A Clergyman Is as Useless as a Cat

At the end of 2022, a friend asked if I would like to read a book with him: Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton. I had read it about 20 years ago and loved it so I readily agreed.

Orthodoxy chronicles Chesterton’s return to the Catholic Church after wandering the wastes of intellectual modernism. Chesterton is a master of pithy quips and turns of phrases; Orthodoxy is full of both. His ability to say something that is at once whimsical and profound is unmatched. Often, I found myself shaking my head at the ridiculousness of an analogy only to find myself nodding as the truth of it dawned on me.

One such whimsical statement was, “A clergyman may be apparently as useless as a cat, but he is also as fascinating, for there must be some strange reason for his existence.” This inspired laughter and the cat poem below. Readers will find this poem in my third book, Shadow and Memory, which I plan to self-publish in May or June 2023. It will also be in the cat chapbook I hope to self-publish later this year or early next year.

A Clergyman Is as Useless as a Cat

A clergyman
is as useless as a cat.

He might not lay around all day
but he prays around all day.

He doesn’t claw your favorite chair;
he closets your favorite charity.

He might not chase string
but he strings chaste people
(well, mostly chaste people)
together in marriage.

We’re grateful he doesn’t shed
(except the occasional tear),
and that he keeps a collection box
instead of a litter box.

But we only marginally prefer
his cantorwauling
to caterwauling.

As it is next to godliness,
clergymen are concerned with cleanliness,
though without all the licking.

Clergymen stalk about
in soundless penny-loafers,
sometimes startling you from behind
or pouncing out of nowhere
if you try to slip out unnoticed
after church.

On balance,
it’s debatable how useful
a clergyman is.

Yet when he raises his hands to bless
or pauses to lean into the pulpit, 
when his soul and body 
are folded tightly together in prayer,
a hush can fall
like the moment a gift is unwrapped
and you are rapt in mystery—

God leaning down
to whisper a secret
just to you,
a secret you might tell

if the cat hadn’t
got your tongue.

Published by mrteague

Teague McKamey lives in Washington state with his wife and two children. Teague’s poetry has appeared in several journals and in self-published books. He blogs at thevoiceofone.org and awanderingminstrel.com. In all areas of life, Teague desires that Christ may be magnified in his body (Php. 1:20).

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