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On the way down my country road, I saw an ugly, black vulture hunched over a dead dog, picking at its entrails. Ugh! In a flash, though, I realized that non-Catholics might see priests with a similar disgust. In this poem, I tried to take something of their perspective and something of my own love of priests, and to resolve that impossible tension.
Do Catholic priests deal in the ‘base trade’ of hearing all the ugly sins of the flesh? Do they really need to keep plucking those awful strings, forcing people to voice the details over again? Is it fair for priests to ‘feast on’ our fleshly sin with disdain, while they practice a bloodless, fleshless, lifeless asceticism? Are they just ‘waiting in the wings’ for us to come into the confessional to disgorge for them our grisly morsels?
Well, whatever you make of my dear priests, I am tremendously thankful for their cleansing ministry. The humility and love in their condescension to do this lowly and unsavory work speaks to me of my Savior, who has overcome death and sin in His own person, and through their priesthood.
Your presence here
offends me, sirs.
On such a day –
glorious and shining,
bright with life –
you stoop to find the fault.
You carry on base trade,
abetting in the victory
of decay over flesh;
dark’ning the sun’s light
in your black-garbed frenzy to partake,
you seem to glory in the mortal stench.
Does putrefaction please, or gore excite
your awful sensibilities?
How can you pluck the strings discordant
of these humorless entrails,
tendons now impotent,
and silenced vocal chords exposed?
And must your hideous trade in rot
be carried on so publicly?
Are we to be exposed against our will
to your disgusting ministrations
as you feast upon the foul particulars
of our kind – at least they lived,
and can you say as much?
You will intrude,
waiting in wings
and hovering just above our life’s domain,
greedy for morsels of the grisliest sort.
I have no stomach, sirs,
for your foul fare,
yet who but you
the sight, the sting,
All the poems are now in one volume, and I’d love for you to have a copy! Click on the cover to buy it, and click here for the recordings of all the poems.