Friday, March 5, 2010

Learning about the Hound of Heaven

This week has been Spring Break and it has gone by very fast. As usual, I am thinking that another week would do us well. Marie and I started Spring Break by traveling with Sr. Mary Ann and Sr. Julie Ann to my hometown for vocation work. It was great to give talks, show Marie and the sisters around, reconnect with family and friends, and meet new people. It was a time of "planting seeds." We aren't sure what will become of the seeds we have planted, but we trust God knows what to do with them. Marie and I also had fun ice skating at Rosa Parks Circle downtown.

Later this week, we traveled to another one of our mission sites in Wisconsin with our directress. We went to St. Paul Elder Services in Kaukauna. It is really awesome there. They make it very homelike, with cats, a dog, fish, and birds, and the residents have daily mass and pray the rosary together. After visiting the full-service retirement community, we went to the convent near it for lasagna and strawberry shortcake. The sisters were very generous in hosting us and their mission site.

Today, my directress suggested that we read a poem called The Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson (1859-1907). I found it on the internet, and quickly saw that it was going to take some work to translate it into the way we speak today. Fortunately, I found a webpage that had the poem with definitions for some of the words. (Click here for the poem.) After a couple hours of work, I was able to put it in my own words (as long as I comprehended it the right way.) I'll give you my version. It truly is a beautiful poem with a rich meaning about how we try to find our happiness in all the wrong places when God is the source of our happiness.

My Paraphrase of The Hound of Heaven

I ran away from God. He followed me peacefully and swiftly, yet unhurriedly. He told me, "all people who betray you, betray Me." (John 15:18-19 If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.)

I kept trying to get away from God. Though I knew of His love for me, I feared that if I had Him, I would have to give up everything else. I kept running across the ends of the universe. I wanted to hide from this tremendous Lover. I even tried to hide in the sky. I tried to tempt the God's servants to help me hide from God, but they were on His side. I realized my own sinfulness next to their faithfulness. So I tried to find another fast way to flee from God. I clung to the wind. But no matter where the wind took me, God continued to follow, peacefully and swiftly, yet unhurriedly. He said, "Nothing shelters you that will not shelter me."

I stopped trying to flee from God through adults, and began through children, because they will innocently and naively help me. But just as they started to help, their guardian angels took them away from me.

So then I turned to the beauty of nature to find my happiness. I enjoyed sharing my experiences of happiness and sadness and all the other emotions with nature. But even this experience of nature could not ease my human pain. I cried to Heaven but there was a language barrier. I speak through sound. Heaven speaks through silence. Nature cannot satisfy my thirst. I am thirsty still. God continues to follow, peacefully and swiftly, yet unhurriedly. He said, "Nothing contents you that doesn't content me."

I have nothing left that will allow me to exist without God in my life, and I have been driven to my knees. I am at rock bottom. I tried everything. I wait for the love of God. Everything else, all other dreams, have failed. The earth is overloaded with heavy sadness. God, must you break me down before you can use me for Your glory? My heart is broken. What is to happen?

Everything is bitter, yet now and then a trumpet sounds. The trumpet sounds from Heaven, but not before the death and resurrection of Christ. God, must Your glory come from this rotten death? Now from this long pursuit of happiness comes God. God says, "You keep running from Me. This is strange. Why do you run from Me? I love you. You didn't do anything to merit My love. Human love is different from My love. For human love you need merit. I love you no matter what you do because I Am Love. I have prepared a place for you with all of the desires of your heart. I am what you have been seeking this whole time.

Psalm 37:4 Find your delight in the LORD who will give you your heart's desire.

John 14: 1-4 Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.

Psalm 139: 1-15 O LORD, you have probed me, you know me: you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar.My travels and my rest you mark; with all my ways you are familiar. Even before a word is on my tongue, LORD, you know it all. Behind and before you encircle me and rest your hand upon me. Such knowledge is beyond me, far too lofty for me to reach. Where can I hide from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee? If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, you are there too. If I fly with the wings of dawn and alight beyond the sea, Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand hold me fast. If I say, "Surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light" Darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are but one. You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb. I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works! My very self you knew; my bones were not hidden from you, When I was being made in secret, fashioned as in the depths of the earth.

"My heart is restless until it rests in You." -St. Augustine

Then here is a song by Kutless called "Run" that goes along with this theme. This is their music video.


  1. I love this poem, but also love how you have translated it.

    I have found though that my Christian friends are uneasy with this concept. To me, it's part of the natural process in a relationship with the Holy Ghost. It feels as though I am haunted by him. When I become aware of his omnipresence - it is frightening sometimes.

    My tune "Jesus is Haunting Me" (my translation) makes my audience uneasy. I think I may have scared some folks off with it. I first jotted down this thought a few years ago and then when I read "The Hound of Heaven" I finished it.

    What a great poem and a great honest account of "dancing" with the Holy Spirt.

  2. Not only the translation, but also the above comment, rings of authenticity, balance and True Love. Oh, Love, that will not let me go...."

  3. While your "translation" is fairly accurate, it loses the beauty and flow of words. The imagery is lost as well.. Read the poem slowly and with a contemplative attitude and the words begin to flow like water and become a balm. He is with us and will not let go! This is one of my favorite poems from an imperfect, struggling human just like me.

  4. This is my life. I at last have my answer. I wept as I read these words.

  5. When first I became a Christian, somehow or somewhere I came across this poem. It articulated the way The GOD OF ALL hounded me until one day I finally yelled at HIM...."What do you want from me?" It has been one of the most wondrous relationships I have ever had or will ever have. And now as I read your interpretation I just cried. I had been meditating on Psalm 139 all morning and thought to google this poem once again. Only to find He is still HOUNDING ME the same way as in the beginning of my walk. HE IS RELENTLESS AND FEIROCIOUS IN HIS PURSUIT OF HIS DEARLY BELOVED ONES! I come to this day, 30 years after my conversion, and find Him to be STILL AND FOREVER the only one who will love me with such fervor!! It is almost overwhelming at times. And other worldly. Thank you for your post

  6. God holds us firmly but gently in the palm of His hand, and nothing & no one will be able to separate us from His love.

  7. I re-read this poem today after first reading it thirty years ago. Some will be struck down by an encounter with the risen Christ on our road from Babylon to Damascus. For the rest of us, it is the relentless pursuit of Heaven's Hound that brings us to our peace. Thank you dearly for your posting.

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