Category Archives: Sister Danielle Gagnon

The Sacred Wellspring of Zechariah’s Song

December 4, 2020

By Sister Danielle Gagnon

I know not everyone enjoys musical theater. Such eagerness to proclaim one’s experience that sudden, spontaneous song seems the only adequate response irks some. I love it. I suspect Luke would be a musical theater fan, too. Most biblical scholars think that the canticles were added to the infancy narrative after the initial story was written. This means, then, that Luke went out of his way to attribute the poetic, prophetic Benedictus to Zechariah. Why?

Art featuring the Canticle of Zechariah
——— Art by Sister Renee Yann

We lovers of musical theater know that when a character breaks into song, it signals an important point in the story, one that is filled with emotion. When Zechariah begins his hymn of praise, he has not spoken in months. He lost his ability to talk when he doubted Gabriel’s announcement that his wife Elizabeth would give birth to a son. Surely silencing is a harsh penalty for doubt, but it does not turn Zechariah’s heart from God. Instead, when his voice is finally restored, he uses it to proclaim, “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who shepherds the people and sets them free” (Luke 1:68). Zechariah sings of God’s promise, the sacred covenant, salvation, forgiveness and peace. This is a remarkably generous response even for the holy, obedient priest Zechariah. From what sacred well does Zechariah draw the words of the Benedictus?

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El manantial sagrado del Cantar de Zacarías

December 4, 2020

Por la Hermana Danielle Gagnon

Sé que no todo el mundo disfruta del teatro musical. Tal entusiasmo por proclamar la propia experiencia que el canto repentino y espontáneo parece la única respuesta adecuada irrita a algunos. Me encantó. Sospecho que Lucas también sería un fanático del teatro musical. La mayoría de los eruditos bíblicos piensan que los cánticos se agregaron a la narrativa de la infancia después de que se escribió la historia inicial. Esto significa, entonces, que Lucas salió de su camino para atribuir el poético y profético Benedictus a Zacarías. ¿Por qué?

Art featuring the Canticle of Zechariah
——— Arte por la Hermana Renee Yann

Los amantes del teatro musical sabemos que cuando un personaje irrumpe en canto, señala un punto importante de la historia, un punto que está lleno de emoción. Cuando Zacarías comienza su himno de alabanza, no ha hablado en meses. Perdió su capacidad para hablar cuando dudó del anuncio de Gabriel de que su esposa Isabel daría a luz a un hijo. Ciertamente, el silencio es un castigo severo para la duda, pero no aparta el corazón de Zacarías de Dios. En cambio, cuando su voz es finalmente restaurada, la usa para proclamar: «Bendito el Señor, Dios de Israel, porque se ha ocupado de rescatar a su pueblo» (Lucas 1, 68). Zacarías canta la promesa de Dios, la alianza sagrada, la salvación, el perdón y la paz. Esta es una respuesta extraordinariamente generosa incluso para el santo y obediente sacerdote Zacarías. ¿De qué fuente sagrada saca Zacarías las palabras del Benedictus?

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Our Lady of Sorrows: A Cradle for Cumulative Sorrows, Unspoken and Untamed

September 14, 2020

By Sister Danielle Gagnon

What do you notice about Our Lady of Sorrows? Take a moment. What calls to you?

An Icon image of Our Lady of Sorrows
Icon created by Sister Mary Hope Sanchez. Click here to read more about the icon.

For me, first, it is her furrowed brow. I have been told my brow furrows, and I unwittingly reveal confusion, anger or sadness with the crinkling of my forehead. My face shows what my heart feels before my words are formed and spoken. Our Lady of Sorrows peers deeply into hearts and recognizes the pain that lodges there. Her eyes make known her shared anguish at the agony caused by racism, the suffering caused by misogyny, the misery caused by nationalism and the distress caused by greed that has impoverished Creation. Sometimes, it is my own dark -isms and selfishness that break my heart. She abides those, too. Sometimes, I haven’t words. Her eyes whisper the sorrow I am unable to speak.

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Nuestra Señora de los Dolores: un refugio para nuestros múltiples dolores callados y cerriles

September 14, 2020

Por la Hermana Danielle Gagnon

¿Qué notas en la imagen de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores? Piensa un momento, ¿qué es aquello que llama tu atención?

Un icono de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores

A mí, en primer lugar, su entrecejo contraído. Me han dicho que yo frunzo el ceño y que sin quererlo revelo confusión, ira o tristeza cuando arrugo mi frente. Mi rostro muestra lo que mi corazón siente antes de que mis palabras se hayan formado en mi boca. Nuestra Señora de los Dolores se asoma profundamente a los corazones y reconoce el dolor que allí se alberga. Sus ojos manifiestan que ella comparte la congoja causada por el racismo, el sufrimiento que produce la misoginia, la miseria que resulta del nacionalismo y la angustia causada por la codicia que ha empobrecido a la Creación. Por momentos, son mis propios y oscuros «ismos» y egoísmos los que rompen mi corazón. Pero Ella también los tolera. A veces, no tengo palabras. Sus ojos susurran la tristeza que soy incapaz de expresar.

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A Day to be Quiet

April 19, 2019

By Sister Danielle Gagnon

“Pilate went back into the praetorium and said to Jesus, ‘where are you from?’ Jesus did not answer him. So Pilate said to him, ‘Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?'”

—John 19: 9-10

When I was in junior high my friends and I cooked up a plan for our day off from school. We had just started to experience the bit of freedom that comes with being a teenager and looked for any opportunity to idle a few hours away at the mall, the movies, or some other adolescent haunt. 

So, Thursday after school, I told my mother what we had plotted for the next day.  With a quizzical look she softly questioned, “On Good Friday?”

I said, “Yes … ” hopefully.

Mom said, “No.” definitively.

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Un día para guardar silencio

April 19, 2019

Por Hermana Danielle Gagnon

Volvió al tribunal y dijo a Jesús: «¿De dónde eres tú?» Pero Jesús no le respondió. Entonces le dijo Pilato: «¿A mí no me hablas? ¿No sabes que tengo autoridad para crucificarte y autoridad para soltarte?»

—Juan 19,9-10

Cuando estaba en la secundaria, mis amigas y yo preparamos un plan para nuestro día libre de la escuela. Habíamos empezado a experimentar un poco de la libertad que conlleva ser adolescente y buscábamos cualquier oportunidad para pasar unas horas de ocio en el centro comercial, el cine, o algún otro interés de adolescente.  

Entonces, el jueves después de la escuela, le dije a mi madre lo que habíamos ideado para el día siguiente. Con una mirada de asombro, ella cuestionó suavemente, «¿El Viernes Santo?».

Le contesté, «Sí …», ilusionada.

Mamá dijo, «No». Definitivamente.

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Mercy and Poetry—Poetry is Lifeline

April 4, 2018

This is the first reflection in our Poetry and Mercy series as part of National Poetry Month. Read the whole series here.

One of the ways I cultivate, integrate and deepen love and mercy is through poetry.

I have delighted in listening to poetry for as long as I can remember. A very significant person in my life, my great-aunt Peg (whom we called “Auntie”), recited poems from memory. She was an Auntie Mame-type: always fun, deeply affirming and extremely engaging. She spontaneously broke into verse. She entranced me with words and images that created a magical world where life was precise, beautiful (even when hard) and really real.

As Essential as Air to Breathe
When I was in junior high I began writing poems. I learned during those adolescent years that by putting pen to paper I could share what otherwise would remain unexpressed. Since then, poetry has become a lifeline for me. I am often inspired to develop lines I’ve written in my journal into poetry. When I am struggling to understand something that is happening or what I am feeling, crafting poetry helps me to name it and pursue its deeper meaning. Poetry as expression of what is in my heart is vital and has led me to discover so much about the presence of God, the spiritual life (especially my own spirituality) and myself. It has become nearly as essential as air to breathe. As poet and political activist Muriel Rukeyser said, “The sources of poetry are in the spirit seeking completeness.” I have learned that there are things that will be revealed to me only through the power of poetry.

Two Poems by Sister Danielle
In this spirit, I share a poem I wrote for Auntie. I have introduced you to a very special person, and I hope that she inspires you.

Auntie
Her voice was draped in Erwin Pearl
And wrapped around the words
Of any poem or song she unfurled
With zealous abandon.
The things she’d say
That no one else
Could or would dare
Only drew me in closer
To Shalimar-soaked air
Where the earth was wet with life
She wrung from the day.
Auntie taught me how to pray.
Not with words,
She did little in a usual way,
But by how well she loved me
And a snifter of brandy.
Her whole heart hung on the edge
Of the pool – in summer sun
Long days browning,
Counting laps or seconds
I could hold a handstand.

She was all there;
Her whole self the prayer.

The second poem is one I wrote as I was struggling with shedding some of the ways I used to name myself and measure my success. It’s about the process of coming to know myself in Mercy and as poet.

Names
I used to have a name or two
That suit-ed me just fine.
Basic black, classic style…
Lovely, really, and sophisticated.
Dress them up or down,
Day to night, no matter the occasion
They were perfect and they were mine.
An easy answer to any question asked.
A ready response to the demands of the day.

One day I woke to find they no longer fit.
I’d have cried if I thought it permanent.
Out grown or grown out, I was unsure.
I looked them up and down, turned
Them inside out. To the eye, they
Looked the same. Once on, they
Felt different…or, did I?
I’d begun to feel constrained
By the old, familiar names.

They live, now, in the dark of my closet;
Hanging memories of well-dressed days
When a name meant something more.
Sometimes I look on them with longing;
Feel the fine fabric, the smart stitch.
Wondering if I could wear them again…
If I tried, would they fit?

I smile and close the closet door.
I haven’t need for names anymore.