This week’s poem in the Catholic Poetry Room is by Catherine Hamilton.
The Chapel and the Ring
It was twenty-two years after his election,
during the Great Jubilee Year
when I stepped up to greet him.
I knew he liked people to feel
as if they were all on equal ground—
that he wasn’t inclined to want them to
kiss the pontifical ring.
When he was installed the 264th Bishop of Rome
he refused to be crowned or call it a coronation.
And that was the reason why I didn’t kiss the ring
on that day in the year 2000 AD.
That was why I let the opportunity pass me by,
but sometimes I think I’ll go to my grave
Perhaps it was for the best, though,
knowing where he was coming from…
remembering the chapel built on a river
instead of on a parcel of land in Poland,
all because some tsar (whose name we’ve all
forgotten) prohibited the building of Roman churches
on Polish soil for an unimaginably long period of time.
Many pictured the floating church,
and passersby built it out of wood
one piece at a time.
Tell them dry bones that it still stands.
It was as if the limestone arches standing
in the cave-laden Ojcow forest knew
more about what it took to be Jurassic
and thought nothing of it.
The facts were the facts: the people had faith.
It’s easy to believe that the descendants of this
church-building tribunal whispered something
about the wood and the rock incessantly.
For them it was natural and rather an instinct to
contemplate the meaning of it all when a brother
became the pope—a saint.
Catherine Hamilton, a Catholic freelance writer, member of Catholic Writers Guild, and Benedictine Oblate, has written articles for magazines and newspapers including The Polish American Journal, The Chicago Polish Daily and The Catholic Sentinel. She is author of Nine Days–Poems Remembering Pope John II (2015), a collection of fifty-one poems inspired by the poignant hours before and after the death of Karol Wojtyla. In the year 2000, Hamilton met Pope John Paul II in his private library while on pilgrimage. Five of Hamilton’s translated poems have been published in Poland by Zeszyty Karmelitanskie, a publication of the Carmelites in Poznan.
The Chapel and the Ring first appeared in Nine Days—poems remembering Pope John Paul II (2015).