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I’m attempting to embed a video that, in less than 2 minutes, consolidates my reasoning about why we need to connect more intentionally and effectively as Catholics to serve the world. I’ve often been frustrated that the communication system in the Church is top-down, rather than both top-down AND horizontal. The dimension of lay networks makes possible the integration of communication back to the Church and her leaders. I’m a huge fan of hierarchy, but I don’t think we’ll quite grow up until we learn to build effective community among ourselves, where Church doctrine is actualized in our lives and collaborations. I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts. This is, in a sense, a ‘homework’ assignment I’ve given myself after studying network theory for a while.
The Race gives us a glimpse into the endless round of self-neglectful business that is robbing a woman of the peace of resting in her Lord. She wakes, with the jolt and intensity of a runner at the starting block, having anticipated and rehearsed the day’s demands to the point of near-sleeplessness. We feel sorry for her, hurting herself as she is by the hyperactivity that clearly is leading her to physical breakdown and, possibly, to the point of madness. But, we see in her mania an element of free choice that prevents our interpreting her predicament as inevitable, or unavoidable.
The poem is full of choice words with several layers of meaning that combine to place the characteristics of such driven-ness into relief against a background of love – of self, and of God. Here are just a few examples:
Writhe: twist in pain, twist into coils
Compress: press hard, condense, contract
Mania: ungovernable frenzy, excitement manifested by hyperactivity and elevation of mood
Design: mental scheme in which means to an end are laid down
Restive: stubbornly resisting control, uneasy
Heady: willful, rash, head-first, intoxicating
Coil: tumult, trouble
These images all fight – as the woman fights – against relaxation, and true rest. This woman’s coping, or self-defense mechanisms have gone horribly awry and are now destroying her. She is doing violence to herself, to the day, and to those around her, whose needs and humanity she speeds past.
The Race speaks of the subtle seductive power of ideas. Unless they are translated into reality – dull and tedious as that process may be – they may lure us into a world of imagined virtue, imagined freedom of movement, imagined rest that undermines the very things ‘vain imaginings’ represent. We may lose our footing in the imagined future if we dissipate our energies by grappling with virtual problems. Grace does not, cannot flow into virtual life. That territory – for all our work to know and control it – is an unmapped waste: “ungraceful and uncharted time”.
As one whose own life is the stuff this poem was made of, I can speak firsthand about the antidote for this woman’s – for my – impotent, cramped, pragmatic, heedless life. The cure is, pure and simple, real rest. The Source and Summit of this elixir? The Eucharist. Christ, fully present, waits for the soul to turn, simply, to Him for refreshment, for new life.
The poem echoes Christ’s words (in a vision) to Bl. Angela of Foligno: “Make yourself a capacity, and I will make myself a torrent,” and alludes to the last line of John Donne’s Holy Sonnet 14 (“Nor ever chaste except you ravish me.”) I include a discussion of The Race in my talk, A Prayer, A Poem, A Person, a Place, to illustrate both poetry and the poetic person – one whose very being is, like a poem, a place of encounter with Reality.
It is my prayer that, by winning people over to the practice of true Sabbath-keeping – Eucharistic Sabbath – I can help restore the calm, surrendered, interior spaciousness that will invite Christ’s torrential grace, more and more, into the world. “Slowed to a singleness of soul,” the double-minded man can become whole, and participate in the glorious freedom of the children of God.
Note: Since the poem is a bit longer than usual, I’ve got a pdf of it for you, here.
In the absence of anyone knocking at my door asking for new blue-grass gospel tunes, I offer this to you. (Know Colin Raye, anyone??) In case you didn’t realize it, song lyrics count as poetry (ok, not all do…), so this fits my Monday poetry theme. It’s also the very real prayer of my heart, though sometimes my heart prays in more of a Gregorian Chant way, and has even been known to pray in what could only be expressed as an Ethel Merman, show-tune fashion.
The major struggle of my early Christian years was getting back to Christ’s mercy after an ugly fall into sin, back into His arms after wandering, lost and alone, spiritually, when pride kept me from admitting how lame I was. This struggle isn’t over yet, but the turn-around time is much faster these days.
You can also see a YouTube of Angel Road performing Bring Me Low, though, sadly, they disbanded before putting it on their next CD.
Let me know if anyone knocks at your door asking for blue-grass gospel with a Catholic vibe.
Lyrics: [Read more…]
OK, I’ll admit it: friends laugh at me for waxing poetical about things biological, but I can’t help it! Read Chapter 3 in Souls at Work for more on my fascination with the microscopic child and his movement toward the mother – his first ‘act’! Did you realize the placenta is made of the first cells of the baby himself??
This poem is about any old kid – wonder that he is – and about The Child, Jesus and His Blessed Mother’s own yearning for Him that is every mother’s call to her unborn child: “Come, Come!” In this poem is her YES to God and Christ’s YES to her desire for Him.
Blessed Angela of Foligno had a vision of Christ saying to her, “Make yourself a capacity, so I may be a torrent.” This image so resonates with me that you’ll see it in many places in my work. (Really? You haven’t read everything I’ve ever written??)
It seems to me that God uses all the yearning-for-what-is-not-yet to bring about His response, His giving of that very thing. To me, the blastocyst teaches us we must first yearn, move toward what we must have for life, act. Then God supplies all that is lacking in our little being, and makes the huge, nourishing network of His economy of grace accessible to us, no matter how little able we are to receive it all.
Please also note that the world is trying to re-define the moment pregnancy begins as ‘implantation’ which occurs several days after a real child is conceived and begins to grow!!!!
Once upon a time
in a deep, quiet darkness
two forms pierced one another,
This One pulsed with light,
once, twice and again –
double, double, double.
Eight mirrored chambers,
then, as one, the seven veils drew back.
Single and still, the One remained, an “I”.
A pause, a holy hush, an agony of yearning
while the empty vessel listened
for an answering cry:
“Come to me, beloved, come,”
“Seek me that I may be found!”
Love called and love responded,
Merest capacity moved toward
the corresponding torrent
and was filled.
It is not always a pleasant thing to come to Christ. All around us are women in varying stages of hardened self-defense against the pains of un-love, abandonment, violation, fatherlessness, abuse and sin. To such women, from another, these poems have been written. The pair can be read individually, or back and forth from verse to verse, as a dialogue. ‘Cacophony’ is the cry of a woman’s heart to be loved, purified, and husbanded. The journey she has begun, of trusting her wooer, has become extremely painful as her vulnerability increases in response to his love. She feels betrayed and frightened as her self-protective cover drops away, revealing sin and pain. ‘Euphony’ is the response of Christ to this woman. His calm resolve to love and have her as his own is not upset by her self-loathing frenzy. Unperturbed even by her seeming hatred of him, he sees through to the deep need of her soul for healing through faithful love. [Read more…]