Associate State Chaplain’s Weekly Message for May 29, 2020

As I was preparing this message, a poem by William Shakespeare came into my head. It is his 29th Sonnet, something that I had memorized many years ago because it gave me comfort in troubling times. In doing a bit of research on it, I discovered that it was written at a time when Shakespeare was out of work because his main source of income at the time, the theatre, was closed because of the London Plague of 1592 (something we, in our current economic situation, can relate to). The closing of the playhouses made it hard for Shakespeare and other actors of the day to earn a living. With plague and poverty looming it is expected that he would feel “in disgrace with fortune.”

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone be-weep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing to be one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;

Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I would not change my state with kings.

This Sonnet appears to be a love poem, of a person who is struggling with the difficulties of daily life (financial, hopelessness, lack of friends), and how the thought of his love makes everything fine. However, as I thought about the poem, I began to see it as the yearning of a person who is struggling with the traps and attitudes of the world, perhaps dealing with jealousy over the possessions or abilities he or she does not have, and how the person finds peace in turning to the love of God. Try re-reading the poem, considering the first portion as the person dealing with self-pity, and the second portion as an expression of prayer to God, in thanksgiving, praise and peace.

Fr. Edward Gibney

Fr. Edward Gibney
Associate State Chaplain

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