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A Psalm: Concerning Those Abused by Priests
Arthur Austin

O God, our God of Love,
we come grieving and broken
to your dwelling-place.

Priests of your temple
have defiled us, they
have torn our clean garments
and defiled us.

"Ha!" they say, wrapped
in the smoke of sweet benedictions
betrayed in the offering,
"Who will believe you?
Who will dare to beard us
in the temple, saying 'these priests
have betrayed and raped the people'?
We are the Lord's own, the anointed.
Who is there to defy us now?"

They have shut the doors of the temple
against us. Our knowing bodies cringe
at their certainty; for who indeed
will name, without ceasing, the name of
this evil, and who, without ceasing,
will hammer at the closed doors for us,
demanding the truth and the temple?

Where shall we go, O God of Love,
except to you, in your dwelling-place?
Where else shall we find our hope?

For they have made us an epithet,
a foul name, and our living a darkness.

The princes of your kingdom stride
from their palaces, the jewels
of your service glint on their fingers.
"Yes," they say, "yes, justice, now.
Be blessed for the Lord is
abiding and just."
But justice does not abide
in the smiling lie, nor in
the smile of non-intention;
nor is there justice for the betrayed,
but forms and semblances of justice
only, empty as the breath that spake them.

"Yes", smile the princes
of your kingdom, "justice", but
there is no justice to be had from
the smiling faces and the jeweled hands
of the palaces.

"Do not let these complainers come
near to us again. They are nothing.
What do they know of the hidden
God, whose jewel of service
adorns our hands? They are
the dust at our threshold.
Let the wind so scatter them
their clamor will become as
the tiny piping of tiny birds.
Who, then, will listen to them?"

The clouds of their scorn
trail after them like bitter incense
and those who serve them bow
down, murmuring, "Behold
the wisdom of princes."

They have made us an epithet,
a foul name, and our living a darkness.

Where should we turn, O Lord?
For where, now, is our dwelling-place
if not in you?

The great are smiling liars.
Those who bow down to them
counsel a patient deceit.
Cunning passes for wisdom.
The money-changers and the keepers
of the laws say "Gold is not gold.
Wealth is not wealth. Why do you
stand at our gate like beggars?
Go away from this place!"

We are a pillaged city, Lord.
Our lamentations rise like smoke.
We are the raped houses
of the soul's in-dwelling,
the splintered doorways of grace.

Priests of your temple have defiled us.
The soul has shattered and fled
beyond our cries of summoning it back.

Summon the priests who have done no harm.
Summon the righteous.
Make them strong and bold
in fury and compassion.
Summon the heavens of angels,
to their right hand and their left.

Summon the priests who have not hurt us.
Let them say your name of mercy over and over
to the princes. Let them open
the doors of the the temple.
Let them cleanse it with your name.
Let the priests who have not hurt us
magnify and sanctify your name.
And let them attend, like angels,
to our exiled souls.

Lord, vengeance is yours.
We do not ask for vengeance.
We plead for the mercy of your dwelling-place.

Cure the blindness of your princes.
Let them read the bleak Truth
writ large on the walls of the temple.
Give them a sense of shame and sorrow.
Let them come forth and beg forgiveness
in the dust of the desecrated.
Let them know what they have done and
let them understand its endlessness.
Let them weep as they learn our names.
Let our ceaseless pain become their ceaseless pain.
Let them walk our journey as they live our lives.
Let them gather up the pieces of our souls, and
let them forget never what they have done.

Let them see the ruined city they have made,
and let them hear its desolation.

O God of Love, O living God,
O God of abiding justice,
our lamentations rise like smoke.
We are the pillaged city,
the raped houses of the soul's in-dwelling.

God of peace: we thirst for peace.
God of hope: we are starved of all hope.
God of all mercies:
Grant us the mercy of your dwelling-place,
and heal us in our every woundedness.
Our violated bodies cry to you, O living God,
for every blessing, in the name and visage
of the enfleshed and violated Christ,
whose human blood has stained the world
with its one perfection, from everlasting to everlasting.

In your mercy, do not forget,
but hear and answer us,
God of our exile,
God of our longing,

God of our slaughtered love.

-- Arthur Austin

Arthur Austin, August 2002

About the Poet: Arthur Austin is a Greater Boston poet, writer and visual artist. He is also a survivor of sexual and psychological abuse by a priest. Over the past year, Arthur has been been courageous in speaking out about the egregious wrongs that have been done to innocent victims. His activism has not only exposed the terrible truth of abuse, but it has helped others to speak of their own experiences. Paradoxically, Arthur's efforts have deepened his reliance on Jesus Christ and his sense of personal hope in the Lord.

Arthur felt compelled to write this Psalm because of his frustration with prayers written on behalf of victims by those who had never experienced the agonizing pain themselves. The Psalm challenges every one of us not to "avert our faces" or "hurry by" the horror that has happened in our midst. He writes, "I deliberately took the scriptural psalm as a poetic principle in terms of cadence and voice because I feel that most of the great lamentations that people are even dimly aware of come from the psalms, and that therefore the prosody of the psalm, even subliminally, is more likely to catch the attention of the reader or listener who confronts it. I also believe that ritual lamentation has great salvific power."



Previous Prayers:
A Wish at Rosh Hashanah
Prayer of the Faithful



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