenly eyes

View not your weeping,

That now lies sleeping,

Softly now, softly lies Sleeping.


Sleep is a reconciling,

A rest that peace begets;

Doth not the sun rise smiling

When fair at e’en he sets?

Rest you, then, rest, sad eyes!

Melt not in weeping,

While she lies sleeping,

Softly now, softly lies Sleeping.

This has been set to music by more than a dozen composers, and was recently found in the movie “Sense and Sensibility”  with a setting by Patrick Doyle.   Strangely,   one of the most beautiful versions available of this text available now is by STING…..   how strange and versatile that man is.    He may not have the standard counter tenor sound, but he surely imparts the emotion.

I sang the Roger Quilter setting:

And the John Dowland

From “Sense and Sensibilities”


The last poem I spoke of is below.  I found some madrigal settings of it, but not the solo version I did.  I believe

 Slow, Slow, Fresh Fount
 Slow, slow, fresh fount, keep time with my salt tears;
   Yet slower, yet, O faintly, gentle springs!
   List to the heavy part the music bears,
   Woe weeps out her division, when she sings.
       Droop herbs and flowers;
       Fall grief in showers;
       Our beauties are not ours.
               O, I could still,
   Like melting snow upon some craggy hill,
       Drop, drop, drop, drop,
Since nature’s pride is now a withered daffodil.
Ben Johnson 1572-1637

Almost an Exodus…….

Now that we are in the Easter Season, perhaps one shouldn’t be thinking of Exodus journeys any more.   I’m in my office on a bit of a cleaning jag.   There is probably enough dust here to liken it to any desert, but that is another story.   In my putterings, I found a copy of IMPRESSIONS, a literature magazine from Dickinson State University in 1992. I found in it several old friends, that is poems and prose that I almost forgot I wrote.    One of them stuck out and I thought I would share it tonight.



I was there

but where was it that I was?

Placed suddenly, swiftly

in an environment

I neither knew, or understood.

And yet,

I said I would come.


So I began

wondering and wandering


the vastness, the dryness,

the heat of day,

the bitter cold at night.

Little creatures, cactus flowers,

I would not, could not see you

in my self pity and fears

I traveled ’round and ’round, again and again

I could not even tell where I had been.



Is that You?

You SHOULD look like that.

I’ve traveled far enough!

I deserve a break!

So I ran towards it with all my strength.

On my arrival,

I found nothing but sand.

Throwing a handful, I screamed,

“Damn You!” Where are You when I need You?”



So I began

wondering and wandering

Cursing . . . .

the vastness, the dryness,

the heat of day

the bitter cold at night.

Little creatures, cactus flowers,

I would not, could not see you

in my self pity and fears

I traveled ’round and ’round, again and again

Not even recognizing where I had been.


In my emptiness

I cried once more,

“I am failing! I do not know

how or where to go next.

I cannot do it.”


So I began

wondering and wandering

and then, when I did not expect it,

an Oasis appeared.

The Water was so large,

I drank all I could,

till I could drink no more;

the quietly I rested

in the shelter of its shore.

I would have liked to stay there

peaceful and content

but I knew

the journey had not ended.


So We began,

wondering and wandering

Praising . . . .

the vastness, the dryness,

the heat of day,

the bitter cold at night,

Little creatures, cactus flowers,

Sunbaked Mud in Desert

Have you always been there?

How beautiful you are.


I was there

but where was it that I was?

Placed suddenly, swiftly

in an evironment

I neither knew, or understood.

And yet, You bid me to come.


Jill Maria Murdy-circa  a long time ago



To Music

Its been a long day  and I don’t have the energy to create something fresh, but  wanted to be faithful to poetry month.   I thought,  “Hmm    what are some of the things my friends have written about music?” Of course for every good piece, there are a zillion that I should not have unearthed. But let me share a couple that touched me:

Walter de la Mare was an English poet. 1873 – 1956.

When music sounds, gone is the earth I know, 
And all her lovely things even lovelier grow; 
Her flowers in vision flame, her forest trees 
Lift burdened branches, stilled with ecstasies. 
When music sounds, out of the water rise 
Naiads whose beauty dims my waking eyes, 
Rapt in strange dreams burns each enchanted face, 
With solemn echoing stirs their dwelling-place. 
When music sounds, all that I was I am 
Ere to this haunt of brooding dust I came; 
And from Time’s woods break into distant song 
The swift-winged hours, as I hasten along.
I love the line  “When music sounds, all that I was I am.”  It reminds me of Exodus, 3: 14 where Moses first meets God, who says  “I am who I am.”   Music has that sacred, transcendent quality about it.  I am ever grateful she is my muse.

Another favorite comes from the Bard himself:

Sonnet 128: How oft, when thou, my music, music play’st by William Shakespeare
How oft, when thou, my music, music play’st,
Upon that blessèd wood whose motion sounds
With thy sweet fingers when thou gently sway’st
The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,
Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap
To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,
Whilst my poor lips, which should that harvest reap,
At the wood’s boldness by thee blushing stand!
To be so tickled, they would change their state
And situation with those dancing chips
O’er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,
Making dead wood more blest than living lips.
Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,
Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.
It starts right away with the very beginning of the poem: “How oft, when thou, my music, music play’st, Upon that blessèd wood whose motion sounds With thy sweet fingers when thou gently sway’st”       Did you know that the Spanish word for playing guitar is   tocare la guitarra “to touch” the guitar.  It is such an intimate gesture, in contrast to just playing the the guitar.   And if you look at the guitar, or almost any instrument,  one does that. You
embrace it, and it embraces you and makes sweet music in return.
Ironically  Shakespeare always seems to lead me to Schubert’s “Die Musik”  that is  “To Music.”   which is such a beautiful piece, whether it is an instrumental or vocal performance. The texts seem to steal from each other quite readily .

German.png German text

Du holde Kunst, in wieviel grauen Stunden,
Wo mich des Lebens wilder Kreis umstrickt,
Hast du mein Herz zu warmer Lieb entzunden,
Hast mich in eine beßre Welt entrückt!
Oft hat ein Seufzer, deiner Harf’ entflossen,
Ein süßer, heiliger Akkord von dir
Den Himmel beßrer Zeiten mir erschlossen,
Du holde Kunst, ich danke dir dafür!

English.png English translation
by Gerard Mackworth-Young

O gracious Art, in how many grey hours
When life’s fierce orbit encompassed me,
Hast thou kindled my heart to warm love,
Hast charmed me into a better world!
Oft has a sigh, issuing from thy harp,
A sweet, blest chord of thine,
Thrown open the heaven of better times;
O gracious Art, for that I thank thee!
With that dear friends, I bid you a blessed night.   Be thankful for the music, the poetry and those who hear it and make it.   

Our Hearts

In praying with the scriptures of today   one hears the story about the Road to Emmaus,  and other early stories of the Apostles.   In honor of Poetry Month,   I’m breaking away from my standard Haiku.

I thought it would be fun to pull out the basic formats from my youth.    Today’s  verse is in Iambic Pentameter, meaning each line has ten syllables    weak strong weak strong.

“Are not our hearts burning within?” we sighed.

Have we not seen our Risen Lord indeed?

How often do we miss our God revealed

throughout our day in many simple ways?

In family and friends, all nature sings

“Rejoice you hearts that seek the Lord.” Amen.

But then,  I started thinking and remembering all those who have walked with me, and supported me even through all the rough and bumpy times in life,  and I was again feeling overwhelmed with gratitude.


Sojourn begins all fresh and new, and clean.

The optimism of our youth abounds.

The road looks short, the path is all mapped out,

so many bumps and detours yet unseen.

Along the way we meet new faces too

For but a short time we quickly forget

Others reach in and touch our very souls.

They walk beside us, laughing in the sun,

or silently and still when night has come. 

Picking us up, gently dusting us off

urging us on when we have no more steps.

And when we reach the journey’s end we cry

once more: “Are not our hearts burning within?”

Have we not seen our Risen Lord indeed?

 Jill Maria April 3, 2013