Sunday, January 24, 2016

Poems of Dom Helder Camara

Bishop of Rio de Janiro, he believed that the power of the church should be used for the poor, and worked toward this end in Vatican II.  He led the Pact of the Catacombs, a group of priests devoted to the poor.  He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but the government of Brazil stood in his way.

His greatest work, however, were his poems in which he expressed his deeper life before God.  He wrote seven thousand poems in his life, and the far majority of them have not been published.  Here is a handful. 

Become an expert
in the art
of discovering the good
in every person.
No one
is entirely bad.
Become an expert
in the art
of finding the truthful core
in views of every kind.
The human mind
abhors total error.

There are those
whose being 
is possession.
There are those
whose essence
is giving.

If you disagree with me,
if you have something to give me,
if you are sincere
and seek the truth
as best you may,
honestly, with modest care,
your thought is growth
to mine, correction,
you deepen my vision.

Hope without risk
is not hope
which is believing
in risky loving,
trusting others
in the dark
the blind leap
letting God take over.

When on judgement day
the angels call the artists in
they will be so proud
of their share
in God the Father's power
of creation,
that the Son
will find it hard
to judge them strictly
because poets especially
remind him of his Father.

isn't your creation wasteful?
Fruits never equal
the seedlings abundance.
Springs scatter water.
The sun gives out
enormous light.
May your bounty teach me
greatness of heart.
May your magnificence 
stop me being mean. 
Seeing you a prodigal
and open-handed giver,
let me unstintingly,
like a king's son,
like God's own.

Hear, O Lord
my special prayer
for my people,
the voiceless ones.
There are thousands
and thousands
of human creatures
in the poor countries
and in the slums
of the rich countries
with no right
to raise their voices
no possibility
of claiming
of protesting
however just
are the rights
they have to uphold.

-All poems taken from the volume Dom Helder Camara: Essential Writings, most are from the original volume The Desert is Fertile.

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