Be a star of hope shining brightly

Rosemary Keenan, Chief Executive of the Catholic Children’s Society and a qualified social worker, explores the inter-relationship of hope with mental wellbeing, and how those engaged in pastoral activity and teaching can see hope as a powerful tool for change in the lives of children, young people and families.

did you
come into my life
bright and burning and then turn out
to be wax like

It must be more than forty-five years ago that I first read this poem in an anthology of poetry by fellow teenagers. Alas, I cannot now recall the name of the young author, and I owe the poet an apology. This poem spoke to me then, and it still does today, but in a different way. There is still that sense of the disappointment and despair that hope has somehow died. The poem with its image of a candle reminds me of the Pre-Raphaelite painting by Henry Wallis of The Death of Chatterton, the English romantic poet who committed suicide in his garret at the age of seventeen. We witness the scene at the moment of his death; his body draped across his bed, his poems ripped up by his head and the arsenic phial having fallen from his hand to the floor. On a table at the foot of his bed is a single candle, recently snuffed out; the smoke from the wick floating towards the open window. One might consider it a symbol of the life that is ended, the hope within it extinguished.

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