Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

13 December 2012


BATTER my heart, three person'd God; for, you
As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow mee,'and bend
Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurpt towne, to'another due,         5
Labour to'admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weake or untrue.
Yet dearely'I love you,'and would be loved faine,
But am betroth'd unto your enemie:  10
Divorce mee,'untie, or breake that knot againe;
Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
Except you'enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.

"Way back" in the early-mid '70s, the editors of the Liturgy of the Hours saw fit to include a dozen or so poems in each of the four volumes.  Most of the poems are by Catholics (e.g. Chaucer, Hopkins) or other high-church authors sympathetic to Catholicism (e.g. John Donne, George Herbert).

I suspect that the revised version, whenever it is released, will contain nothing of the sort, deeming these poems an appendix worth removing.  'Twould be a shame.

Now that I use to pray the LOH, I rarely consult the paper volumes.  (In this and other respects I'm a child of my age.)  But my encounter with the poems was seminal in the development of my spiritual sense.  They told my story.

The above, for example, turned me on to Donne and his metaphysical poems.  For those whose own twisted mind is their chief assailant, I would fain (!) offer "Batter my heart," which expresses Donne's own struggle with God.

Most of us in the state Donne describes are "so close," yet we still hesitate to admit God into our hearts.   As I was recently reminded, God is not a concept to be understood or "figured out," but a Community of Persons to be loved.  And God, a la Richard Marx (no relation to Karl), is right here waiting for us, but He cannot and would not trump a Vagrant Beloved's free will in the process.

It's hard to imagine God as "crazy in love" with us, but He's told us as much.  Over the years I have objected that my own sins and faults have erected an insuperable barrier for God, and that there is no way that the Father-and-Son Reunion will come to pass.  Oh, I haven't actually claimed that, explicitly, but I've prayed and thought that way sometimes.

Here's Donne, speaking from within the context of one who believes and loves God--here he is declaring that the Enemy has captured him and that God must invade, indeed ravish him, for unification to occur.  A tad dramatic, but hey, he's a poet!

The Psalmist was a poet, too, and he would resort to rather sudden turns of thought.  Take Psalm 139, that great anthem to Providence: after limning for lines and lines about how God knows when I rest and when I rise, marks when I walk or lie down, how I was wonderfully made and all, in a trice he spews  invective: "If only you would destroy the wicked, O God, and the bloodthirsty would depart from me!  Deceitfully they invoke your name; your foes swear faithless oaths.  Do I not hate, Lord, those who hate you?  Those who rise against you, do I not loathe?  With fierce hatred I hate them, enemies I count as my own" (19-22).  Did his medication wear off?

After all this, I really have to go to the hospital.  To see parishioners.  To get out of my own head and be of service.  Right now this bald head is being told by the Head of State to "tear down that wall."  He sure as heaven didn't put it up.

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