My Liturgy On “Words”

In our mission training program, we were called upon to prepare liturgies, which could be as wide-open as we wanted. Some candidates were very conservative, the most  conservative being when the woman surgeon going to Africa asked us all to pray the rosary.  What? That was just too rote, too bland, too unthinking for my taste. My favorite liturgy that I prepared was writing, and then reading this poem.

Word, word, words, words, babbling words
Noble words, heavy words, hearty words,
Think about it words
Think about it, words
Comfort words, happy words, sad words,
If there’s anything I can do words
I’m sorry for your loss words
Silent words, oh he or she is SO nice words, sliding the knife in words

Yes, it’s terrible
I’m so happy for you
I hear you
I’ll be here for you
My door is always open
Oh, don’t worry, that won’t last long
This wont hurt a bit
I didn’t mean to hurt you

God loves you, yes he does
Well, God and I were talking just the other day
Over dinner and he told me so
Well he must love you, that’s his job description
Of course, he love’s me just a little bit more
I heard it through the grapevine
I heard it in a whisper
I heard it in the air

Words to fight the killing
Words to stay together
Words to hey everybody let’s love one another
Words to fight the illness, the dirty water, the dirty air
Words to plead for the babies
Words to plead for the hookers
Words to plead for the johns
Words to pray

Gotta be rock n roll words
If you wanna dance with me
What, say me?
What, hey me?
What, right now?
What, in public?
What, before God?
And Everybody?

Words Words Words Words
What What What What
Now, not now, yes not now
Yes, of course but
Words to think about how it would look
Words to think about how they would think
Words to Yes means
No thank you, not now not really not quite

You understand.

OK, I know it wasn’t great poetry! While I “meant” many things, including just playing with the word, “word,” for its babble effect, my overall theme was how wonderful noble words are but they are just that, noble words. They mean nothing unless motivated action is behind the words and with the words. Otherwise, noble words are just empty calories. Even worse, they give false hope.


Adapted from John Wagner’s memoir, TROUBLED MISSION: Fighting For Love, Spirituality, and Human Rights in Violence-Ridden Peru (Kelly House, 2015)

About johnwagner

John Wagner is a retired lawyer and the author of: 1. Troubled Mission: Fighting For Love, Spirituality, and Human Rights in Violence-Ridden Peru, a memoir about his human rights work in Peru 2. Baby Boomer Army Brat, a coming-of-age memoir

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *