What’s Sparrowfare?

“All is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil,” observed poet and priest Gerard Manley Hopkins a century ago.  In the same era William Butler Yeats would write that “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of a passionate intensity.”

Confessing my tendency to place gadgets over grace and politics over prayer, the poets remind me of longings unaddressed in the clash of the culture war. The stakes are high and I take the issues seriously, but bleared and smeared as politics have always been, they leave me increasingly dissatisfied. Passionate intensity has turned tinny and trite.

In my interior search for sustenance, the advances of advertising and the pushy public square are losing their appeal. I’m searching for sparrow fare.

Sparrow: a small bird, “finchlike,” typically brown and gray.                                           Fare: A particular type of food. 

Sparrows are common; the offering of the poor. To eyes untrained to the differences among them, sparrows are nondescript. Yet the gospels tell us that in God’s eyes, not one of them is forgotten.

Sparrows are humble.  They gather at garbage bins, line the telephone wires and flock in the branches of nearly every bush.  They’re everywhere yet often unnoticed, like the virtue of humility itself.  I’ve been late to discover its beauty and will be later still in receiving it. “Our pride dies fifteen minutes after we do,” St. Francis de Sales once said.

Nevertheless, in identifying with the earthy plumage of sparrows rather than the cardinal’s crimson or peacock’s pizzazz, I resist the temptation to pretend I’m something I’m not. I love literature, but I’m no expert. I read theology but can’t claim mastery. I hold a degree in counseling, but I practice in a little elementary school. I pay attention to politics, but parties no longer sway me.

Despite the cultural darkness that tempts me to despair, I sense along with Hopkins that even now “there lives the dearest freshness deep down things.” I write to seek these things; I write to celebrate their finding.

Sparrows aren’t terribly picky eaters, but they tend to forage for seeds.

Sparrowfare  is a seed-source of information and inspiration for seekers of culture, contemplation and civility.  It’s an offering of spiritual sustenance in a time of division and diatribe.  We’re on the trail together, and I hope a few fellow sparrows will share their seeds with me.
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