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Fr. Cecil Champneys Burnham

1914 - 2002

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In old Provence we’ll stay awhile

To bask in Mother Nature’s smile.

Her vineyards have been greatly blessed.

Each grower thinks his grapes the best.

From dawn to dusk both young and old

Have toiled to gather liquid gold.

With aching limbs and sun scorched skin,

At last they have the harvest in.

Come now to Mass where parish priest

Is preaching at the Harvest Feast.

“My children, God’s been good to you.

An act of thanks is surely due”.

“Hail Marys are not quite enough.

Your thanks should be of stronger stuff”.

His flock stare warily at him,

Their faces growing somewhat grim.

The Sexton says, “It’s truth you speak,

But, Father, is it cash you seek?”

Throughout the church you feel the tension

In every heart there’s apprehension.

Each grower shuffles and, seeming shy,

Tries to avoid the old priest’s eye.

Says he, “Now when I say ‘Give thanks’,

I do not want your hard earned francs”.

“No need for you to look so stunned,

Though don’t forget the parish fund.

if generously you are inclined,

Give thought to what I have in mind

For many a year I’ve served you well,

As you in honesty must tell.

Three generations I have seen

And faithful to you all have been”.

“You’ve always found me at your side

When grapes have failed or hope has died.

This year has been a grower’s dream,

Outstanding, lavish and supreme.

This being so, p’raps you’ll agree

It’s time you did a bit for me.

Like you I too enjoy good wine,

But my supply is in decline

“Inside the porch no doubt you saw

An empty barrel by the door.

I ask, dear children, everyone

To pour an offering in that tun”.

If each man gives a little wine,

A full barrel will be mine”.

As for his blessing people knelt,

Their relief was clearly felt.

They all agreed how right indeed

It was to help him in his need.

lt was, they felt, the very least

To give their poor and faithful priest.

The Sexton said, “A week’s enough

For every man to do his stuff.

Next Sunday’s Mass shall be the date,

For then dear Father’s sixty—eight”

“A birthday gift the wine shall be,

A tribute true from you and me”.

Unto the barrel day by day

All the village made its way.

The priest looked forward to the pleasure

Of rich good wine to drink and treasure,

And so was stirred to real emotion

By witnessing his flock’s devotion.

Next Sunday saw the barrel filed.

Accepting it, the priest was thrilled.

He drew a glass when Mass was done

And raised it high towards the sun.

He gasped to see it crystal clear,

Too clear indeed to bring good cheer.

The Sexton chemistry did know

He cried, “That cask is H20”.

No wine. Just water. Sad surprise!

The priest could not believe his eyes.

He saw at once where lay the blame,

For each man hung his head in shame.

For each bad thought, “No one will know.

I’ll water add. It will not show,

For all the rest will give good wine,

But for myself I’ll keep what’s mine”.

Each had had the self-same thought,

So none had given what he ought.

This lesson we should take to heart.

Each one of us must play his part.


Copyright © 2000 [Rev. C. Champneys Burnham]. All rights reserved.
Revised: May 24, 2018 .