It was several years ago that I was introduced to The Book of the Savior, a compilation of poetry and essays published by Frank Sheed and Maisie Ward in 1952. The book is hard to find and I especially treasure my copy. I've been reading it ever so slowly, perhaps an essay or poem each week, and have been savoring most of what I read. One of the featured poets in the anthology, Charles O'Donnell, C.S.C., deeply moved me with his poem In the Upper Room. A google search revealed very little about Fr. O'Donnell other than the fact that he had been the president of Notre Dame University from 1928-1934. I don't know of anything else that he might have written. But this, oh how it moves my heart! Perhaps it moves yours, as well.
In the Upper Room
~ Charles O’Donnell, C.S.C.
What did you hear last night, your head on His breast there?
It was Peter in the dark supper-room
Asking of John,
Who with Mary, His Mother, was just returned
From burying Him.
I heard His blood moving like an unborn child,
And His heart crying.
I heard Him talking with His Father
And the Dove.
I heard an undertone as of the sea swinging, and a whispering at its centre.
I listened, and all the sound
Was a murmuring of names.
I heard my own name beating in His Blood,
And yours, Peter,
And all of you.
And I heard Judas,
And the names of all that have been
Or shall be to the last day.
And it was His Blood was calling out these names,
And they possessed His Blood.
Did you hear my name?
Asked a woman who was sitting at His Mother’s feet.
I heard your name, Mary of Magdala, and it was like a storm at sea
And the waves racing.
I heard Peter’s name,
And the sea broke, I thought, and ran over the world.
You heard then the name of Mary, His Mother, Peter said quietly, as he wept there, kneeling.
I did, and it was like the singing of winds and they moving over an ocean of stars, and every star like a hushed child sleeping.
What of Iscariot?
I heard the tide come in and I felt the tide go out,
And I saw a dead man washed up on the shore.
And then John fell to weeping, and no one there could comfort him but only Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and he could tell themNo other word.