Hearing that Benedict of Nursia (480-547) miraculously returned a shattered earthenware pot to its original pristine condition, people came from afar for his healing touch. So shaken was he by the crowds, he fled to a cave at Subiaco. A fellow monk lowered food and water to him every few days. He did not leave the cave for three years.

Sestina for Miracle-Seekers


Heal-me-begging miracle-seekers

chased him from normal piety

to a ten-foot-deep hole in the ground, his home

for three years, an entombment both spiritual

and physical, chosen because he longed

to be alone with the Lord, desperate

for unbroken communion with him, desperate

to be holy, while the self-centered miracle-seekers

thought only of their make-me-well wants and longed,

sadly, for the unnecessary. Their piety

being superficial, they put their bodies before the spiritual,

thinking the earthly tent an all-important home.

But the body is only a temporary home

for the soul. Would these people ever become desperate

for God instead of their healing? Would the spiritual

ever conquer the flesh? Can miracle-seekers

grasp that relationship unmasks sick piety,

piety that binds and misleads? I have longed

myself for a body free of pain, and longed

for physical comfort more than for God. At home

with grumbling and sorrow, I lived full of rage, not piety

(even piety of a poor sort), just crying me, me, me. Desperate

for a pool-of-Bethesda healing, I joined the miracle-seekers

in their blind desire. To focus me on the spiritual,

God put me in a cave of suffering. Spiritual

growth demands hardship and solitude. I longed

for release, but did not want to be just another miracle-seeker,

seeking my will, not God’s. I realized my true home

is in heaven, not in this crumbling cage. Now desperate

for the three-personed God, I discovered true piety

rests on Christ, the person, not on what I want from him. True piety

fountains forth from the spiritual

waters of the Living Word. No longer desperate

to make God obey me, I only longed

for intimacy with him, his Spirit at home

in me, no more just a do-what-I-say miracle-seeker.

I encourage you, miracle-seekers, be at home

in flesh that wastes, long only for the spiritual,

abandon false piety, and for Christ alone, be desperate.

Citation Information

Mary Lou Cornish, “Sestina for Miracle Seekers,” An Unexpected Journal: Saints and Sanctuaries 5, no. 1. (Spring 2022), 105-108.