I read this poem, or writing, whatever it is, hung upon the wall of my brother’s home. His wife, a lifelong Catholic, now devout, told me she purchased the poem during her twenties, during a difficult time of her life. She was a young lady exploring life in the eighties, drinking and drugging a lot, living the fast life with her first husband, a wealthy man consumed with the boating life upon Lake Erie, partying at Put-in-Bay and other hotspots on the waters of the Great Lakes. The man would divorce her after two daughters, leaving her for a younger woman. She continued drinking, yet raised two stellar daughters alone. She has been sober now, I believe, going on ten years. The poem remained with her, always seeming important. During the time of the purchase it proved antagonistic, a retort to her self-consumed egotistical husband. Now, she adores the simplicity, as she says, the realistic impression that in a world of free will, the life of Christ was truly the only way for God to make a lasting impression. The natural life of Jesus established the supernatural reality of salvation. The supernatural clings to the natural life of Jesus. A mystic at heart must absorb himself in the simplicity, humility, and detachment within the life loving example of Jesus. I like the apophatic nature of the poem, the defining of Jesus through what he is not: ‘He never…’ On the natural level, there are so many things Jesus never did. Within the supernatural, he did everything.
A Solitary Life
James A. Francis
Let us turn now to the story.
A child is born in an obscure village.
He is born to a peasant woman.
He is brought up in another obscure village.
He works in a carpenter shop until he is thirty,
And then for three brief years is an itinerant preacher,
Proclaiming a message and living a life.
He never writes a book.
He never holds an office.
He never raises an army.
He never has a family of his own.
He never owns a home.
He never goes to college.
He never travels two hundred miles from the place where he was born.
He gathers a little group of friends about him and teaches them his way of life.
While still a young man, the tide of popular feeling turns against him.
One denies him;
Another betrays him.
He is turned over to his enemies.
He goes through the mockery of a trial;
He is nailed to a cross between two thieves,
And when dead is laid in a borrowed grave by the kindness of a friend.
Those are the facts of His human life.
He rises from the dead.
Today we look back across nineteen hundred years and ask,
What kind of trail has he left across the centuries?
When we try to sum up his influence,
All the armies that ever marched,
All the parliaments that ever sat,
All the kings that ever reigned
All are absolutely picayune in their influence on mankind
Compared with that of this one solitary life….