Grassroots Ministry: Contemplative Seeing
Jo O'Donovan rsm (The Congregation) 'Contemplative Seeing in Hopkins’ Windhover'
Bird in flight over Galway Bay

When I was asked over a year ago to contribute to the series on Mercy Global Presence I was quite eager. But now, in these pandemic times, I have no words. I turn to my friend Hopkins  hoping to find in his poetry a filter through which I might puncture the ocean of silence lockdowns bring, and to The Windhover,  considered by him to be his best poem. The poem is really a rendering in a new key the passion of Christ. And  it also speaks a word to us in  pandemic times of  restriction on how the  patient plod we endure can hide a shine if only we can see. Hopkins is a poet of the senses, of seeing, a contemplative seeing, always  subtly responding to being addressed by Another. In retirement I had time to  develop my long term interest in him. It may be I talked about him a lot. A sister once asked me: Jo, why are you so interested in Hopkins? Is he a saint or something?  I responded he is ‘something’ alright, a great poet and I enjoy his poetry, and added defensively, he is also a kind of saint!

The God-world relation and where we are in it matters to me as I taught theology. I faithfully transferred what I believed  and the mode in which I believed it, to young heads. And not wanting to destroy their nascent wonder, here and there I called on  poets to speak for me their wordless God-speak. As we know, Hopkins, like Wordsworth moves beyond borders. He is a romantic poet. But the clouds in the first line of Wordsworth’s Daffodils  symbolize the poet’s  own loneliness, whereas in Hopkins clouds firstly engage us with themselves. The varying skies over the Clwyd valley in N. Wales, fronting St. Beuno’s, were peopled with clouds. With an almost  scientific attention to all aspects of nature  in his  Welsh years, his ‘salad days’, he wrote The Windhover and his well-known nature sonnets. These poems  ask us  to look, to see, to hear, to taste and touch....

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Spanish translation using DeepL Translator. Traducción al español con DeepL Translator

Dr Jo O'Donovan rsm is a member of The Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy. She taught in the areas of RE and Theology and Religious Studies in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick. Always a lover of poetry, she contributed a column 'A Moment with a Poet'  for The Sacred Heart Messenger and occasionally to Mercy eNews, worked with groups of poetry readers and gave occasional workshops.
Hopkins has been special for her.  Having been to St Beuno's in Wales, and having walked his roads and climbed his hills, she says Hopkins is all essence. He teaches us what poetry is. Sr Jo's most recent publication is Bright Wings Dappled Things: The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins sj (Dublin, Messenger Publications, 2019)

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