Wednesday, October 8, 2008

'At the Altar of My Desk' (1961)
Poem and postcard by LEONA M. LENNEMANN

A thoughtful soul at my church's office last week placed in the church's front hall a number of copies of this 1961 postcard created by longtime parishioner Leona M. Lennemann, a secretary in the State Department's office of the legal adviser. (Click on the picture to see it larger.)

The analogy of an office desk as an altar upon which one offers oneself is quite striking. Although I have never seen it made anywhere else, it calls to mind some of the sayings of St. Josemaria Escriva, who wrote, "God waits for us every day in all the immense panorama of work. Understand this well: there is something holy, something divine, hidden in the most ordinary situations and it is up to each one of you to discover it…Either we learn to find our Lord in ordinary, everyday life, or else we shall never find him" (Conversations, 114).

The reverse side of the postcard includes this legend:


Each sphere of life provides a symbolic altar for us to show love for God by serving mankind. Symbols and tools inspire the service. Here the flag and Capitol symbolize democracy; the three pencils - the Three Persons in One God; plants represent nature; pen and books - knowledge and wisdom.
It takes a saintly mind to look at three pencils and be reminded of the Trinity. I believe St. Francis de Sales, in his Introduction to the Devout Life, also advised using everyday objects to bring to mind God's qualities and His gifts.

Judging by the Washington Post's obituary of Lennemann, who died in 2005 at the age of 95, she was a remarkable woman; I wish I could have met her:
In 1944, she was present at the Bretton Woods Conference in New Hampshire that made plans for international economic recovery after World War II. The following year, she attended the United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco that resulted in the signing of the United Nations charter. She was named secretary of the year in her office in 1971.

Miss Lennemann was a poet in her spare time and in 1969 was designated poet laureate of the State Department's office of the legal adviser. She was a member of the International Society of Poets, which gave her the International Poet of Merit award in 1994 and 1995. She won a number of other honors for her poetry over more than 40 years, including the Golden Poet award in 1988 and 1989.

She was a member of the National Society of Inventors and had three patents, for food containers, clothing and a typewriter-centering device. ...

She was [a] member of the lay Carmelite order, a Catholic service organization.