“The name is strange. It startles one at first. It is so bold, so new, so fearless. It does not attract, rather the reverse. But when one reads the poem this strangeness disappears. The meaning is understood.” —J .F. X. O’Connor, S. J., in A Study of Francis Thompson’s Hound of Heaven (John Lane Company, 1912), p. 7.
Once a week I meet with a group of friends who share how God is working in their life. I go to this meeting on Saturday morning because I believe in miracles, and that belief is always affirmed by what I hear and see. These are a group of people who were caught in addiction, who thought there was no way out—but somehow, through the grace of God and with the help of community, found a new life. I give up my Saturday morning to meet with some people I have seen for years and others I have never met before. There are people from all walks of life, many I would not have known otherwise.
This Saturday, many people talk about the time when they realized there might be a way out of their old lifestyle. They call it a moment of clarity. Many were desperate. Some just knew this was not the path they would ever choose, but there they were.
When they decided to come to the group for help, they were at first very uncomfortable. I came to this 12-step group around Thanksgiving. I can remember seeing posters about a Thanksgiving potluck. I remember thinking I don’t like being here, and goodness knows I don’t want to eat with these people as well! Today, almost twenty-nine years later, most of the people I go out to eat with are those I met through this community!
Many talked about how they had no idea what gave them the courage to come to this meeting. Story after story revealed that there is something greater than all of us—caring, loving us, and calling us to become the persons we were created to be. I also see this phenomenon in people who come for spiritual direction. Something is calling us out of our God hole—the God, the Christ within us, who, deep down inside of our being, makes us aware that we are unconditionally loved.
In 1893 Francis Thompson wrote a 182-line poem about his experience of being “hounded” by God and called it The Hound of Heaven. I could not have given a better description.