Saturday, March 29, 2014

Digging Deep | America Magazine

My mother -  from whom I learned the love of language -  sent me this beautiful tribute to Seamus Heaney by a parish priest, born in Ireland, now serving in poor Camden, New Jersey.  I've posted the ending below but it's worth reading from the beginning, so click through to it.  Ireland is still a place where masses mourn a poet, and a poet can be President.  - gwc

Remembering Seamus Heaney, weaver of words

His poem “Requiem for the Croppies” touches on the tragic losses suffered by the Irish people in the 1798 insurrection for independence. Here are a few lines:

The pockets of our great coats full of barley—
Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon.
They buried us without shroud or coffin,
And in August—the barley grew up out of our grave
This poem inspired the peace monument that parishioners at Sacred Heart Parish in Camden, N.J., one of America’s poorest cities, erected in 2009, at a busy intersection near our church. I was honored that they’d chosen it to mark the golden jubilee of my ordination. (I serve as pastor there.) The monument is eight feet high, a huge open seed with the kernel, PEACE, in large letters within it. The base is the earth with barley growing up, and hands reaching up out of it to broken weapons.
“I am moved to know that ‘Requiem for the Croppies’ figures in the peace monument,” Seamus Heaney wrote to us.
Heaney’s last words were written in a text to Marie, his wife, moments before he died: Noli timere (Don’t be afraid). It is good advice for those of us still on this side of the grave. This past fall, I made the journey to St. Mary’s Church and its graveyard, where he lies under the fresh green sod of Bellaghy. His grave is in a corner, under an ash and a sycamore tree. An old wall on two sides has ivy on the unmortared stones, holding their own. It is near the tombstone of Christopher and his parents. I poured blessed water from the Sacred Heart church in Camden on his grave, which will be a destination of inspiration for centuries. It is a place to recall his words:
History says, don’t hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.
Rev. Michael Doyle, a native of Longford, Ireland, is pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Camden, N.J.

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