“I incline as much to rosary beads…”


With almost perfect timing, in light of this year’s election and all, I fell upon a poem I hadn’t seen before from one of my favorite poets, Seamus Heaney. It is entitled, “Whatever You Say, Say Nothing.”

I’m writing just after an encounter
With an English journalist in search of  ‘views
On the Irish thing’.  I’m back in winter
Quarters where bad news is no longer news,

Where media-men and stringers sniff and point,
Where zoom lenses, recorders and coiled leads
Litter the hotels. The times are out of joint
But I incline as much to rosary beads

As to the jottings and analyses
Of politicians and newspapermen
Who’ve scribbled down the long campaign from gas
And protest to gelignite and Sten,

Who proved upon their pulses ‘escalate’,
‘Backlash’ and ‘crack down’, ‘the provisional wing’,
‘Polarization’ and ‘long-standing hate’.
Yet I live here, I live here too, I sing,

Expertly civil-tongued with civil neighbours
On the high wires of first wireless reports,
Sucking the fake taste, the stony flavours
Of those sanctioned, old, elaborate retorts:

‘Oh, it’s disgraceful, surely, I agree.’
‘Where’s it going to end?’ ‘It’s getting worse.’
‘They’re murderers.’ ‘Internment, understandably …’
The ‘voice of sanity’ is getting hoarse.

Yes, it has it all, doesn’t it. Incivility of politicians and journalists, the reality of civility still found among neighbors, things apparently getting worse, polarization and hatred, and, even, the backlash we are experiencing in city streets.

But I too would like to say, “I incline as much to rosary beads.” Which is to say, remember what is truly substantial and dependable. Substantial and dependable is the faith that puts us in touch with a living God who sorts all things out, who possess the power of peace-giving to hearts receptive, and who empowers us always and in the face of all things to take up the task of doing good by loving our neighbor as we have been loved by God. These are things no election, no government, no politician, no journalist, nor even no ‘crowd’ can take from us.

And so, because “I live here, I live here too,” I will insist on singing as I incline more toward God for what is truly ultimate and strive to work with the others while not expecting so much from them.

Father Tony currently serves as pastor of Christ Church Newman Center in St. Cloud.
Father Tony currently serves as pastor of Christ Church Newman Center in St. Cloud.

 


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