Nun’s life experiences in poetry lead readers to reflect on own lives

“To Shatter Glass: Poems” by Sister Sharon Hunter, CJ, Paraclete Press (Brewster, Massachusetts, 2021). 97 pp., $24.

By Eugene J. Fisher | Catholic News Service

This collection of poems is a short book, but one well worth reading — and rereading. In it, Sister Sharon Hunter of the Community of Jesus delves into and finds meaning in her own life.

She searches into what it was like for her when she was a child to have an alcoholic, abusive father, the suffering she underwent, and how surviving helped her to become a better person, understanding the needs and woes of others.

(CNS photo/courtesy Paraclete Press)

Through learning how to heal herself, she learns how to help and heal others who have suffered and need serious help, both physical and spiritual, to get beyond the suffering and to become truly themselves.

And readers learn how to become able to help others. Such a network of helpers can become a community of grace and healing, which is what the community of people we call the Catholic Church should be and, at its best, is.

The beauty of the poems in this book is enhanced by the beauty of art, seven paintings by Sister Faith Riccio, who is, like Sister Sharon, a member of the religious Community of Jesus in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Sister Faith is also the author of the book, “Icons: The Essential Collection.”

Different readers of this book will focus on different poems, those which speak most deeply to their own experiences, whether painful, hopeful, joyous or simply the reflection of their own everyday lives.

If a small group of Catholics gathered to read this book and to dialogue over each poem, that community would learn how to articulate what is most meaningful to them as individuals and as a group.

The poems can also be read by a single person as a basis for meditation, spiritual reflection and as a path to understanding the meaning of his or her own life experiences, whether painful or moments of self-understanding.

The verses can help readers to move forward to live their lives as they ought to be lived, with meaning and with a purpose in life to fulfill their own potential and to help others — family, friends or even strangers — to discover the meaning of their lives and become their own best selves.

The titles of the seven sections of this deeply moving collection of poems will help the readers of this review to gain a sense of what will await them when they open its pages: “And So, I Begin”; “Orphanos”; “Hardly an Oyster”; “Threads of Depression”;  “A Complicated Grief”; “Judas in Waiting”; and
Shepherd of a Wayward Sheep.”

It is perhaps not accidental that this book is organized by the number seven, the number of days of creation culminating in humanity created “in the image and likeness of God.”

Following the path of this book, day by day, will help reflective readers to understand more deeply how they can fulfill their potential to be, for themselves and for others, an image and likeness of God within their community.

Eugene Fisher is a professor of theology at St. Leo University in Florida.

Author: Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ news and information service.

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