Can we talk about Poets and Teachers of Dogma? These two professions can seem like direct opposites. Poets deal in dreams, dogmatists in stark certainties. Or so it seems to a society like ours for whom even the word "dogma" is a buzzkill. Yet both Poets and Teachers of Dogma use language to express the fragile mysteries of our human lives.
In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter -- bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."
- Stephen Crane, 1871-1900
Stephen Crane--poet, novelist, journalist and short story writer--was 13 years old when Blessed James Alberione was born in 1884. He lived only 29 years, dying in 1900, the same year Blessed Alberione received enlightenment in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament on The Night Between the Centuries. Yet both the poet and the priest can aptly be described as men before their time.
Stephen Crane explored man's alienation from God and his vulnerability to the harshness of nature--both his own human nature and the external environment. He played fast and loose with the poetic conventions of his time, leaving rules of rhyming behind to write short, pithy poems that anticipated the twentieth century rage for blank verse.
Crane, the non-observant son of a minister, was not sentimental in describing human life. Whether describing tenement life in New York City (Maggie: Girl of the Streets,) or at the horrors of war in The Red Badge of Courage, he wrote with realism. He felt estranged from conventional Christian culture in his sympathetic affinity for the poor with whom he often lived. When he looked inward, he saw fallen human nature:
I stood upon a high place,
And saw, below, many devils
and carousing in sin. One looked up, grinning,
And said, "Comrade! Brother!"
--- Stephen Crane
Blessed James Alberione was not a poet, but he valued poets and other writers who use art to communicate truth, beauty and goodness. I think he would have appreciated Crane's preferential treatment of the poor. He would have approved the poet's interior search for the true God:
-- Stephen Crane
A man went before a strange God --
The God of many men, sadly wise.
And the deity thundered loudly,
Fat with rage, and puffing.
"Kneel, mortal, and cringe
And grovel and do homage
To My Particularly Sublime Majesty."
Then the man went to another God --
The God of his inner thoughts.
And this one looked at him
With soft eyes
Lit with infinite comprehension,
And said, "My poor child!"
|Art critic Sr. Wendy Beckett|
by portrait of Blessed Alberione
Above all, Jesus is the interior Master.
What does this mean? It means that his work of teaching does not limit itself to the ear, but penetrates within. He created our mind, our will, our heart, and he enlightens us, because Jesus is the light which gives light to every man who comes into this world (cf. Jn. 1:9).Perhaps we have rarely given consideration to the profound meaning of this expression: the Word is the light and the light is life (cf. Jn. 1:4); and all was made through him (cf. Jn. 1:3). When speaking of Christ Light, what is meant is the possibility of knowing.
We can know things because Christ renders them luminous and he enlightens us interiorly. He gives us the cognitive power. He increases it, vivifies it, and renders it more penetrating, so that every thought will become an illumination of the Divine Master (HM III, 1947, Jan. retreat).
Fr. Alberione outived Stephen Crane by 71 years. He did not write poetry. But what he did write of divine truth awakens a world of enchantment and hidden joy as beautiful as the intimations of a poet. Put the poet and the priest together, and which image of the sea fits the deepest reality of our mysterious human lives? Is Creation a blue meadow or dead grey walls superlative in vacancy?
To the maiden The sea was blue meadow, Alive with little froth-people Singing. To the sailor, wrecked, The sea was dead grey walls Superlative in vacancy, Upon which nevertheless at fateful time Was written The grim hatred of nature.
Rae Stabosz has been a member of the Association of Pauline Cooperators since 2003. She and Bill Stabosz, her husband of 48 years, have six sons, three daughters, ten grandsons and eight granddaughters; they eagerly await the birth of grands #19 & #20 in October. Rae retired in 2007 from the University of Delaware, where she was a technology and media specialist for 27 years. She is co-founder and past president of The Society of Catholic Scholars of Delaware and proprietor, since 2004, of the Pious Ladies Bookmobile.