The Grace to Shout
by William Cleary
When I was a priest and missionary teacher in Korea, my first year I was required by the university's president to do "something from Shakespeare." Though I was sure it wouldn't work, I found music from Shakespeare's plays and we prepared a show opening on a Friday night in an improvised classroom. As show-time approached, I realized there would be almost no audience – though we had tried posters and signs. I had also told the Jesuit community, but somehow it hadn't registered with them.
Whoops: Friday night at 7:30 was I LOVE LUCY on USArmy TV. With horror I realized the Jesuits were all in their TV room, nowhere near anything Shakespearean. Anger filled my heart and I found myself running, cassock and all, across our classroom building. I burst through the Jesuit residence door and into the darkened TV room.
I LOVE LUCY was just coming on, and I shut off the sound. There was a gasp. Then I said: "Excuse this disturbance, fathers and brothers, but right now about 20 students of ours are ready to perform a long-practiced play in Room 401 and there is almost no audience." I had to control my tears. "I dare to appeal to you all to set aside this TV show and come watch our Korean students mangle the English of Shakespeare. Your presence could change a heartbreak to a triumph of pride for our own boys and girls."
And from the back row a Jesuit brother said firmly: "Well, let's go then!"
Again I ran across the darkened third floor classroom building – just ahead of the herd of Blackrobes. In five minutes they had filled up the theater's center section, the lights dimmed out, and we had a theatrical experience that made history. For us, anyway.
Out of that experience came a little prayer, one that it isn't pleasant to say but still helpful – and it appeared later in a book. You're welcome to it – in case you're like me, a little too slow to ever make waves, necessary as it is occasionally in life.
Holy God, today we ask
the grace to shout when it hurts,
even though silence is expected of us.
We ask the grace to object, to protest,
when we feel, taste, or observe injustice,
believing that even unjust and thoughtless people
are human nonetheless
and therefore worthy of strong efforts to reach them.
We ask today for the inspiration to make our voice heard
when we have something that needs to be said,
something that rises to our lips despite our shyness.
And we ask the grace to listen
when the meek finally rise to speak
and their words are an agony to hear.