Catholic Verse

Featured Poem

Published Elsewhere
Saying Yes to Christmas in Christ Is Our Hope Magazine (Essay with Poetry)
Our Lady of Guadalupe: 23.5 Degrees of Consolation at (Essay)
Forgiven at (Poem)

Thank you for your on-the-street donation for the poor and homeless in the Chicago area.  In return, I hope you enjoyed the print of the poem entitled, Nativity.  The story of the poem’s inspiration is featured at, excerpted from the original version in Christ is Our Hope Magazine.

The Easter Triduum.  Emmaus Poem, below, is a retelling of the Road to Emmaus event, one of five Resurrection narratives found in the Gospels.  As you journey with the Risen Lord, my prayer is that you too will come to know more deeply the broader, God narrative to which He calls you.

Emmaus Poem

Wise we were to leave when we did
Though our hearts were full and broken.
And the others have either fled or hid,
And oh what strange things the women have spoken!
Fools would we be to believe such things.

Look! A fool who takes the road alone.
Should we not ask him to join us
Upon these oft traveled stones?
I call out—We’ve a day’s journey to Emmaus!
Come along—the wise travel in company!

The stranger replies, Why off to Emmaus?
What consolation awaits you there?
And what things do you discuss
Along the road that takes you there?
You seem concerned about grave matters.

An ignorant fool, I muse. I swear—
The only visitor to the Holy City
Who knows not what happened there.
What things? He asks. Oh for pity!
Should I dare—? Deeply I sigh and share

All about Jesus of Nazareth,
A prophet great in word and deed,
How our leaders put him to death
By nailing him to a tree,
And with him all our hopes.

Replies the wayfarer, unsympathetic and bold,
You fools! Ignorant of the Law and slow to enlist
All the Prophets foretold.
Was it not ordained that the Christ
Should suffer at the hands of men?

Then this teacher explains the history
Of him our leaders slew,
And reveals to us the mystery
Of the one we thought we knew.
Rejected! No, truly not what we expected.

This was the servant foreseen by Isaiah,
Wounded for our transgressions,
Bruised for our iniquities. A Messiah
Whose chastisement and crucifixion
Make us whole. With his stripes are we healed.

Emmaus looms in the evening haze,
Yet this prophet means to travel onward.
Stop!  I say. The hour is late, and the day’s
Long spent. Stay with us. Inward
Now we go to rest, to pray, to eat

Together at table and seated,
This priest takes bread, says the blessing,
Breaks it for us, and we eat it.
Suddenly he’s gone, vanishing
From our sight. It was the Lord!

He lives! We have seen him!
It is as the women said,
Yet we did not recognize him
Until the breaking of the bread.
Let us return in haste to tell the others

What fools we were to disbelieve as we did
For our hearts were dull and darkened.
We n
ow know our Lord Jesus lives!
To us has he appeared! Hearken!
And they all shout with joy—Simon has seen him too!

Then we recount all that happened—
How he shared the road with us,
The one we took to Emmaus,
And the one we took within us.
How he explained the Law of Moses,
The things the Prophets told us,
And the Word that would restore us.
How he shared his Body with us,
The bread he broke before us,
The food we recognized as—
Peace be with you!



Lent 2017.  Come Ill to the Desert may speak to you as it did to me when I wrote it. My prayer is that you will grow in your relationship with the Lord during this time of Lent so that when Easter comes, we can join our voices and cry out as one– He is risen!  He is risen!  He is truly risen!


Thank you for your on-the-street donation for the poor and homeless in the Chicago area.  In return, we hope you enjoyed the print of the poem, entitled Nativity.  The story of the poem’s inspiration is featured at, excerpted from the original version in Christ is Our Hope Magazine.  Thank you again, and God bless!

Featured Essay

Easter and Christian Unity, How the Emmaus Story Continues to Feed and Astonish

A. J. Clishem


          The Emmaus story continues to feed us in astonishing ways.  If you think you have it figured out, as I once thought, then perhaps it is time to reconsider.  It is one of five Resurrection narratives in the Gospels, and as compelling as any.

          After the Crucifixion, on the first day of the week, two disciples have left Jerusalem and head toward Emmaus, a small village seven miles away.  As they struggle to make sense of the things that have happened, they encounter a wayfarer on the road.

          It is the Risen Lord, and yet they do not recognize Him.  As Easter unfolds, Luke masterfully weaves dramatic irony into the narrative.  Jesus moves these disciples from their narrow way of seeing to the broader God narrative to which they are called.

          My new appreciation for the Emmaus story took time, marked by moments of sudden awareness and fresh insight.  It began at the prompting of Father Jim, my spiritual director who had “commissioned” me to write a poem about the Emmaus event.

          “Why?” I asked.

          “Because it’s my favorite scripture story.”

          He knew I would not take his request lightly, and I appreciated the challenge. What new can be said about a story that for two millennia has been part of the consciousness of the Church?

          On the day I finished the poem, I recited what I believed to be the final draft. I was caught off guard when, in the recitation, I had spontaneously changed a word.  In my initial version, the two disciples, after recognizing the Risen Lord “in the breaking of the bread,” rush back to Jerusalem and to the upper room where they find the apostles in the chamber behind locked doors.  Then one of the disciples recounts how the stranger they met

. . . shared his Body with us,
The bread he broke before us,
The person we recognized as . . . Jesus!

          In my suddenly revised version, the same disciple recounts the moment this way, explaining

How he shared his Body with us,
The bread he broke before us,
The food we recognized as . . . Jesus!

Why did I make that change, from person to food?

          Suddenly, I realized that my interpretation of the Emmaus event would hinge on the choice of a single word.  I saw where this could lead.  I thought about various divisions among Christians—liberal versus conservative, Catholic versus Protestant–over such things as the interpretation of Sacred Scripture and the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.  Divisions!

          Yet, I thought, more than any Christian feast, Easter defines us as Christians.  The Christian faith hinges on the Resurrection.   “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile” (1Corinthians 15:17).  Both the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed begin with, “I believe.”  We are united in one faith.

          Yet we remain divided.   I changed the word in the poem from person to food.  The poem was finished. But I wasn’t.  The Emmaus story continued to speak to me about the divisions that persist among Christians.

          I knew that many Christians point to a different moment in the story as key for them.  Jesus, still hidden from their eyes, helps the two disciples understand why the Christ had to suffer.   “And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).  Later, the two disciples say, “Did not our hearts burn within us . . . while he opened to us the scriptures” (v. 32)?  Indeed, this was the Risen Lord, present to them in the sharing of scripture.

          Then I recognized yet a third moment when the Risen Lord became present to them.  At the very end of the Emmaus narrative, Jesus appears to them all in the upper room and says—Peace to you.   The Risen Lord is present, as He had promised:  “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them”(Matthew 18:20).  Certainly, this moment would resonate with me if I found myself in an Easter service at a megachurch with evangelical Christians in love with the Lord.

          If all Christians can rightly lay claim to the Risen Lord, then why the division, and why do I insist on the Risen Lord in the Eucharist?  It is because—as He, Himself, tells us—the Eucharist is needed so that we might rise with Him!  In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day”  (6:54).

          Like the disciples along the Road to Emmaus, we too are on a journey.  But our journey is to no earthly destination.  It is to eternal life.  Such a journey requires food of the sort that will get us where we want to go:  “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51).

          The Eucharist is the real presence of the Risen Lord—body, blood, soul, and divinity—a sacrament of unity, not division.  In this one bread, we are one body.  So recognize the Risen Lord in Scripture. Recognize Him in Holy Fellowship. Recognize Him in the Breaking of the Bread.  Then take and eat—for He is risen!   He is risen!  He is truly risen!

For my January 1, 2017 piece on the mystery of Our Lady of Guadalupe, please visit my friends at