Sunday, March 6, 2011


This is a poem which has been shared with me by a long time friend, George Woodworth.  It is not my friend who wrote it but a long past relative of his, his grandfather, George W. Woodworth.  This man's writings were published often in the Milwaukee newspaper of the time as is noted at the end of the composition.  Most of the poems are not of a religious or spiritual tone, but there are some, like this one, with a powerful religious message.  In this singular instance the author echoes my sentiments about "No Crying at my Funeral."  I hope you enjoy this profound reflection about a righteous life, a song, never sung but by the church of the soul of the writer and in the hearts of his readers.
Paul Dion, STL, Theology Editor

Let not Despair usurp the throne, where Hope should reign supreme;
And be not guided in your course by phantoms of a dream;
Not blindly wander here and there, a follower of chance;
But rather tread a beaten path, though slowly you advance.

For wisdom seek, and friendship prize above the state of wealth;
And venture not, for paltry gain, the treasure of your health.
Let manhood be your study, and improvement be your aim;
Inertness may be peace, but I would not remain the same.

‘Tis knowledge sways the minds of men, and holds the world in awe;
All nature is prepared to serve the one, who knows her law;
And who would be a sordid slave, a stupid, brutal clod,
When, if he chose, he might approach the glory of our God?

Ambition, it may be a curse, if justice guides it not;
But honor to the soul that strives, and would not be forgot!
And highest honor be to him, the impulse of whose mind
Is only to succeed, that he may bless his fellow kind.

Then let us all, within our sphere, for better prospects try,
Respecting, helping those we meet, and stifling ev’ry sigh;
So onward, upward, every day, in pleasure or in pain,
Our lives shall be a proof that we have lived them not in vain;

Our labor shall be happiness, and, when our eyelids close,
Contented thoughts shall fill our dreams and sweeten our repose;
And when above our pallid brow, the angel Death shall wave
His sable pinions, we shall not be frightened by the grave;
But calmly looking o’er the race, which we below have run,
Shall hope to hear our Father say, “Well done, my son, well done.”

Reward complete of perfect joy, and everlasting rest,
Shall be our own, when we shall reach the haven of the Blest;
And well can we afford to scorn our earthly load of care,
Supported by the thought that we shall have no burdens there.

Our lamp of life has brightly burned to cheer our fellow-kind;
Our memory shall linger still in ev’ry loving mind;
Thus death shall have for us no sting, no victory the grave;
But all triumphant shall we pass across the Jordan’s wave.

Date of composition:  February 17, 1891
Copied from:
· “Select Poems” by George W. Woodworth
· Newspaper clipping by George W. Woodworth

Friday, March 4, 2011


5Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.
   '6Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:  7And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.   8Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
   '9And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.   10Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
   '11Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate..." (Isaiah, 6)

I promised you some examples of real, live, everyday people who are economically comfortable and are living lives outside their country, away from their kindred and outside of their fathers' house.  Just like Abraham.

The 40+ year old parish secretary
The 80 year old factotum (general gopher)
The 72 year old Internet epistolier

The 40 year old secretary
A widow with three children.  Very pretty lady.  Was given a clerical job at the church when she was really at her wits, and dollars ends some 9 or 10 years ago.  Has gone for continuing and polishing education.  Has taken some serious Canon Law courses at the diocesan headquarters.  Has had a chance to get more lucrative work but has opted to serve God.  She discovered that she can help people by participating in the county's "alternative sentencing" program.  She screens people who are referred by the court to work off light sentences by doing social service work.  Those who fit the profile, she accepts by writing to the court and offers them general labor work in and around the church for the duration of their sentence.  I wish I could get her to talk in public about her "ministry."  The stories that she has would make a stone cry.  She tells me that she is not ready for marriage.  She likes being married to God and His community.

The 80 year old factotum
Truly away from his country, far away.  Retired military.  Loving wife also a "send me" disciple.  Always present.  Always moving.  Always self-effacing while being gently assertive.  Respected by all, including the inhabitants of the rectory.  Has done it all, and is still doing it all.  He is the living proof that God has a sense of humor.  He is a person who has been able to perform no matter who the pastor has been.  He serves God, not the pastor.  There are pastors who could take lessons from him.  He is the John the Baptist of the place.  Fortunately for us, he hasn't met his Herod yet.  Nor his Salome.

The 72 year old epistolier
This is a guy whom I know fairly well.  50 years married to the same woman.  I think about half that time he had his mother-in-law living in the same house.  He loved it, and not just because he had a handy-dandy baby-sitter at hand.  He and wife have five children, one with special needs.  The rule in their family is "don't hope for miracles, expect them."  Not only do they expect them, I have known them to make them happen for some of us who haven't learned God's ways as deeply as they have.  He left the seminary, physically, but never left the mission.  He never took back his "Send me!"  He has had more spiritually meaningful "gigs" (he's an actor!) than I can enumerate.  More than I have.  Over the last few years he has maintained a daily column of reflection and meditation for a fairly extensive online mailing list.  He's always writing, and he's always writing under the unblinking eye of the Word.
Last year, he was the God-sent sacrament of Divine Presence in our house, helping me to recuperate from a challenging illness.  He didn't take the pain away, he moved it from general agony to split sides and sore nostalgic muscles.  He hastened my ability to stand, yes stand again, like a real man, while using the ceramic depository for kidney waste.  After celebrating that great moment, he went back home, but not without leaving the Spirit of The One Who sent him in the house.

See, there are some of those around.  I could keep you here for a long time, but you get my drift.  It is not the money, it is knowing that love is for God and His people, not George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton ( I think I forgot one).  Remember what Jesus said to the emissaries of John the Baptist, "...the blind see, the lame walk and the deaf hear."  That's where it is to be found, Discipleship and You can't take it ($) with you.


A couple of thoughts about the effect of wealth on people.  Nothing serious, just some opining of two people who heard the same talk in church the other day.
We both noticed that with all the talk about wealth not being important in life, God sure knew how to pick the wealthy to help Him get established.  The Bible makes no bones about making the point that Abraham was a well heeled dude.  You can look it up.  This guy wasn't worried where his next air conditioned camel payment was coming from.  Abraham is not the only one of God's helpers who had a shekel or two to his name.  It is striking how often we are shown in the Bible that rich people are the instruments of God's work.  
Even Jesus picked people who were comfortable enough in life to be able to spare the time to help Him achieve His objective.  True, the apostles left everything, but I'm convinced that their wives and other relatives took care of the patrimony while they were walking all over Galilee with the Master.  After all, these people were fishermen.  They were far from hurting.  As Peter said, "We have left everything."  Right on.  You left it, but it continued in the hands of the extended family.  I'd bet on it.
So,what's the secret?  I'll tell you.  Two things:  Relationships first, plus, You can't take it with you.
Consider first what it took for the true followers of God to be considered righteous in His sight.  They had to leave their country (birthplace, most times), their kindred and their father's house.  They had to replace this with a sincere and loving intimate relationship with God.  Abraham is the first true example of this.  Through the ages there are many examples of exactly the same kind of heroic behavior in the name of God and for the sake of His Will.  The Judges did it; the Kings; the Prophets; the Apostles and the Post-Resurrection disciples of Jesus.  Some of them did it despite a rather high degree of economic comfort.  Jesus, it is true, left a lot behind.  Joseph was a craftsman.  He could support a family.  There do not seem to be any truly rich people in the Gospel Entourage, but there does not seem to be any real poverty either.  What there is, is a complete detachment from economic comfort and a total dedication to making life spiritually more comfortable for the members of the community.  When the emissaries of John ask Jesus, "Are you the One who is to come or should we await another?"  We hear Jesus say, "Go tell him who sent you that the deaf hear, the blind see and the lame walk."  
Yep, they were comfortable economically, but they were nervous about the well-being of their peers. Not so much for their own.  They left their comfort behind knowing full well that it was gone for the rest of their life.   So now we know what is expected of us.  Use the little cushion of comfort that God gives us to make our brothers and sisters in the communion of saints at least as comfortable as we are.  It starts with the recognition that we have to leave those three bold things behind to live in God's Country, with God as our Father, in God Our Father's house.
Tomorrow, some real life examples.