Wall-painting of St Christopher emerging headless from Reformation whitewash

This week’s poem in the Catholic Poetry Room is by Gareth Calway.                                                                                                                            

Wall-painting of St Christopher emerging headless from Reformation whitewash

The giant said to the hermit,
“As a youth I waxed in my pride,
Overpowered all comers at games
Then I put childish things aside.

“As a man I donned sword and armour
And served the world’s greatest king
Till I saw him in terror of Satan,
Such a coward was not worth serving.

“At the heart of the darkest dark forest
I found Satan holding court.
‘Are you then the world’s strongest monarch?’
‘I am.’ ‘Then it’s you that I’ve sought.’

“But a cross made King Satan cower.
‘Do you fear a small piece of wood?!’
‘Not the cross but He who once hung there.’
So to Him would I go, if I could.

“And I’ve followed this still voice within me
On the trail of that strongest one
To your cell, so, hermit, now tell me
Of this terrible Christ who was hung.”

“Not by fighting but fighting evil,”
The hermit replied, “we deserve
This Christ who fears nothing and no-one,
And whom only the bravest can serve.”

“But God gave me might for a reason!”
The hermit replied, ‘Then dwell here
On the bank of this wild angry river
And carry poor travellers over.”

So he lives until one night a child comes
Whom he carries into the stream
Whose slightness grows ever more heavy
Till his mighty legs bow at the knee.

“You’re the heaviest burden I’ve carried,”
He says as he sets the child down,
“How can littleness be so colossal?”
A golden Light shines around.

From within it, the child speaks softly,
“I bear all the sins of the world,
All its sorrows, for I am the Christ child,”
– The mighty man’s senses whirl –

“And because you’ve been kind to the weakest
And borne Christ upon your back,
‘Christopher’ I call you… ” He says and is gone
Like a star as the morning comes back.

“Not by fighting but fighting evil,”
The hermit replied, “we deserve
This Christ who fears nothing and no-one,
And whom only the bravest can serve.”


Gareth Calway has published nine volumes of poetry; a schooldays comic novel for adults, a children’s novel about the African Slave Trade (Collins); various educational and regional journalism; educational text books and studies for Collins (as series editor) and others. His poems have been published in such journals as Encounter, New Welsh Review, Envoi, London Delhi Poetry Quarterly, The Rialto, and HQ Poetry Magazine and various anthologies.

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About the Author

Tim Bete, ICL Poetry Curator To submit poetry to be considered for the Catholic Poetry Room, visit our submission guidelines page.


Tim Bete is Poetry Editor for IntegratedCatholicLife.org and always searching for the best Catholic poetry from today's poets as well as those of the past.

Tim's poetry has appeared in Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry, The Asketerion, and the Poet and Contemplative Blog of the Discalced Carmelite Friars (Province of St. Therese). His first book of poetry is The Raw Stillness of Heaven, of which one reviewer wrote, “If you are Catholic and think that you do not like poetry, this book will change your mind.”

Tim is former director of the national writers' workshop at the University of Dayton—a Catholic, Marianist university. He's a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites (OCDS) and often trades poems with his oldest daughter, who is a Dominican Sister. He says she's the best writer in the family.

Tim's writing has also appeared in several editions of the Amazing Grace anthology series (Ascension Press), theChristian Science Monitor, Writer's Digest magazine, and numerous parenting magazines. His latest book is Wanderings of an Ordinary Pilgrim

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