Ever since I heard the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen recite this magnificent poem by G. K. Chesterton, it became my favorite. I, like Archbishop Sheen, have a tradition of reciting it each Palm Sunday. Since I can’t recite it this year, this will have to do.
When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.
With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.
It seems to me, that all of us can find a little bit of ourselves in the donkey. Either we are stubborn, having an ancient crooked will, or maybe we think we look funny or talk funny with monstrous head and ears like errant wings or a voice like a sickening cry. Maybe we wonder about the day of our birth and imagine it must have been odd, if not evil. A day when fishes flew and forests walked, and the moon had turned to blood. Many of us keep secrets too dark to speak. We are scourged, derided, yet we remain dumb. We keep our secrets still.
Yes, we all, in some way are the donkey. We labor through life thinking “we’re just an ass.” And maybe we are. I know I am. BUT, here is the good news, with Christ, all the errant wings and monstrous heads become beautiful! The day of our birth is far from odd or evil, but a day of grace and rejoicing! Even that ancient crooked will is transformed by Jesus through wiping away original sin, and giving us supernatural grace in baptism. No longer are we tattered outlaws of the earth, but sons of God, himself! And those terrible secrets so many of us hold. Secrets that sear the memory and wound the heart, even these, we can whisper to Jesus as, on this Blessed Day, he gently rides upon our back. He is on his way to take away our secrets in the blood he sheds in love for us. So, my children, why not whisper our secrets to Jesus in confession and be free?
Fools! The donkey cries! Fools! For even a stubborn, ugly, self-willed, ass with secrets are royal when Jesus rides into Jerusalem and he chooses us, donkey though we be, to accompany him on his journey of love. Fools would we be if we do not accept the invitation to have shouts about our ears and palms before our feet.
So this Holy Week, let us accept the invitation, donkeys though we be, to accompany the Messiah on his journey to set us free. Let us stay near him, even as the Cross approaches, and our first instinct is to flee. Let us remain close to our Lady of sorrows, consoling her along the way.
My sincerest hope for you, dear readers, is that more than ever, you will feel the passion of the Lord in your soul during this Holy Week. May you shed tears of sorrow, and tears of joy on Easter. Please pray the same for me.