Elizabeth Taylor Meets Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

At Elizabeth Taylor’s funeral in March, the actor Colin Farrell read “The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo,” by the English Jesuit priest and poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889). The poem was reported to be among the late actress’s favorites. In a special addition to our online Culture section, Hopkins scholar Joseph J. Feeney, S.J., imagines a meeting between the two. 

"My dear Miss Taylor," he began.


"Oh, Fr. Hopkins, please call me Liz."

"Why yes, ah, ah, Liz, ah, I've been thinking about you recently, since I heard of your death, and...."

"Oh, Fr. Hopkins, how kind you are."

"Well, ah, Liz, I also heard that you had my poem 'The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo' read at your funeral. I'm very honored, for that poem seems so well to fit your beauty and your new life with God that I'd like to discuss it with you."

"Oh, please tell me more about it, Fr. Hopkins."

"I began the poem in 1880 while visiting my family in London, finished it two years later at the Jesuit school where I taught in Lancashire, and planned it as a musical 'Maidens’ song' for 'St. Winefred’s Well,' a play I never completed. It deals quite directly with the beauty of young women."

Read the rest here.

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7 years 7 months ago
OOOPS!  Sorry about the typo.  It should read "mixed bag"  not "mixed bad".
7 years 7 months ago
Fr. Feeney's reflection on beauty, Beauty is so very beautiful.  Thank you Fr. Jim for presenting it to us.  That Elizabeth Taylor had chosen the two Gerard Manley Hopkins poems says so much about her inner soul and its strivings.  She was only a few years older than me.  I first saw her and loved her in National Velvet and then followed her throughout her life and career.  It was sad to see her in a wheelchair and to know she suffered a good deal throughout her life, But, it is comforting to think of her, the mortal beauty with the heavenly Beauty. 

I got out my old worn copy of Hopkins poems and reread "The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo".  I thought about a conversation I had recently with a priest friend of mine about the Yonder.  "We follow, now we follow,- Yonder, yes yonder, yonder-Yonder", This priest is only 50 years old and is being treated for thyroid cancer and he is very sick.  Even so, he is back to his assignment as pastor of two parishes and work for the diocese in seminarian and priest formation.  I am 74 and have cardiomyopathy and a poor diagnosis.  So each of us is waiting for the time that God will call us to him and trying to live our lives as God would want of us.  I think that for us who believe in God and immortal life we have a mixed bad of feelings:  the love of life and not wanting to give it up versus the longing to be with God.  The restlessness that St. Augustine wrote about.  As we get older, I think the longing tips more and more toward the desire to be with God.  The Yonder is so very appealing.  My goals at this point of life are to prepare myself and my children for my death and plan for their care when I am gone.  The other goal is to reconcile with those I have wronged and who have wronged me.  I'm doing poorly at both goals.  Jesus said:  blessed are the peacemakers for they will be children of God.  I wonder about those like myself who have tried every which way to reconcile with someone and have failed miserably.  As you have written, Fr. Jim, it is time to "let go and let God".  Hard to do.  Please pray for me. 
7 years 7 months ago
Fr. Jim,

I am back again.  I think of you as my on-line spiritual director :-) as you so often give me much to ponder about and challenge me when I am stuck in my journey.  I am greatly in need of prayers at this time.  I am doing very poorly.  Dr. Bill wrote about "Hidden Sorrow, Chronic Sorrow" on one of his blogs. In the lives of families with developmentally disabled and/or mentally ill members, there are developmental crisis points.  One is the milestone event of the aging parent planning for the disabled child"s (in my case children's) care after their death.  This is where my family is at; the plans that I had made are falling apart.  My son, age 45, is autistic and schizophrenic.  He is wearing me out.  If I should have to have him placed outside of our home, it would be devastating for him.  My daughter, who is also autistic, cannot remain safely alone in our home.  Dr. Bill wrote that when someone we love has a chronic, serious mental illness, there is a grief that doesn't go away but is exacerbated at times of developmental crisis.  This is very true for me.  I have also recently lost a friendship that gave me a great deal of encouragement and support.  The grief is overwhelming.

A healing prayer ministry is forming at my parish.  We will have 11 weeks of instruction.  As a Eucharistic Minister for the homebound I have seen the need of healing prayers for the people I have visited who are very ill and facing death.  I found in my life that using one's experiences to help others with understanding and compassion is redeeming.  As a woman with a history of molest/abuse and with the grace of God, I was able to help many children and women through my social work jobs.  This was redeeming.

I am actually a very reserved person, if you can believe that.  Spilling my guts on a blog is quite difficult, but if I can somehow sensitive Catholics as to the great suffering of families like mine, it is worth the embarrassment.  Our Church has a long, long way to go in understanding and ministering to families with disabled members.  This is particularly true for those who are mentally ill.  My hope is that you and the other holy Jesuits will include us  more and more in your work and prayers.

Fr. you are still on my perpetual Daily Mass prayer list along with Kevin Clarke and his family (I know what challenges they will face in the years ahead)and Bill Van Ornum, who taught me so much, and his precious son.  when do you go to Lourdes again?  Thank you again for your inspiration and all you do for the Church.


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