Labia Munda


IN LENT of 2016, I discerned three main areas of my life in which the Lord was calling me to deeper conversion: “labia munda, manus mundæ, et cor purum cum Iesus in foco”—that is: clean lips, clean hands, and a pure heart centered on Jesus Christ.

Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven.” And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

The woodcut pictured above is of the seraph touching a burning coal to the lips of the prophet Isaiah, who cried out, after seeing a vision of the Lord in the Temple, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

I committed to write a poem every day from Ash Wednesday until Holy Week, usually during my daily holy hours, as one humble step towards cleaner lips and (hopefully) a purer heart. Each poem is published here unabridged.

Ash Wednesday: The rush and the splash of God’s breath
Our Lady of Lourdes: “What kind of coffee do you like?” he asked me
Friday after Ash Wednesday: And the silence is full of pages
Saturday after Ash Wednesday: “Lord, open my lips,” I sing
First Sunday of Lent: If our heart is the Father’s home
First Monday of Lent: And if my heart is wounded
First Tuesday of Lent: How easy to love you
Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order: My whole life I have gone away
First Thursday of Lent: Le ruego, “Colmame, Señor.”
First Friday of Lent: I look at my sin like a middle schooler
First Saturday of Lent: Grow up, little mangrove tree
Second Sunday of Lent: The moon is more beautiful on a cloudy night
Chair of St. Peter: At the heart of every love
St. Polycarp: Though in my heart there gapes a hungry hollow
Second Wednesday of Lent: I strive so long to reach you
Second Thursday of Lent: I rise in the morning for war
Second Friday of Lent: One lazy summer afternoon
Second Saturday of Lent: Piecemeal peace, pool-cover peace
Third Sunday of Lent: And the thing about “I AM”
Third Monday of Lent: There was a winter I was in love
Third Tuesday of Lent: Every day you give me
Third Wednesday of Lent: “You always ask for more”
Third Thursday of Lent: The ends of me are fraying
Third Friday of Lent: I am a clay pot
Third Saturday of Lent: I don’t know what I would do
Lætare Sunday: And I don’t know what I would do
Sts. Felicity and Perpetua: And should the valves burst open
St. John of God: A tree planted in running waters
St. Frances of Rome: One night in the dark my brother
Fourth Thursday of Lent: Breaking down is easy.
Fourth Friday of Lent: Are we anything now
Fourth Saturday of Lent: Que milagro haces!—
Fifth Sunday of Lent: Sunlight rests on the surface
Fifth Monday of Lent: I am like a pair of headlights on a lonely lane
Fifth Tuesday of Lent: I am told the salt shaker goes to the north of the pepper
Fifth Wednesday of Lent: Sometimes I lack peace
St. Patrick: Shape me, God, and form me
St. Cyril of Jerusalem: Every day is a polyphony, a song for many voices
St. Joseph: It is a miracle to be a man and stand
Passion Sunday: “How am I to know that you are with me?”
Monday of Holy Week: Time, seasoned with love, melts away