Archive for March, 2011

Last week it was the turn of St. Joseph; this week, following the feast of the Annunciation, 25th March, it is Mary who ‘grabs the limelight’ – Mary, the mother of God, the mother of Jesus, and the wife of Joseph. When these two feast days were given dates, the Annunciation was fixed in line with Christmas Day, it being exactly nine months, to the day, before the great feast of the Nativity, and the feast of St. Joseph, fixed later, was deliberately put six days in advance of the Annunciation. 

These parents, Mary and Joseph, were the first, and best, of teachers in the ways of faith for their child, which is how our Baptismal ceremony speaks of the parents of all baptised children, in the blessing of the Father, right at the end.  It is significant, and of vital importance, to recognise that parents of baptised children are given the responsibility of looking after ‘little people’, who are now filled with the same life of God, as Jesus was – and is;  according to St. Paul we are all – little ones included – co-heirs with Christ. 

It was at the Annunciation, that we have recorded, the famous reply of Mary, to the angel Gabriel: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word”. (Lk 1: 38) Mary was not only compliant with what God wanted of her, but was also highly intelligent; according to the motto of this blog, ‘There is nothing more intelligent than to be in the will of God’.

Philippe de Champaigne: The Annunciation, c.1644 

We know she was intelligent, for God gave her a role that led, ultimately, to her becoming Queen of Heaven, and while she lived, she achieved what God wanted of her. The important reflection of all this, is that each of us has role to fulfil, and the intelligent thing to do, is to conform ourselves to the personal design that God – from all eternity – has for each individual.  From Mary we inherit the ‘Magnificat’, and I would guess that nobody in this wide, wide world, in their right mind, would deny themselves the God-given grace, to be filled with the overflowing joy of Mary. 

My soul glorifies the Lord

My spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour…

The Almighty works marvels for me.

Holy his name. 

Everyone can achieve the measure we have within us, if we remain in God and his will. 

I love the story of the Prodigal Son – because its lesson is universal – and because everyone can identify with it. When the ‘lad’ was in the middle of the ‘mess’ he had made of his life, scripture ‘shuts the door’ on the past, and says: ‘He came to himself and said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called you son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’”’  I love the phrase, ‘He came to himself’. Certainly, it took some time, maybe some months, or even a year or two, and all this time, the Father was keeping watch, for his son returning. The mystery is that this was God’s plan for that young man. How wonderful the lesson!  Now, bring the parable up to date, and calculate what a help he has been, for all who, down the centuries, try to live the Christian way. 

For us, in our time, the process of ‘coming to one’s self’ can take 40, 50 or 60 years! It may take less, but often it is that long; oftentimes, it’s a case of two steps forward, and four back.  But this is God’s will for us, and God is working out his purposes. It is a great pity that, in many cases, it does not happen sooner, because, it is only when it does happen, that we can join in the rejoicing of Mary, glorifying God, then with that ‘inner’ freedom that nobody can explain, coupled with a joy that remains an utter mystery as to its origin.  That means it can only be divine! 

The motto stands: ‘There is nothing more intelligent than to be in the will of God’.

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Joseph, Husband of Mary, Man of Faith

Last week, on 19th March, we had the feast of St. Joseph, and on that same day, there was a wedding in our Church.  What a quite wonderful day to be married, and know that Joseph will be your special protector, all your married life. Truly, he was an amazing man, and, to him it falls to be the guardian of all Christians in the Church. The hymn at the Divine Office of Morning Prayer begins: 

Joseph, wise ruler of God’s earthly household, nearest of all men to the heart of Jesus,

be still a father, lovingly providing for us, his brethren. 

For the wedding homily, I put myself in Joseph’s shoes and wondered if I would have acted in the way he did. He was betrothed to Mary, who was, probably, a lot younger than he was; indeed some Christian tradition suggests Joseph was a widower, with a handful of young children. He was, surely, very fond of Mary, and Mary of him, because both were devout Jews of their time; it is significant that we find them among quite a few couples, mentioned in the Gospel narratives: Zechariah and Elisabeth, Simeon and Anna, Joseph and Mary; no doubt, there are others. My mother, on one day – not long before she died – confided in me, that she was attracted to my father, because she could see he was a ‘good, religious’ man!

(1)   St Joseph with the Child Jesus – Guido Reni (1635)  (2)   St Joseph the Carpenter – Georges de la Tour (1640)

Now, I must ask the question, what if I was betrothed – the word is stronger than engagement and means, essentially, she was destined to be my wife – to a beautiful, young girl, only to find out, after she had been away for three months, that she was pregnant?  Before you rush to answer, please bear in mind that I live in an old-fashioned country, where such unexpected pregnancies are not, in any way to be countenanced, and could, according to law, lead to death. Would I have refused to expose my betrothed, to public disgrace, and therefore decide to, quietly, divorced her, with no fuss? That is what Joseph, described as a righteous man, decided to do (Mt. 1: 19). After that, God sent the angel, who appeared to him in a dream, and told him how Mary came to be pregnant, by the power of God himself, and that he should take Mary as his wife.  Joseph did so, thus facing the public shame that must have been showered on him. 

Once all this has been absorbed, it can be seen that Joseph was a man of deep faith!  Faith entailed for him, as it does even for us today, a life of sacrifice and suffering. But, through all this, he became the man he was destined to be – a man who grew in his love, and knowledge, of God.  Husband of Mary, and guardian and protector of Jesus, our saviour, Joseph became the great saint of all time, that he most surely is. 

                If I were to face the dilemma and make the decisions as Joseph did, then I, too, need to be a man of great faith. There is the calling and the challenge. In this there can be no ‘shilly-shallying’, no half-believing, no half-following God and his will. Only whole-hearted following will bring about the fullness of life that God wants to give, to each and every one of us. 

St. Joseph, pray for us!

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  “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done;

it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.” 

It is many, many years since I first read the words above, but I can still feel the lump in my throat as I came to the very dramatic ending of the ‘Tale of Two Cities’ by Charles Dickens.  Also, as I remember, I found it exceedingly hard to hold back the tears, as Sydney Carton utters these, his final words, as he goes to the guillotine.

Now, some may put forward the view that the ending is over-dramatised, but, taken in context with the subject matter, the years of revolution and tumult in France, the propensities to war with England, and the social irregularities, inequalities and class struggles pertaining to both countries, towards the end of the 18th. century, all of this over-running into the 19th, I come to the conclusion that the ‘epitaph’ by which we remember Sydney Carton is entirely in keeping with themes and plot of the book.  Having led a life, largely, of waste and excess, as the ‘tale’ progresses Sydney undergoes a change of character; at the finale, he enables a friend to escape the condemned cell, in the infamous prison Bastille, by taking his place, and this leads to his final journey on a tumbrel and a ‘date’ with ‘Madame Guillotine’. 

Dickens, of course, was a story-teller par excellence, his perspicuity and sociological insights into the times in which he lived no less than legendary.  However, he was, as I understand the man, much more than this, for many of his works are commentaries on morality.  If one looks elsewhere among his books, e.g ‘David Copperfield’, ‘Oliver Twist’, ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’, ‘A Christmas Carol’, it is immediately apparent that all – plots, scenes and characters – depend for their ‘lives’ on human relationships – the ‘good the bad and the ugly’.  Without those relationships, the moral lessons would not be driven home as they undoubtedly are. 

The other not-so-surprising aspect of Dickens is his inherent Christianity.  Yes, his work, in totality, relies heavily on the moral code – but this code is by no means a secular one.  In many of his books there are echoes of the Church’s teaching running through them – delivering the same message at the end of the day as Jesus.  Many of his main characters carry their crosses, day by day, and many pay the price in the yielding of their lives for the sake of others.  

Greater love hath no man than this – that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13) 

Jesus came to us as a man, lived a largely ‘ordinary’ life at home with his ‘parents’, was subject to them, becoming apprenticed to St. Joseph to learn the carpenter’s trade.  He would have ‘played’ with his friends in Nazareth, just as all lads do, but we know almost nothing of this.  Thus he grew into a man and it was then that the ‘great call’ came, and he bowed to the will of His Father.  He left home, parents and began his life of ministry, a life that was to end in the forfeiture of his life for his friends – for all those who accept him – accept his love – friends like you and me.  And Jesus said, “…. you must take up your cross and follow me.”  Obviously it is not given that all of us should become martyrs for our Faith, though down the centuries, there have been thousands, I suppose, who have done just that – followed Jesus, cross and all, right to the yielding of their lives in a holy death – a second baptism in blood.  For the rest of us – the multitude of ordinary lives – lived as Jesus would want us to live, but without that fatal touch – it is still given to us to take up our crosses and to follow him.  I think of the people I have known throughout the years of my life, and I am sure all of my readers, for example, can do the same, and whilst ‘scratching heads’ in a ‘blood-letting’ of memories, I cannot actually come up with even one that went through life ‘scot-free’ from  problems along the way.  It may be a truism to say that all life involves suffering of some sort – then, now, whenever…. …?  The secret, I think, is to offer up those problems, those difficulties to God in some kind of reparation for sin – something we can do, but only because Jesus died for us and rescued us, in the first instance. 

I made the point, above, that not all of us are given that singular grace, that enables us to give up our lives for God.  But, from the many thousands who have managed to do just that, I mention, here, just two who gave their lives (in different ways) – for God, and for those people connected closely with their lives.  In my last blog, 10 February 2011, I included two priests among those who have achieved sanctity in our lifetimes.  The first of these, Father Maximilian Kolbe, was martyred in Auschwitz Concentration Camp, 1941, and the second, Father Damian, (Damien), who, whilst serving the lepers in the islands of Hawaii, contracted leprosy, himself, and died of the disease in 1889.  The manner of these martyrs’ deaths was, factually, different, the first being executed, the second of a virulent disease – but, in essence, both gave their lives for their friends.

Father Damien of Hawaii:  Born Jozef De Veuster, in 1840, the seventh child of a Flemish corn merchant, he entered the novitiate of the ‘Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary’, once old enough, and took the name, Damien, on the occasion of his first vows, thus following in the footsteps of his brother Auguste.  As a missionary brother, he arrived in Hawaii in 1864 and,

Portrait of Father Damien, attributed to Edward Clifford, 1868, Honolulu Academy of Arts 

shortly thereafter, was ordained priest, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, Honolulu.  From there, he was assigned to the mission at North Kohala, on the Island of Hawaii. Round about that time, the islands were in crisis, many potentially fatal diseases having been introduced by foreign traders and sailors, and thousands died of influenza, syphilis and leprosy – to name just a few.  Because of fears regarding the spread of leprosy, especially, those having contracted the disease were segregated from the rest of the island community, and over 8,000 were moved to leper colonies at Kalaupapa and Kalawao, divided from the rest of the island by a steep mountain range.  This segregation was nothing less than a disaster for these easy going people, who became uncared for, neglected, and the easy-going and happy way of life became one of drunkenness and debauchery.  The bishop, seeing what was happening wanted to send a priest to minister to the lepers’ needs, but realised that, in doing so, he was pronouncing a death sentence on any missionary chosen. After deliberations, four priests volunteered to go to the leper colonies, and Father Damien was the first of these to be sent to Kalaupapa, there to minister to 816 lepers.  His first course of action was to build a church and establish the Parish of Saint Philomena, but his role was not limited to being a priest: he dressed ulcers, built homes and beds, built coffins and dug graves. Six months after his arrival at Kalawao he wrote to his brother, Pamphile, in Europe: 

…I make myself a leper with the lepers to gain all to Jesus Christ. 

Undoubtedly, his arrival in the colonies marked a turning point in the lives of the lepers; the people returned to their more civilized ways of life, basic laws were introduced, they had good housing, working farms to provide food, and schools the provide for their education. 

In December 1884, while preparing to bathe, Damien inadvertently put his foot into scalding water, causing his skin to blister. He felt nothing, for, by then, he had contracted leprosy. He did not let this bother him, but worked vigorously at the programme he had designed for the continuing welfare of the lepers – a programme he hoped would be continued after his death.  Now a leper, himself, Damien was well cared for by a Japanese Leprologist, Dr. Goto, and by his nurse, but, disease apart, he pushed forward his reforms for the community, giving and taking no respite.  But the disease was taking no prisoners (as they say) and by March 1889 he was bed-ridden, the disease having by then taken hold of his limbs.  He died in April of that year at the age of just 49.  In 1995, Damien was beatified by Pope John Paul II and canonized, October 2009, by Pope Benedict XVI. 

Father Maximilian Kolbe: Born Rajmund Kolbe, January 1894 in Zdunska Wola, which was part of the Russia, at the time, he was the second son of Julius Kolbe and Maria Dabrowska. He had four brothers, Francis, Joseph, Walenty (who lived a year) and Andrew (only to the age of four).  In 1914, his father, Julius, was hanged by the Russians, for his part in the struggle for the independence of a partitioned Poland.  His mother worked as a midwife – often giving her services for charity. 

St. Maximilian Kolbe – Prayer Card 

His life, even as a child, was strongly influenced by a vision of Our Lady: 

“That night, I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.”

In 1907, Rajmund and his elder brother, Francis, decided to become religious; they illegally crossed the border between Russia and Austria-Hungary and joined the Conventual Franciscan seminary in Lwow.  In 1910, he was allowed to enter the novitiate and professed his first vows in 1911, whereupon he took the name Maximilian; he professed his final vows in 1914, in Rome, adding the name, Maria, as a mark of his devotion to Our Lady.

He completed his studies in Krakow and Rome, achieving a doctorate in philosophy, and it was during his time as a student in Rome that he witnessed violent demonstrations against Popes Pius X, and Benedict XV, largely orchestrated by young Freemasons.  He describes the placing of a black standard, depicting the defeated archangel, St. Michael, lying at the feet of the Devil, and anti-Catholic pamphlets, as shameful attacks on the papacy.  These events brought about Maximilian’s efforts to organize what he called the ‘Army of Mary’ to work for the conversion of sinners, and the enemies of the Church.

Maximilian was ordained priest in 1918, and shortly after that returned to Poland, now newly independent, where he was very active in promoting devotion to Our Lady – also in the founding of a monastery near Warsaw.  In the 1930’s, he was engaged in a series of missions to Japan, founding a monastery on the outskirts of Nagasaki, and a seminary.

Back in Poland, in the early years of World War II, he provided shelter to Polish refugees including 2,000 Jews, whom he hid from Nazi persecution, in his friary at Niepolalanow.  He was arrested by the Gestapo, early in 1941, and imprisoned for some three months before being transferred to Auschwitz Camp, in May.  In July, three prisoners ‘escaped’ from the camp, and this caused the deputy camp commandant to pick ten men to be starved to death in an underground bunker, as a deterrence to further escape attempts. One of those selected cried out: “My wife! My children!” and it was then that Fr. Maximilian volunteered to take his place.  In the starvation cell, he celebrated Mass each day for as long as he was able and gave Holy Communion to the prisoners, covertly, during the course of the day; the bread and wine for the Eucharist came from some  of the kindly guards – sympathetic to the plight of the condemned men.  He led his cell-mates in song and prayer, and encouraged them, telling them that they would soon be with Mary, in Heaven.

 Stained glass of Maximilian, prisoner, Franciscan Church of Szombathely, Hungary, and Monument to Maximilian at Chrzanow, in Poland

When the cell was checked, he was usually standing, or kneeling, in the middle of the cell, his demeanour being one of calm throughout. After two weeks deprived of food and water, only Maximilian remained alive, and it was then, because the authorities wanted the bunker emptied that they gave him a lethal injection of carbolic acid. His remains were cremated on August 15, the feast of Our Blessed Lady’s Assumption.

Father Maximilian was beatified in 1971, and later canonized, as a martyr, by Pope John Paul II in 1982.

St. Damien, St. Maximilian and all holy martyrs, pray for us, that we may receive the grace from God, to renew and strengthen our faith. Amen.

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Lent, can it be joyful?

 We are just beginning Lent, and many of us will have received ashes, as a sign of repentance. The purple colour of the vestments in Lent is usually linked to mourning and sadness; it is the usual colour of the vestments at a funeral Mass. The Greek word for repentance is ‘metanoia’ and it means a profound transformation or conversion, and what has always stuck in my mind is the image of person walking in one mistaken direction and then turning round and taking the opposite one – a ‘U-turn, if you like! My feelings about Lent since adolescence – reinforced by early monastic life – were always coloured by thoughts of dull austerity, hard work and a period of suffering. We have now entered Lent 2011, and this leads me to reflect. 

‘There is no gain without pain’ is an often quoted maxim that makes sense to me. The ‘pain’, however, is not quite so important as the ‘gain’; the gain gives purpose to – a ‘raison d’être’ for – the pain. A concert pianist needs to practice eight hours a day, if he, or she, is to be competent to continue at professional standard, and a good athlete trains in equivalent ways, daily; without that vital training, he, or she, will simply not be ‘up to it’. These examples throw light on the matter in hand. 

Difficult problems, sadnesses, separations, periods of boredom, lacking in food and sleep, to say nothing of society’s injustices – there are many others I could mention – are all part of our everyday lives. But, these can be used to good purpose. For ourselves to be ‘forged’ in the spiritual life, we should, consciously, allow these everyday experiences of life to ‘mould’ us and thus grow closer to Jesus. As our target, we can aim at the fruits of the Spirit, ‘Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control’. All these are real attributes of God within us, and, personally speaking, I would find the last one quite a challenge, still. We cannot attain, or obtain, these gifts without training ourselves, and this training is actually a gift from God. One can have fun training in worldly success; the musician might enjoy music-making; the athlete might enjoy the keeping fit; for us, especially, our ‘spiritual’ training is to make us grow in union with our greatest friend, who is also our spouse. 

This training, using the ordinary events of life, is best done in two ways.  Firstly, try to find some other companions who will support and help you. This may be from Church, from those you know and with whom you can chat and discuss – not necessarily, directly, about the plan to let the fruits of the Spirit be what you aim for – but support, as a fellow parishioner, on the way to union with God. It may be as simple as joining friends for coffee after Sunday’s 9.30am Mass; it may be as part of a group in Church, the Cleaners, the Choir, the Folk Group, the KSC, the Catenians or whatever. Secondly, aim to live the present moment well, and in that present moment, do your best to live out what that moment demands, driving the car, cooking the tea, talking to a colleague, listening to the children, praying, or whatever the demands of the day call you to do. In this way we will not be ‘vague’ and ‘wishy-washy’ about this strenuous spiritual training, but it will amount to something real, and active, in the practical daily details of life. 

In Lent, I think it behoves us to be willing to take on ‘extra’ things to help us to ‘change’ and to ‘grow’ – always in one direction – towards God, our Father. Where, then, do we choose to be in forty days’ time, when Holy Week comes, when we share with Jesus that ‘culmination’ of the earthly life? St. John’s Gospel calls it the ‘glorification’ of Jesus, when he was raised up on the Cross, with all its ghastly horror – and evil personified! Perhaps, in different ways, we may be called by God to experience something like that.  Clearly, people do go through such sufferings, as recent news of the horrors of the Libyan ‘civil war’ brings to our notice. Only recently, an elderly lady, still cheerful despite the intense pain of her cancer, pointed out that we have nothing to complain about, compared with what those Libyans are going through.  That lady is certainly advanced in her life of union with God. Would we not, in forty days’ time, prefer to be more fully ‘human’, as a result of being more ‘fully tuned in’ to our ‘real’ self – a self made in the image and likeness of God? 

Below is a picture of the altar frontal, in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, that we use in Lent. It shows the cross almost ‘alive’ as a person. It is bending down over the repentant sinner and seems to be saying: “Do not worry; do not take yourself too seriously; come into the arms of the Love that Jesus has for you and be certain that He will support you in that profound transformation and conversion that God wants for you.”

Yes, Lent can be joyful! It may be about experiencing something difficult and painful; it may be about denying ourselves something we enjoy; it may be we do not do something we like, in order to spend time with God; it may be about reading, in a meditative way from scripture, or praying; it may be about denying ourselves some pleasure; it may be about attending an extra Mass, because our faith teaches us that the Eucharist enjoins both living the way of Jesus, in our daily lives, and the source of strength to live his way.  The beauty of it is that, having overcome the painful processes, having denied ourselves for Jesus, or having ‘gone that extra mile’ for Him, the result is great joy.   

Lent is not necessarily linked with misery, for that, essentially, is ‘negative’ thinking. But, on the positive side, joy can be the culmination of doing that little bit more for Jesus. 

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Do We See? Do we really see?

One day recently, I met an elderly man who had undergone a tracheotomy and, as a consequence, was on oxygen, permanently. Wherever he went, he had to go with a heavy oxygen bottle, and this meant he could not go very far away from base. I asked him how life was for him, and he told me that once he got up, he used to go into the garden, sit on a favourite seat and look down into the grass.

There, he saw things he had never seen before, and he loved watching insects, bugs and small spider’s webs – a multitude of life-forms, all taking place before his eyes in that mini-world. He said he had never had the time to see, and enjoy, such things until he became ill. 

Winter Hill from Blackrod 

When I was a younger man, one of my favourite rest day’s relaxation was to go rambling the local Lancashire hills, to White Coppice, near Chorley, or over the moors by Winter Hill and the  radio / TV mast – by now more than likely covered with mobile phones’ antennae, too.  Jack Frodsham and I oftentimes set off alone together, and with our ‘butties’ and ‘flasks’, we would be as happy as ‘sand-boys’, no matter the weather – sunshine or rain. My friend, Jack, used to say: “Never let the weather put you off, whatever it is – just get out and go”, and I think that advice was good, for, in our climate of changing Lancashire weather patterns, one must ask, would we dare to venture out at all, on most days? Jack did not need any guide books; he knew all the foot-paths and by-ways by heart, as he had been walking – on doctor’s advice – for many years.  This came about, above all, because he had suffered a heart attack, and his doctor had advised him to take exercise, especially walking.

One day, I remember, we were up on the moors, somewhere above Abbey Village, and he turned to me and said: “No money could buy what I have. I have greater wealth than any millionaire. Look at this wonderful view, breathe in the pure air, feel the freedom, and at the same time I have a wonderful wife and family, so what more could I want?”

It was a great joy to walk with Jack and to have his company – in silence, as well as in conversation – and after he died, there was a sad sense of loss. Then, he was missing from his usual place in Church, and even today, his walking boots are still by the side of his gravestone in our cemetery, now seriously weather-beaten, some 20 years since he last used them. 

 All this puts me very much in mind of the following well known quotation: 

“Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?..Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith?” (Mt. 6: ; 26, 28 – 30) 

Jesus, quite definitely, asks us to look at what is around us, to consider all the beautiful things we see, and for my part, I can readily understand why people at the sea-shore stare and enjoy the sea-gulls, why those ducks on the pond in ‘Shrugs Wood’ give so much pleasure, why the leaves of the trees bud, live and die, the blue sky in all its wonderful varietal forms, with clouds changing shapes – I know of people who play games identifying their shapes and what they look like – so fascinating! But then, we need little ‘romantic’ imagination, to allow ourselves to identify with what is already there in the glowing, friendly, eyes of a child, the affection of the bent, old gentleman, with a gnarled face and lines of wisdom, etched so deeply; then, we may ask ourselves; “Do we believe”, based on what we see, what we observe, deeply, and what we then think?  There is so much to learn about all that we see, about all the things around us, and how all this affects us, from ‘cradle to grave’. 

Gerald Manley Hopkins got it right in this poem – though, I agree, it may not be to everyone’s taste or understanding. He wrote it in the beautiful Welsh countryside, when at St. Beuno’s, in 1877, and he thought it might be his best poem.

Gerald Manley Hopkins


The Windhover – To Christ Our Lord 

I caught this morning morning’s minion,

Kingdom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding

Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding

High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing

In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on a swing,

As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding

Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding

Stirred for a bird, —the achieve of; the mastery of the thing! 

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here

Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion

Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!


No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough down sillion

Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,

Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.



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