Openness to mystery.
Listening like a child;
Discernment of vocation.
Encouragement for the Way.
Views of a new Catholic in an old world on the joy and inexhaustible meaning found in the Faith
Openness to mystery.
Listening like a child;
Discernment of vocation.
Encouragement for the Way.
This is Reason #374 why I don’t live in “the big city.” I rumbled up the driveway in the Mustang, and as I lined her up to back into the garage, I spied “Mikey” in all his camouflaged glory crawling up the side of the other car. Sounds like a lead-in for an article in Big Backyard magazine, doesn’t it?
I love this photograph of Fr. Abram J. Ryan. Maybe it’s his hair, or perhaps it’s his stare. He has that look about him that says “I don’t care who you are, here comes the goods.” Last summer I shared his Song of the Mystic, and his background information, in this space. There’s a connection between him and me because (for a time) he was the pastor of the parish where I attend daily Mass. I bet he was a great preacher too.
I can imagine hearing him raise his voice at times, opening his eyes wide to make a point, sweeping his mane aside and raising his hands to heaven. And within a moment, dropping his voice fall into a whisper that leaves you on the edge of your seat hungering for the nectar he has teased from the readings. A priest who had seen war in both the heights of it’s glory and the depths of it’s desolation, and then applied what he saw to the Word. I bet it was something to behold.
But he was a poet, see, not just some hell fire and brimstone preacher. He was a mystic, a man of prayer. As well as a thinker and a doer. He was no poseur, as a poet either, as a reading of the following verses will make clear.
Thoughts, by Fr. Abram J. Ryan
By sound of name, and touch of hand,
Thro’ ears that hear, and eyes that see,
We know each other in this land,
How little must that knowledge be?
How souls are all the time alone,
No spirit can another reach;
They hide away in realms unknown,
Like waves that never touch a beach.
We never know each other here,
No soul can here another see –
To know, we need a light as clear
As that which fills eternity.
For here we walk by human light,
But there the light of God is ours,
Each day, on earth, is but a night;
Heaven alone hath clear-faced hours.
I call you thus — you call me thus –
Our mortal is the very bar
That parts forever each of us,
As skies, on high, part star from star.
A name is nothing but a name
For that which, else, would nameless be;
Until our souls, in rapture, claim
Full knowledge in eternity.
See what I mean? Maybe you have to be Irish, but…this guy is good!
A wiser man than I once said,
When, indeed, the artist desires to teach us a great spiritual truth, he invariably expresses it under the form of an allegory or symbol. For the soul dreams ‘neath the star-sown sky of symbol. It is spiritually its lisping language—the divine form of its expression.
…Yes, verily, the true gods do sigh for the cost and pain in making a poet out of a man. He shall henceforth see all things not through a colored glass, darkly, but with that inner eye, which, to the material and gross is sealed, but which is full of vision to the inspired and chosen few. His soul henceforth shall be in touch with both the lowly and Divine, for the function and office of poetry is to interpret unto man the glory of God in the universe.
The words above are those of a man of letters, a teacher, a poet, a Canadian, and a Catholic. His name is Thomas O’Hagan, Ph.D., the son of Irish immigrants. His biography reads as follows,
The youngest son of John and Bridget (O’Reilly) O’Hagan, natives of County Kerry, Ireland, was born in ‘the Gore of Toronto,’ on the 6th of March, 1855, and was a babe in arms, when his parents, three brothers, a sister and himself, moved into the wilderness of the county of Bruce, Ontario. They located in the township of Elderslie, three miles from the village of Paisley. The other settlers were mostly Highland Scotch, and Thomas as a lad learned to speak quite fluently not only the Gaelic tongue of his neighbours, but also the Keltic Irish, which was spoken freely by his parents. He attended the public school of the settlement where the teachers were Scotch, and where he applied himself with such diligence and ability that he won a Second Class Teacher’s Certificate at the early age of sixteen
Few Canadians have devoted so much time to academic study as Dr. O’Hagan. After graduating from St. Michael’s College, a prize winner in Latin and English, he entered the Ottawa University and graduated B.A., in 1882, with honours in English, Latin, French and German. Three years later the same University conferred on him the degree of M.A. In 1889, he received the degree of Ph.D. from Syracuse University: and in subsequent years took postgraduate work at Cornell, Columbia, Chicago, Louvain, Grenoble and Fribourg Universities. In September, 1914, Laval University, Montreal, conferred on him the honorary degree of Litt.D.
What tipped me off to him was a slim volume I had added to the Bookshelf over yonder (see right sidebar) a while back. Entitled, Essays on Catholic Life, I perused it anew in search of a poem. In it I found the thoughts that began this post, as O’Hagen presented poems of Tennyson, Browning, and Elizabeth Barret Browning in an essay on The Office and Function of Poetry. Go check it out.
But I also found some of his own poetry and you can now find a number of his books on the handy, dandy, YIMCatholic Bookshelf, you know, over yonder. I’ll share this short poem he wrote because this has become an altogether too long, and probably the longest post, that has ever run under the title “A Few Words for Wednesday.”
|St. Mary’s Basilica, Krakow Poland
Photo Credit: Sonia Marcus
Through this medium,
I can risk looking silly
by writing thoughts
in a strange style
with no fear of damaging
“the brand,” you see.
But “new media”
is quickly being co-opted,
if not dominated,
by old media companies.
Repackaging their messages,
paying people to share them,
and you wouldn’t even know that
if you weren’t careful.
Then, of course,
there are the revolutionaries.
The “new media” and “new evangelization”
are the old ways, actually.
But with direct access
to connecting people
instead of personally.
face to face,
working alongside them,
witnessing to them
by our daily
Sharing our stories
and struggles with them.
and picking each other up
As people naturally do.
New Media can fool you
into thinking you know the person
who is sharing that message with you today
that hint or thought.
Again, I’m no expert
but I think these new ways
are very good,
but easily manipulated.
Orson Wells caused a panic
with a mere radio show
and we laugh
at the people’s naïveté
from our lofty perch.
How different are we
I suspect not very.
As Qoheleth said so
long, long ago:
Nothing under the sun
neither is any man able to say,
“Behold this is new!”
For it hath already
in the ages
that were before us.
Of course, Qoheleth could not
send his message
at the speed of light
from where he sat
to where it would be found
in a remote village
That is the promise
of the New Media and
the hope of the
is that the message
of Christ’s love,
for the whole world,
in our awe of
Just a reminder
(If only for myself).
Our Eastern brethren have been observing the Dormition Fast since the first of August. It continues until August 15th this year and concludes on the Feast of the Dormition, which Western Catholics celebrate as the Feast of the Assumption. In honor of this tradition, I will be sharing some of our Marian posts. This one is from October of last year…
Edward Caswall was another Anglican priest who converted to Catholicism in the mid 1800′s. He also joined the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, like his friends Blessed John Henry Newman and Frederick William Farber. And, like them again, he was a prolific poet and hymnist.
Below is one of Caswall’s fine poems included in his book of verse entitled The Masque of Mary. This particular poem really resonates with me.
As a convert to Catholicism, I pretty much ignored Our Lady my whole life. Lately, I’ve been making it a point to pray the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and pray the Rosary regularly with my family. Although I’m not always 100% successful in this effort, I can truthfully say that I’ve been coming around to recognizing the significance of The Blessed Virgin as both the Mother of God and the Queen of Heaven.
Much like Caswall, though, I wish I would have come around sooner (but better late than never).
A Convert’s Lament to Mary
Among the thoughts that in my heart
Awaken grief sincere,
Causing with sudden pang to start
The unexpected tear,
Is this, that in the days gone by,
Star of the wintry sea!
Blinded by darkest heresy,
I thought so light of thee.
Had I but learnt in earlier years
To seek thine aid above,
To offer thee my infant tears,
Thy loving glance to love,—
How many deeds of sin and shame
Which now my heart appal,
Scar’d at the sound of thy pure name,
Had not been done at all!
How many a desolated space
Of vainly wasted hours,
Had bloom’d beneath thy smile of grace,
With paradisal flowers!
Mother! receive thine erring child;
Look tenderly on me;
From thy dear bosom long beguil’d,
I now return to thee.
Interestingly, I missed this video (below) last week when Deacon Greg Kandra ran it over at his place. Maybe there is a reason for that. You see, earlier this week some friends of mine got into a discussion regarding books of the Bible. [Read more...]
Thankfully, the scriptures are not one dimensional, like say the characters in an Ayn Rand novel. I’ve mentioned before how uncanny the readings can be, as well as the timing of selections that are in the Liturgy of the Hours. That is where I ran across today’s poetry selection.
Are their inconvenient scriptures? Of course there are.
Otherwise, you would just pick and choose what you liked from the Bible and toss everything else. Thankfully, we have a Magisterium that prevents such a travesty.
Given the events of the past few days, this particular selection from the Office of Readings today sort of stood out like a sore thumb.
For the leader. A maskil of David,when Doeg the Edomite went and told Saul, “David went to the house of Ahimelech.”
Why do you glory in evil, you scandalous liar?
All day long you plot destruction;
your tongue is like a sharpened razor, you skillful deceiver.
You love evil rather than good,
lies rather than honest speech. Selah
You love any word that destroys, you deceitful tongue.
Now God will strike you down, leave you crushed forever,
Pluck you from your tent, uproot you from the land of the living. Selah
The righteous will look on with awe; they will jeer and say:
“That one did not take God as a refuge,
but trusted in great wealth,
relied on devious plots.”
But I, like an olive tree in the house of God,
trust in God’s faithful love forever.
I will praise you always for what you have done.
I will proclaim before the faithful that your name is good.
Image credit: Linda Robb.
I’ve been reading John C.H. Wu’s The Interior Carmel: The Threefold Way of Love. This morning, I caught the shuttle bus from the parking lot to the bus stop right outside of my office back-door. As I was drinking my coffee during the ride, I dipped into my book bag and flipped open John’s book. Guess what I found?
Before my eyes were the words to a little ditty that John suggests “when spiritually interpreted, will perhaps give an inkling of the joy of the saints.” I think you will agree that they do. And in the spirit of “for God so loved the world,” enjoy this depiction of the rooster/world by graphic artist Kentaro Nagai.
Cold is the wind, chill the rain.
The cock crows kikeriki.
Now that I have seen my Love,
Peace has come to me.
The wind whistles, the rain drizzles.
The cock crows kukeriku.
|From a newly discovered1500 year
old church in Israel
Now that I have seen my Love,
My sickness is healed too.
The wind and the rain darken the day.
The cock ceases not to crow.
Now that I have seen my Love,
My joy ceases not to grow.
I think you will be surprised by this, because I know I was.Yesterday, I shared a little something that the atheist, and self-described “aesthetic Catholic,” George Santayana wrote. Today I’m going to do the same.
It seems Professor George really wanted to be known as a poet and he wrote a good number of poems and sonnets, which were published by the Herbert S. Stone & Company publishing house. I “discovered” his poem The Hermit of Carmel yesterday and I am amazed by it. I added it to the YIMCatholic Bookshelf without hesitation.
I’m no poetry critic, because I don’t know poetry enough to criticize it. I only know what I like and can understand, and what I think is good. Below I’m sharing with you a taste of Professor George’s artistic ability from his poem Lucifer: A Theological Tragedy.
Published in 1899, this poem opened to mixed reviews. It was viewed favorably by Christian critics, and less favorably by secular ones.Tongue firmly in cheek, I wonder why? I’ll give you a taste of his ability via two speeches. The first is by St. Peter to Hermes, and the second is The Risen Christ to Lucifer himself.
from Act IV,
Saint Peter’s Soliliquy to the pagan god Hermes,
It is a serpent tempts thee, noble youth.
Even while speaking truth he leads astray.
His eye is subtle, but his heart is blind,
And of God’s fruits he marks the spotted rind,
But not the kernel where their virtue lay.
All nature yields no meaning to his mind,
For understanding withers at its springs
Unless love guide it to the sense of things.
On faith is built the wisdom of mankind.
Mark how this age, that builds its truth on doubt,
Falters at heart and knows no certain hope,
But trusts to fate, with which it dare not cope,
To work its undeserved salvation out.
What truth have men ? The senses brief deceit.
What happiness ? The slavery to greed.
What art ? An echo and a paltry cheat.
What God ? A helpless consciousness of need.
Upon what food, then, doth this people feed
That it forgets of whom it borrows breath?
Knows it the secret of the budding grain,
Or can it conjure floods or summon rain?
Or grows it sick and amorous of death,
Or like its father, Satan, dull to pain?
Oh, men have waxed too covetous of gold
To lift their eyes up from their labour s gain;
And as each morning brings the sun again
And summer wears his splendours as of old,
They drive the ploughshare deeper in the mould
And say : There are no longer gods in heaven!
With smitten breast and penance would they crave
Their bread, if God less bountifully gave,
But they forget him now, when all is given.
Thus are the souls my Master died to save
Like earth-regarding beasts in stupor driven
Without the hope of heaven to the grave.
from Act IV, Christ to Lucifer
Unteachable! Is God not the Lord of Hosts?
The arms that against his bosom fly
His own strength drives, and in thy mutiny
He triumphs, and is mighty in thy boasts.
What need of sentinel to guard the shore
When he is master of the embosoming sea,
When his the wave, the bark, the sail, the oar,
And his the sinews of his enemy?
O Lucifer, couldst thou behold thy soul,
As it lies open to my Father’s sight,
The gathering clouds of pity fast would roll
Across thine eyes, to hide thy proper plight,
And rain on thy parched heart in showers light
Of sweet humility. Woe to the vain
And raging will that hugs its mortal pain.
Is it for thee to fathom wrong and right?
Tis God who spun the fibres of thy brain
And wove thy reason; had he placed awry
One thread, new dreams had turned
thy dreams to naught
And idle thought confounded idle thought
For ever, and none questioned destiny.
Now thine own tyrant, to thyself unkind,
Thou chafest at the limits of thy wit
Whose meek quietus were to live resigned
And serve the elder will that fashioned it
For in the bosom of the infinite
Thou hast thy life, and thy forsaken woes
Like foam on the false bosom of a wave,
Rise in vain fury, impotently rave
A moment only. Then thy proud will goes
Whither the billow sinks or the wind blows.