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New Zealand Road, Cardiff, CF14 3BR

Saint Joseph’s R.C. Parish

14th Week in Ordinary Time: Thursday

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Poetry

Over the years people of the parish have generously contributed original poetry for us to include here. There is always room for more, of course, so if you write poetry and are willing to share it, please let us know - either face-to-face or via e-mail:

Webmaster Deacon Mark
saint.joseph@btinternet.com

The Talisman

When days were darkest, folk took refuge
In quaint old shops that offered comforting
Old-fashioned faith in manageable chunks.
Prayers for pockets, secret saviours
Especially one - to Joseph, patron
Of happy deaths, if such things be
(He died in the arms of Christ, they say.)
And soon we all possessed the same
A talisman to drive death out.
We chanted faithfully, day on day
In school assembly, church and home
While still devouring every word
Of doom-laden missive in daily news.
How many names we recognised
And thanked God they were not our own!
How many Josephs died again
While saviours cradled their shattered limbs
Shielding their eyes from the terrible truth
Preserving their image of being whole?
We wept to see our brothers’ pain
And wept for our own despicable flaw
Forgot so soon, and prayed again
Thy will be done. Let it not be me!

Eleanor Dent

The background to this poem

The Talisman - An Explanation

I was born in Belfast in 1960 and lived there until 1982. I was at grammar school during the worst years of the ‘troubles’, when people lived in constant fear of dying. It became customary among Catholics to carry a prayer to Saint Joseph, patron of happy deaths, which could be bought at the Catholic Truth Society shop opposite Saint Mary’s church in Smithfield. The prayer was said daily in our school assembly and every Sunday at Mass. On the back of the prayer was a statement which said, amongst other things, that “whoever reads this prayer or hears it, or keeps it about themselves shall never die a sudden death.” Sceptics and non-believers will no doubt ask for statistics to back up this claim, but it is surprising how much hope and comfort such a token can give when you don’t know whether today is going to be the day you die. Of course, carrying the prayer itself put the bearer in danger, as it immediately identified him or her as a Catholic.

The lines

How many Josephs died again
While saviours cradled their shattered limbs
Shielding eyes from the terrible truth
Preserving their image of being whole?

refers to an award-winning photograph which appeared in one of the Belfast papers. It showed a British soldier cradling in his arms a young boy whose legs had been blown off by a bomb. The soldier is turning the boy’s head so that he cannot see he has no legs. After living in Cardiff for more than twenty years, I still can’t get out of the habit of switching on the radio news every morning to see if anyone I know is dead.

Eleanor Dent

More Poetry

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