Poems by Sr Alacoque Brien

Hymn in Honour of Saint Louis Bertrand OP
Sr M Alacoque Brien OP in 1896

Come, Children of St Dominic to-day in joyful praise
Of Dominic’s worthy son St Louis your hearts and voices raise.
Ye Catholics of sunny Spain with us in song unite
It was in your nice Southern land, that first he saw the light.

While in the cradle still he lay, his heart to God was give’n,
In Boyhood’s careless days his thoughts were always turned to Heaven.
Behold in early youth he joined St Dominic’s white robed band;
And soon he bore the Gospel’s truth far off to Western land.

The poisoned bowl, the risk of life, nothing could quench his fire.
To win all souls for God and Heav’n, this was his sole desire
And thus when life’s last hour drew near, he heard the Master’s word:
“Come, faithful servant, enter in the glory of thy Lord!”

Enthroned in endless bliss above, the victor’s crown he wears;
with love he looks on us, who weep in this sad vale of tears.
Great Saint! Dom’nic’s name which we in common with thee bear,
Pray that his spirit still may reign in us, his children here.

That we may learn to live and work for God, and God alone;
And by our ev’ry word and act to make Him better known.
And when His summons calls us hence; from this dark exile land,
We may in Heaven swell the ranks of Dom’nic’s white robed band

Sr Alacoque Brien 1877 – 1953

Sr Alacoque was born in Port Elizabeth and was the first South African to be received into the Congregation in 1895. She taught at the Convent Schools in Potchefstroom, in Klerksdorp and in Cradock. She received her B.A. Degree at Rhodes University and later taught at the Motherhouse and served as General Councillor and as Mistress of Schools. She died at the age of 76 after several years of illness at the Mater Infirmorum.

Jubilee Chorus

written by Sr Alacoque Brien for the Golden Jubilee of Mothers M. Reginald Fischer, M Eleonoras Petitpierre, M. Clara Huber

In Memoriam of Gwenda Dowling,
aged 15, died September 20th 1905
Rest while firstlings flow’rs of springtime bloom
In sweet profusion on thy early grave
And zephyrs, mourning thy untimely doom,
The tender leaves in dirge-like music wave.
Oh rest, upon the bosom of thy God,
Our little one, in deep tranquillity,
Rest, though our tears fall hot upon the sod –
‘Tis for ourselves we weep and not tor thee.
How could we grieve that thou art spared the fret,
The friction and the jar, which men call Life –
That mystery writ in pain – with keen regret –
chill fears and bitter disappointment rife.
Dearly we loved thee but we could not shield
Thy tender, trusting heart from such-like woe.
God’s love was stronger, unto Him we yield
Thee, little one, despite the tears that flow.
Thy soul was as a lily-dazzling white,Love’s Impotence
Of Love’s vast might I heard a poet speak.
He called it “strong as death to work its will”.
Alas! methought, where is love’s power to still
Sorrow’s wild cry? How often do we seek
In vain to soothe some loved one’s lightest woe!
We cannot bid one tear less hotly flow
Of all the show’rs that course adown the cheek
Of one more dear than life. Nay, love is weak
And ne’er so weak as when we fain would prove
It strongest. Yet ‘tis well! For prayer is born
Of love’s dire helplessness, and prayer can move
A mighty hand to draw the rankling thorn
Of suffering from hearts we love. Thus God
Maketh love’s impotence love’s chastening rod.

M.A.South African Catholic Magazine, 1910

“Lord if Thou Wilt, Thou Canst make me Clean.”
Covered with sin’s leprosy,
Jesus! Lord! I come to Thee,
As of old the outcast came,
Drawn by Thy great Mercy’s fame,
Crying in his rags and shame:
“Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me Clean.”

On my poor unsightly soul
Not one spot is clean and whole;
Men its loathsomeness would spurn,
And in horror from me turn,
Could they its foul wounds discern,
“Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me Clean.”

At Thy feet woman knelt;
Scornful hearts no pity felt,
Thy Heart’s tender love was such
Thou didst bear her tainted touch.
“Much she loves; forgiven is much. Lord,
Thou didst will, and she was made Clean.”

Much I’ve sinned and little loved,
Yet be Thou to pity moved.
Wilt Thou me alone disdain?
Jesus! must I plead in vain?
Speak Thy potent word again:
Say but, “I will it. Be thou made Clean.”

–S.MA. South African Catholic Magazine, 1910

To Her Only Son
O Little Son, into whose azure eyes—
A reflex of the smiling summer heaver—
I gaze and ever find with sweet surprise
New depths of love, O little son, God-given
The whiteness of thy spirit shames the snow
Just newly driven, and an Angel’s kiss
Has left a shining impress on thy brow.
Thy smile doth seem a bit of Heaven’s bliss
Strayed earthward, How my happy, happy heart
Makes music like the carols of the birds
In spring, since thou did’st come to form a part
Of life and home. The mystery of those words
In Holy Writ, scarce understood by me,
Thy coming hath made plainer, little one,
Their meaning written on thy brow I see
God loved the world and gave – “His only Son”.

  • M.A.South African Catholic Magazine, 1911

Sweet star-blossom with heart of gold
Little white marguerite!
Nestling close to Love’s Prison Hold,
Dying at Jesus’ Feet.

I gaze upon you and hot tears flow,
While memories pure and sweet
Steal o’er my soul of the Long Ago,
And another white Marguerite.

Would she have sullied her petals of snow,
Or wilted in passion’s hear?
God only knoweth, but this I know
He gathered my Marguerite.

– S.M.A.  South African Catholic Magazine, 1911

Take Thou my life – my little life
And make it full of Thee
And prune with Thy unsparing knife
All that there is of me.

Take Thou my talents every one,
Be they or great or small,
For Thy dear glory not my own
Lord, take and use them all.

Take Thou my heart, my worthless heart,
That all would scorn but Thee,
And let it have in Thine a part
Thine ever let it be.

What e’er I have thou gavest me
Nought have I that is mine
Then take my life, my love, my all
And make me only Thine.

  • M.A South African Catholic Magazine, 1912
De Profundus
Out of the depths I cry to Thee
Depths of sin and misery
God, my God oh, pity me!
Weakling and craven, Lord am I,
Lend Thou Thine ear to my anguished cry,
Help! Or I perish where I lie.
Dear God! I have fallen low, so low
If Thou no pitying look bestow
How to rise up I do not know.
Lift me with Thine Almighty hand,
Let me once more in They Presence stand
Whence my own folly hath me banned.
Wash Thou the filth from my sordid soul,
Touch Thou her wounds and make them whole.
Silence her bitter remorseful dole!
Thy little creature wilt thou slight?
Cast out forever from Thy sight
Must I die here in the fearful night?
No! for I see Thy tender face
Bending o’er me to Thy strengthening Grace
Giveth new courage to run the race.

Oh! Let me cling to Thy Father Hand
Close and more close till the heights are scanned
That lead to my Home in the Heavenly land.

Where Thy Beauty unveiled shall my soul enthral
And never again shall I stumble and fall
Far down from Thee, my God, my All!


The Nun
Nay, call not hers a lonely way,
She is a Royal Bride,
Though veiled from sight, both day and night
Her Love is at her side.

Oft in the silence comes a Voice.
Its accents soft, yet clear,
Her heart aglow with love doth know
As she inclines her ear.

He tells her of His boundless love –
She whispers of her own
While at His feet, in rapture sweet,
Both time and pace have flown.

He is her life, her King, her All,
For her to live is Christ.
To die is gain – how poor and vain
Earth’s joys that once sufficed.

Her spirit beats against its bars
Fain would she be released,
And with her love, in Heaven above
Taste of the Nuptial Feast.

To Calvary’s Mountain hand in hand
With Jesus, she must go.
She stumbles oft, but He aloft
Sustains her footsteps slow.

Sometimes the storm clouds threatening lower,
The Spouse seems far away –
The night appals, on Him she calls –
Wherefore does He delay?

But lo! The Sun dispels the clouds
And floods her woe with day –
Her faith was weak, at “Hide and Seek”
The Bridegroom did but play.

He lifts her up with tender care –
His crushed and bruised child
His love enfolds, and closer holds
His trembling, faltering Bride.

Haste, haste from Libanus, Beloved,
Bright choirs of Angels sing,
forsake thy flocks, the Bridegroom knocks
Come, Spouse of Christ the King.

“Inhabitat in me Virtus Christi” (2 Cor 12:9)
Lines written to commemorate Rt Rev Monsignor Fagan’s Golden Jubilee (1865 – 1915)

Power is his
Who, by deed, or word, or pen,
Rules the hearts of other men.”

So wrote a poet once. But oh, how poor
Seems his ideal, as by Faith’s clear ray
We read the mystic meaning of a Feast
Such as we keep to-day. All earthly might
Shrinks to a shadow’s substance, duly weighed
With the dread power of God’s anointed priest.

The warrior of chieftain’s heart exulting bounds,
As his devoted bands to conquest press,
Driving the foe in helpless rout before
His conquering banner. He rules hearts indeed,
By deeds of daring valour. Yet, behold
A power to which his vails, as earth to heaven!

Low at yon sacred bar a sinner bends
Repentant: soft the whispered accents fall
“Absolvo te”; and the foiled demon host
As once at Michael’s “Quis ut Deus?” fly
In headlong rout at bidding of God’s priest.

The orator may sway a listening throng –
Each heart an organ’s key beneath his touch:
The noblest heart might in that power rejoice.
Now, lift the eyes of Faith! Above the head
Of yonder pardoned sinner mark the host
Of Angels, every face with joy aglow,
As thro’ high heaven their gladsome anthems ring
For a soul ransomed. Priests sway angel throngs.

The monarch’s sway that rules a land content
Is all but absolute; from court to cot,
All honour, reverence, love him, and obey.
This, sure, is power! It is. But weigh with his
Whose low-breathed “Hoc est…” in the Holy Mass,
Not subject man, but Sovereign God obeys.
While myriad Angels crowd that lowly court,
Hid in the swaddling clothes of the White Host
God the Almighty owns the priestly power.

And these dread powers, Father revered, beloved,
Your hands have wielded now these fifty years.
And on this joyous Jubilee we come
To offer you our hearts’ rejoicing love,
And wish you – but, what is there left to wish?
Heaven’s self holds gift no higher that It gave
That wondrous summer fifty years ago.
So we will pray “God bless our Father! Spare
His precious life for many years!
God bless his labours with increasing fruit,
After the Gold, his Diamond Jubilee!”

Sr M Alacoque Brien o.p.