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Hold fast to poems, prayers, promises

Hold fast to poems, prayers, promises


Poverello Corner

There are many things in life that can move us emotionally and one of the most common forms dates back many centuries - music. Sometimes it is the beat or it might be that the words carry a message that relates to our lives. One song I think is very poignant is by John Denver and it is called "Poems, Prayers and Promises."

The chorus line in particular strikes at the core of what I believe most of us share in common. It reads: "Poems, prayers and promises, things that we believe in, how sweet it is to love someone, how right it is to care, how long it's been since yesterday, what about tomorrow, and what about our dreams and all the memories we shared."

Poems are a form of communication that varies tremendously in format and can strike each of us in very different ways. Whether the poetry is by Robert Frost or Rudyard Kipling or songwriters such as John Denver or Eminem, it is intended to evoke a response, which - depending on our life experiences - will be different for each of us. That is one of the beauties of poetry.

Prayers, whether done in a community or by ourselves, allow each of us to internalize our hopes and dreams for ourselves, our friends, relatives and for the human race as a whole. Sometimes they are in the form of a simple blessing before a meal or before we go to bed. Other times they can take the form of unifying a people at a time of war or after a natural disaster. Prayers can be done in silence, in song, or in great unison with many who share a like belief.

A favorite blessing of mine, which was the school theme song of the Catholic school for which I was administrator, is the Irish Blessing. It reads: "May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand." Whether it is read at the end of a meeting or sung by a high school choir at graduation, it was always a wonderful way to send everyone off in fellowship.

And of course promises are a way of life. We commit many things to many people each and every day as a part of progressing through life. And we are always disappointed when those promises are broken. While we are becoming very cynical as a nation when it comes to political promises, we certainly cherish those made between husband and wife, parent and child, teacher and student, and friend to friend.

Promises come in many shapes and sizes and forms, but perhaps the most important set of promises ever written are the Ten Commandments. They are not only promises to God but also to society as a whole for how we need to conduct ourselves to live in and fair a just community.

For those who are not recalling them at the top of their mind, they are: "I am the Lord thy God, Thou shalt have no other gods before me; Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy; Honor thy father and mother; Thou shalt not kill; Thou shalt not commit adultery; Thou shalt not steal; Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor; Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house nor thy neighbors wife, nor anything that is thy neighbor's."

Poems, prayers and promises make up the fabric of our being. They are a method for past generations to pass on information and a system of values to the following generations. Storytelling has a long and cherished tradition in the human race. In many cases, it is through poems, prayers and promises that we understand where we came from and how we arrived here today. To continue this tradition it is important that each of us strives to incorporate poems, prayers and promises in our lives, each and every day.

Joseph Bischof is the executive director of Poverello Center Inc. Reach him by calling 728-1809 or e-mailing

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