May 1, 2020

Poets use their craft to cope with pandemic

Click the image above to see the poems on this page as they appeared in our print edition.

Click the image above to see the poems on this page as they appeared in our print edition.

Compiled by Natalie Hoefer

Shortly after Gov. Eric Holcomb issued stay-in-place orders for the citizens of Indiana on March 16, several Catholic poets in the central and southern portions of the state turned to their craft to help cope with, process and find meaning in the coronavirus crisis. Below are the poems on the topic submitted to The Criterion.


By Hilda Buck

In the beginning the Earth was a formless wasteland
with shrieking winds blowing
and an overall eerie darkness prevailing.

Nothing existed until the all powerful, pre-existent One
calmly and methodically
brought order out of chaos.

Who can deny that we are now in the midst of chaos,
frantically trying to stem the course of the fearful affliction
that is rapidly overwhelming us?

Could the exhortation from the all powerful One,
“Be still and know that I am God,”
inspire us to turn to him for guidance
in bringing order out of chaos?

(Hilda Buck is a former member of St. Lawrence Parish in Lawrenceburg who now resides in a retirement community in Anderson, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese. Buck, 102, wrote the poem while missing visits from her family as her retirement community closed the facility to visitors during the coronavirus pandemic.)

Eucharist During These Times (A Message To Priests)

By Cathy Lamperski Dearing

When you celebrate the Mass
You (and we) know
You are not alone.
You unite all our souls
In your offering.
You are in the holy presence of
Father, Son, and Spirit
And the great cloud of witnesses
All watching and nodding
To your every word and action.
The Eucharistic miracle
Still happens.


And we know that one day
We will again.

(Cathy Lamperski Dearing is a member of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis and a Providence Associate of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in St. Mary-of-the-Woods. This poem is one of several she submitted in response to our call for readers to send in stories of how they’re staying connected with their faith during the coronavirus crisis.)


By Jená Hartman

The Coronavirus has given us TIME.

Time to: have more meaningful, genuine conversations with our family members. Enjoy recalling happy memories. Have relaxing meals together that are not fast-food or rushed. Prepare a new recipe.

Time to: call a friend who is a shut-in. Or call someone with whom you have not spoken in a while. Or send a card with a happy note and surprise someone.

Time to: really see and appreciate the vivid bright yellow of the pretty daffodils. Enjoy the soft lavender color of the gentle blooms on the rhododendron bush. Smile at the day-to-day greening of our lawns. Rejoice in the blooms on last month’s naked tree limbs which will bring forth their leaves to create summer’s shade.

Time to: start (or finish) that craft project which had been put aside during our busier days. What about those simple household repairs? What about that woodworking project that has been on your mind? What about reading that book which was a gift last year?

Time to: pray for the medical workers, EMT personnel, fire and police officers during this overwhelming pandemic.

Time to: not just read the daily Scripture selections, but to let them “soak” deep into our souls and nourish us for that day.

Time to: envision Jesus with us as we accomplish our daily household tasks and talk to Him as the Friend that He is.

Time to: take an inventory of our many blessings and be truly thankful for each one of them.

Time to: visualize and rejoice that Our God is still on His throne and will guide us through this new health crisis.

Time to: smile.

(Jená Hartman is a member of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis and is the former coordinator of the archdiocese’s Birthline ministry.)

In God Can We Trust/COVID-19

By Stephanie Jackson

Just wanted you to know,
I was thinking about you.
This is a challenging time,
but this too we’ll get through.

We are missing our family
and our friends as well.
We are keeping our distance
during this COVID-19 hell.

People are sick and suffering.
Many are dying or passed.
Each of our hearts breaking;
wondering how long it’ll last.

When a crisis hits home,
the good in people shine.
Our heroes take many forms,
willing to toe the line.

Reaching out to one another,
helping any way we can.
Some even taking selfless risks
to assist their fellow man.

Our normal may be changed,
we’re resilient and we’ll adjust.
We’re all in this together.

In God, we can trust.

(Stephanie Jackson is a member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Bedford.)

Where is God’s Love?

By Paul Kreitl

Where is God’s Love?
Is it just in skies above?
Or is it underneath
Sheltering trees
And in others we’ve been thinking of?

Look for love, it doesn’t hide
It’s right in front and right beside
In and on and through
All of me and all of you
Give thanks for love and love applied

Little things, they mean a lot
He created all the good we’ve got
Open your eyes
To see hearts alive
And there you’ll see all that He begot

(Paul Kreitl is a member of St. Christopher Parish in Indianapolis. This is his first poem to be published in The Criterion.)

Jesus, Meet Me in This Place

By Gina Langferman

Jesus, meet me in this place,
I need Your love and grace,
I need to feel You near.

Jesus, meet me in this place,
I’m trying hard to pray
And not give in to fear.

Please be always right beside me,
Let Your Spirit guide me,
Help me walk this road.

You will carry all my burdens,
You have come to save us,
You’ll carry this load.

Jesus, be my gentle shepherd,
Lead me through this valley,
To Your light and truth.

Jesus, thank You for Your promise
You will never leave me,
Hold me close to You.

Help me praise You as my heart grows
Stronger in my faith
And strengthen those I love.

Help us always to stay near You,
Offering our heartfelt prayers to God above.

(Gina Langferman is a member of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis. She is a professional musician and teaches music for all grades at St. Rose of Lima School in Franklin. She wrote this poem as a song while “praying about this pandemic and praying for those I love.”)


By Thomas J. Rillo

Just when you think your world is in balance and everything is placid and unruffled
Along comes something that is pandemic that shakes you from your roost
Because we live so close to others in the world and have freedom to travel
The larger and more confining is the living habitat, the greater the dissemination of disease.

The more humans race ahead of their moral obligation and social responsibilities
The greater will be the physical disaster that will result from these negative behaviors
The possibility of pandemic disaster will cause fear and hoarding essential household items
The super-structures of communities, states and nations will be forced to unprecedented action

Unprecedented actions will include a lock-out of many places where people interact
To stop a pandemic virus is to stop all work, places of entertainment, even to be homebound
The threat of possible death is a greater motivator and promotes acceptance of self-isolation
All nonessential workers are urged to stay at home in an effort to contain the virus

To stop all activities both at the local and national levels is not always a bad thing
It brings families together where family activities become more interactive
Being homebound forces family members to take time to play together and pray together
Knowing that with the Lord’s omnipotent love survival in a tough time is possible.

(Thomas J. Rillo is a member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington and is an oblate of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad. The retired Indiana University professor has published many books, including eight books of poetry.)

Jesus Wept

By Sonny Shanks

I heard it started in Asia, I’m not sure where.
But there was suffering, and Jesus wept.
Soon it came to America, there was suffering,
and Jesus wept.

People wept too, but some not because of the suffering of others.
Some wept because of their loss
of dining out options,
movie tickets, golf, and March Madness.

Soon the churches all closed,
and Jesus wept.
Some people, however, smiled;
church had always been kind of a hassle.

A $1,200 check came in the mail
and although a lot of people were sick
most of them weren’t dying.
So some people had a ‘corona party’ and went on
singing and dancing into the night,
confident that the sun would come up the next morning.

They were unaware and uncaring that their ship was burning and sinking
at the same time.

Jesus appeared on the waves and in the storm,
beckoning all to come to him for shelter.
Some did not listen.

Mary appeared too, midway between the ship and Jesus,
pointing the way to Jesus.
Some did not listen.
Jesus wept.

(Sonny Shanks is a member of St. Joseph Parish in Corydon. He is the author of nine books, three of which include poems and reflections.)

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