Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Flaming Heart - Richard Crashaw, 1612 - 1649

O Heart, the equal poise of love's both parts,
Big alike with wounds and darts,
Live in these conquering leaves, live all the same,
And walk through all tongues one triumphant flame;
Live here, great heart, and love and die and kill,
And bleed and wound, and yield and conquer still.
Let this immortal life, where'er it comes,
Walk in a crowd of loves and martyrdoms;
Let mystic deaths wait on 't, and wise souls be
The love-slain witnesses of this life of thee.
O sweet incendiary! show here thy art,
Upon this carcass of a hard, cold heart,
Let all thy scattered shafts of light, that play
Among the leaves of thy large books of day
Combin'd against this breast, at once break in
And take away from me my self and sin;
This gracious robbery shall thy bounty be
And my best fortunes such fair spoils of me.
O thou undaunted daughter of desires!
By all thy dow'r of lights and fires,
By all the eagle in thee, all the dove,
By all thy lives and deaths of love,
By thy large draughts of intellectual day,
And by thy thirsts of love more large than they,
By all thy brim-fill'd bowls of fierce desire,
By thy last morning's draught of liquid fire,
By the full kingdom of that final kiss
That seiz'd thy parting soul and seal'd thee his,
By all the heav'ns thou hast in him,
Fair sister of the seraphim!
By all of him we have in thee,
Leave nothing of my self in me:
Let me so read thy life that I
Unto all life of mine may die.

(The picture is by Jim Dine, who spends so much time making hearts.)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

O Me of Little Faith

The Holy Father has returned to Rome, safe, well, happy, very much alive. I was so fearful before he came, and now feel a little silly. Should I? Looking back to just a week ago, there was non-stop criticism on the airwaves. Most of it was of the level of a Discovery Channel documentary - you know the ones: "because of the tenuous relationship between this vague rumour and that crazy loon THE END OF THE WORLD IS NIGH". But it was unrelenting. The door was thrown open and they all walked through into our heads. And it got me down. I have to say, it's hard raise your head in a society where you're being told 24/7 the person you admire, and pray for is a neo-nazi woman-hating homophobe baby eater. The British media went crazy on it. The Irish media went crazy on it too, only a few days later. Nobody told us there was all that organisation happening, that schoolchildren were writing poems and drawing pictures to give to the Pope, that families were buying rail tickets and packing picnic baskets, that choirs were practising, practising, practising, seminarians polishing, polishing, polishing, and millions of people praying, praying, praying. I suppose that's not a good news story - 'CATHOLICS DO EXACTLY AS THEY SHOULD' - but it sure feels good to me.

So I'm sorry, iron faced woman who wants to be a priest of a religion she neither loves nor respects, and I'm sorry, gay activist and semi-official public blame apportioner who wants the pope to resign even though of what the pope does and what the pope is gay activist public blame apportioner does not have the slightest clue, and I'm truly sorry, sexual abuse survivor, because you're so, so, so in danger of developing what has been called 'the vanity of victimhood', and now it's time for you to stop surviving on a diet of apologies and settlements and resignations and start living. I'm even sorry for you, charming television personality and successful author atheist. You unfailingly target the Catholic church as your opponent, which is a sort of compliment, I suppose, as if other religions don't really propose or defend a concept of God, and your pride in the disinterestedness of your logic is so irrational it smacks of Robespierre and Co. I'm sorry for you all because you have no love in your hearts. But I'm happy you are all alive because any person can change, and any hard heart can soften, and some day you may be happy to let Catholics be Catholics. Some day, soon I hope, you may feel the way I feel now.

I know, I did'n't have enough faith, but I'm not going to beat myself up about it. I am, as always, surprised and overjoyed by the grace of God.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Two Wrongs?

'All a load of sh*t,' shouted the drunk with the bag of beers and the skinny girl swaying after him...'All a load of sh*t' he roared at the elderly priest who looked back at him with gentle surprise. The congregation was shocked when he staggered in, shouting, just after the Communion had started. He staggered up a side aisle and out in front of the altar, dropping his pearl of wisdom all the time, freely, a phrase so perfect it could but be repeated, never bettered. 'Get out', I shouted - another rare gem of syntax. I heard a few other half raised voices that trailed away, leaving me as the only one who thought both sides of this fascinating debate should be audible. 'Get out'. Was I wrong? But he didn't get out and the congregation sat like lamped rabbits. Why? If it was in the cinema the same people would roar 'down in front' without any hesitation.

I nudged my husband. A few other women nudged theirs. About eight men started down the aisles and there was a kerfuffle and then they were gone.

I felt so angry and churned up I couldn't receive the Eucharist. I wouldn't dare with my mind in such an unworthy state. I fumed instead of prayed. Something about the reactions of the congregation made me almost as mad as the drunk, something about my reactions too.

When Mass was over the congregation applauded the priest for his sang froid. He was chuffed. He had kept his cool, but what had the congregation kept? Its head down?

It will take a long time to work out this one.