I went to poetry group yesterday. Before group I listened to a long phone conversation, where the woman is telling the man many things to do. I listened to his consternation, audible on the other side of the phone, his unbelief that he had to take care of two sets of newly born kittens and make sure they were warm and fed.
She encouraged and coached him to hold the kitten to the mama cats’ nipples and to bath them in warm water and blow dry them if necessary to keep them warm and fed. She had a few other requests which went from cleaning out something stink in the fridge, to washing the cat rags after the birth and finally calling the town hall about an e-mail that went astray.
When our leader came she reported that she was delayed by dump and recycling concerns. She brought us a Christmas poem, which included the line that the oxen kneeled at the birth of Jesus. She answered some questions about the ability of the poem to bring us to something out of the ordinary, to have us fall into hope, to be lifted up. She quoted two lines from the end of the poem “The Collar.” In the poem, a priest is complaining deeply to God about his life and his profession and how hard it all is for him. His concluding lines approximately were; “Me thought I heard a voice say “child” and I answered “My Lord.”
I had a strong visceral reaction to the two lines above, as if something reined down on me from above and turned over in me what needed to be righted in my Solar Plexus. Shivers went all over me, as if I was the “child,” being acknowledged by God. I was caught in the net of the speaker, the words and my listening self. I kept repeating the lines all day in wonderment at their ability to move me so.
Later when I went over this story with a friend, the same thing happened again, accompanied by shivers. The listener then said, she might have come out that evening especially to hear the “Collar.” On that same evening she had come through a car accident when two deer dashed out in front of her and went between her car and another on a narrow dark country road.
A young man in his mid thirties said he is happy but his joy is gone. He thought he had it when cycling on the west coast of America, young and fancy free. While talking in this way he is looking in an old album and finds something that brings him back to his teens, a time when he wrote out what it was that would bring him joy. It is the necessary search of the second half of his life where his soul work has to be included in his life work in order to give him meaning. All he needs is that intention, that childlike intention, and it will bring him the dreams and the intuitions that will bring him back to his joy.
And there is that wondering in me about what exactly the collared priest would have said to his God to whom he had devoted his life… Perhaps it was thirty pages long!
The Priest’s Complaints
“I am here for mass and confessions and now look out at the crowd of serious faces, looking to my direction, so that I would look up to you oh God, for them. They come with their deep suffering and want me, a little man, to lift it all up. How useless I feel in that moment. I hear their sins and I attend to their deaths. I have no joy left in me.
What do I have from you Oh God, that goes through me to kick start their fires deep inside for burning their souls clean, for claiming their souls again!
I am your Man standing there, my feet frozen on the marble slabs waiting for the Net of Indra to raise off of everyone, that filament of hard tack that keeps their noses down on this big grind stone of life. I am their central pole having to hold it all up for you, for them. I need them all to be priests and I need them to hold up their own umbrellas and have courage to own their own souls again.
As I sit here resting, in that little space to call my own, on the marble chair on the side of the alter, I your priest am transported to the ocean, looking at the waves on the western seaboard of Ireland. I know I have to step onto my carrack with my own little oars and have to navigate the storm that life is for me. My little hallowed out log boat is bobbing about on the high waves of life. And I am asking you “will you take care of me?”
In the silence after the concretion of the mass I hear the word “child” and I fall on my knees, bow my head to the ground and say “Oh my Lord.”
Then I get up and ask the congregation to bow their heads for God’s blessing knowing that the blessing of God will come through me. “Go in Peace to Love and Serve the Lord.” The end.
I find myself on the far side of Christmas as I conclude these lines. I hope you are happy in your lot and in your life accepting all and pulling joy from the air around you and making clear your intentions for the New Year. I intend to write more,
more helpfully, be more in service and catch on to myself. I love the simplicity of the two lines above and their ability to ground me into joy. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Love from Rose.
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