Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gerard Manley Hopkins, born on this day in Stratford, England (1844)
wrote this about finding our purpose in life:

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,

Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.

Hearing Hopkins poetry read at a luncheon on a beautiful spring day years ago changed my life.

The poetry reading was one of the final nudges towards becoming Catholic, something I'd considered since reading Thomas Merton's biography 7 Story Mountain in Wichita, Kansas.

This was the Hopkin's poem that most caught my attention that day. It's about a simple man who'd lost his wife and children, who became a saint greeting those at the door where he served as a porter, seeing Christ in each person.

St. Alphonsus Rodriguez

Laybrother of the Society of Jesus

Honour is flashed off exploit, so we say;
And those strokes once that gashed flesh or galled shield
Should tongue that time now, trumpet now that field,
And, on the fighter, forge his glorious day.
On Christ they do and on the martyr may;
But be the war within, the brand we wield
Unseen, the heroic breast not outward-steeled,
Earth hears no hurtle then from fiercest fray.

Yet God (that hews mountain and continent,
Earth, all, out; who, with trickling increment,
Veins violets and tall trees makes more and more)
Could crowd career with conquest while there went
Those years and years by of world without event
That in Majorca Alfonso watched the door.

When read, this captures the beauty of a simple man doing
the duty he'd been assigned, a beauty I remember that inspires
me in the work I do to this day.

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