Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Something else Gerard Manley Hopkins said

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) was born in England, educated at Oxford and ordained a Catholic priest in Ireland. Perhaps believing his new style of poetry to be incompatible with the austerities of Jesuit life, Hopkins' poems were not published until after his death. His most well known poem is The Wreck of the Deutschland.  

The German ship S.S.Deutschland came apart between midnight and morning, December 7, 1875, after battling a near month long storm. Rescue efforts were slow and inadequate. Word spread of the ships demise whereupon men from neighboring villages converged on the beach to loot the corpses that washed up on the shore.

Among the dead were five Franciscan nuns who were headed to America, escaping the Falk Laws persecution of Catholics in Germany. Hopkins, so disappointed and revolted by this looting, dedicated the poem to the memory of the nuns. Near the end of the poem he writes:

Dame at our door
Drowned, and among our shoals
Remember us in the roads, the heaven-haven of the Reward
Our King back, Oh upon English souls!
Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us,
be a crimson-cresseted east,
More brightening her, rare-dear Britain, as his reign rolls...

Dame at our door. "Dame" is a way of addressing an English nun. At our door: The German nuns washed ashore - at England's door.

Remember us in the roads, the heaven-haven of the Reward: Hopkins is asking the prayers of the nuns who drowned and were looted - perhaps the silver crucifix ripped from their side beads.

Our King back, Oh upon English souls: Hopkins prays for his nation to know Christ again. St.Thomas More (16th c.) said of his own country: "England would have yawned at the Sermon on the Mount." And our own nation?

Notice then that Hopkins uses easter as a verb and not a noun. Let him easter in us. As if to say: Let Christ raise us up to be a new creation - a new, transformed kind of human person. 

Then: Be a dayspring to the dimness of us. Dayspring is the precise point on the horizon where the light of the sun appears to begin the new day. Let Christ return to this country to begin in us a new way of being a people.

The words easter, dayspring, crimson-cresseted and brightening signify change: to brighten our human dimness. The dim heart of the nation. The dim heart of the Church. The dim heart of corporations and committees, commissions and classrooms. The dim conscience: lying, enabling, violent, manipulating, turning-the-blind-eye, blaming and rationalizing.

And I would add, Let Christ easter in us: this United States which allows through machination and interpretation the trafficking of organs, tissues and cells harvested from aborted babies.  And then, further twisting it up, makes it sound charitable, philanthropic and altruistic, claiming these stolen body parts help science and medicine to cure childhood and other diseases. Looting!

Americans were "shocked and appalled" (self-righteous people love those words) when it was reported that the Chinese were harvesting the organs of executed prisoners. We're no different. This country forfeits all claims to the word exceptional so long as fetal looting-remains on the national conscience - the smear of blood-money on the national hands.

Holy Gerard Manley Hopkins,  
grieved at the looting, 
pray for Christ-God to easter in us!


  1. When we commit these abhorrent acts, we show we are nothing more than animals. Animals with conciousness that we turn a blind eye toward.

    1. It is my contention that we have lost consciousness. Someone suggested recently that we are devolving to the level of insects: chewing, devouring, invading, grasping. I understand. So what to do? Jesus is always saying it: Wake-up!

  2. Thank you for your insights Father. You always think about the important things in life.

  3. So many of us Catholics went to church on Sunday and came away with disbelief and disheartened by the silence of the priests on the imminent vote that was to take place the next day on the issue of the killing and selling of baby parts at Planned Parenthood. Your outcry on this nauseating act helps me to believe that all priests are not jerks. Thank you, thank you for defending life, all life.

  4. Maybe, jerks wasn't the charitable thing to say about priests, but it is so disheartening to see there lack of courage when defending a grave injustice.

  5. Although maybe not jerks as the above comment says and retracts, it is true that many priests are afraid of saying things that the people before him might find offensive. And in their lack of forthrightness, they fail to guide the people. As a result we are a community of unguided Catholics. The lambs need direction or they wander off.

    1. There are lots of reasons priests are not forthright any more. Some people, even in church, resent being taught or guided. These are angry times and angry people feel an obligation to register their anger. The priest might be afraid that the parishioners won't give at offertory time. Sad but true. Or in the time of "let me talk to your manager" the young priest might be concerned about the letters of complaint being sent about him to the bishop or pastor. When I was newly ordained the pastor got a letter about me and my preaching. He read it to me: "May the Holy Spirit enlighten your heart and mind as to what to do with this young priest." It's tiresome really.

  6. I needed that laugh Father. Sorry, your first year was such a challenge but I am sure there were many who loved you.

  7. America has never been an exceptional country because of its people, for is and always shall be a mixture of good and bad individuals as is every nation on earth. What is "exceptional" is the idea of a nation based on a concept, a concept so profound that they were incapable of living its potential during their lifetime, and that is the belief that God created man and God has given life to him. From this springs the God given nature of personal liberty and responsibility, the responsibility for his own actions and his relationship to his fellow man,who is also a unique creation of a loving God. The so-called American Dream is nonsense outside of this concept; it is nothing but the idolatry of materialism and selfishness.

    1. Then we ought to know better, wouldn't you think? Indeed, we ought to know best of all. So the shame that covers us is deeper still.