Roy Exum: The Mendicant’s Poem

Tuesday, July 23, 2019 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Anthony de Mello, a Jesuit monk before he died in 1972, would have us to believe, “I was neurotic for years. I was anxious and depressed and selfish. Everyone kept telling me to change. I resented them and I agreed with them, and I wanted to change, but simply couldn't, no matter how hard I tried.

“Then one day someone said to me, “Don't change. I love you just as you are,” Tony famously once wrote. “Those words were music to my ears: Don't change, Don't change. Don't change . . . I love you as you are. I relaxed. I came alive. And suddenly I changed!"

Before your search to find out what a ‘mendicant’ is, it will help you to know Tony de Mello was a monk who could prove it. Internationally known as a spiritual guide, his wisdom was brilliant, his grasp on life sublime, and his teaching, which began in Bombay, India, were very much those of A Holy Man. He died in 1987 yet his books, his teachings, and his views on life are as keen and as crystal as if he were speaking today.

A ‘mendicant’ is the best definition of a monk and monasteries you can imagine. From Wikipedia: “A mendicant (from Latin: mendicans translates, "begging") is one who practices mendicancy (begging) and relies chiefly or exclusively on charitable donations to survive. In principle, mendicant religious orders do not own property, either individually or collectively, and members have taken a vow of poverty, in order that all their time and energy could be expended on practicing or preaching and serving the poor. It is a form of asceticism (the practice of strict self-denial as a measure of personal and especially spiritual discipline.)”

More from Wikipedia: “Many religious orders adhere to a mendicant way of life, including the Catholic mendicant orders, Hindu ascetics, some Sufi dervishes of Islam, and the monastic orders of Jainism and Buddhism. In the Catholic Church, followers of Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Dominic became known as mendicants, as they would beg for food while they preached to the villages.)

Not so long ago, I read an essay that was taken from one of Anthony de Mallo’s books, “Wellsprings,”

And I was touched by it.

* * *

“IF I WERE TO DIE TODAY” by Fr. Anthony de Mallo

When I think how long I have lived

I am struck by life's injustice:

others have lived much less

(I think of some I have known),

some have been given less than an hour of life.

 

I recall my childhood

and the various stages of my growth.

I have been blessed, indeed, beyond anything

I expected or deserved!

 

I think of the experiences that life has given me

- happy ones that filled my heart,

painful ones that helped me grow -

 

Of the discoveries I have made...

 

Of the persons I was privileged to meet...

 

And of my talents and abilities,

of sight

and hearing, 

smell and taste and touch

and mind and will and memory

and the limbs and organs of my body.

 

If I were to die today

I should certainly have had more than my fair share

of life's blessings.

Whatever else life has in store for me is an added gift

quite undeserved.

 

Having accepted this, I make myself aware of the fact

that I have another day of life to live and relish.

I see myself go through the morning,

the afternoon, 

and evening,

and accept my good luck gratefully.

 

I think of the person who to me is the dearest

of all who are alive today,

of how he or she has enriched my life.

 

Tomorrow I may lose her...

such is life's fragility.

 

And if I did, I should have no cause for complaint.

I have had her for so long,

God knows I had no right to her for a single hour.

Life has been unjust:

I think of those who never had 

the riches she has brought me.

I tell her this in fantasy

and see what happens.

 

I now become aware 

that she is here for yet another day

and I am grateful.

When I think how long I have lived

I am struck by life's injustice:

others have lived much less

(I think of some I have known),

some have been given less than an hour of life.

 

I recall my childhood

and the various stages of my growth.

I have been blessed, indeed, beyond anything

I expected or deserved!

 

I think of the experiences that life has given me

- happy ones that filled my heart,

painful ones that helped me grow -

 

Of the discoveries I have made...

 

Of the persons I was privileged to meet...

 

And of my talents and abilities,

of sight

and hearing, 

smell and taste and touch

and mind and will and memory

and the limbs and organs of my body.

 

If I were to die today

I should certainly have had more than my fair share

of life's blessings.

Whatever else life has in store for me is an added gift

quite undeserved.

 

Having accepted this, I make myself aware of the fact

that I have another day of life to live and relish.

I see myself go through the morning,

the afternoon, 

and evening,

and accept my good luck gratefully.

 

I think of the person who to me is the dearest

of all who are alive today,

of how he or she has enriched my life.

 

Tomorrow I may lose her...

such is life's fragility.

 

And if I did, I should have no cause for complaint.

I have had her for so long,

God knows I had no right to her for a single hour.

Life has been unjust:

I think of those who never had 

the riches she has brought me.

I tell her this in fantasy

and see what happens.

 

I now become aware 

that she is here for yet another day

and I am grateful.

 

~ Anthony de Mello

* * *

“As the great Confucius said, "The one who would be in constant happiness must frequently change. Flow. But we keep looking back, don't we? We cling to things in the past and cling to things in the present ... Do you want to enjoy a symphony? Don't hold on to a few bars of the music. Don't hold on to a couple of notes. Let them pass, let them flow. The whole enjoyment of a symphony lies in your readiness to allow the notes to pass ... “ – Fr. Anthony de Mello

royexum@aol.com


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