The Shag

The story behind ‘Shag on a Rock’ another song featured on ‘Under Southern Stars’ which was composed in the late 80’s was inspired by a Maori Proverb which goes something like ‘The shag will always stand firm on it’s stump’. My apologies for not including the Maori. I couldn’t locate it. I first heard the proverb when visiting a group of my confreres in Wellington who were trying something new for us within the Society of Mary. They were living outside our traditional community setting and renting a house in the suburbs among people who were struggling and disadvantaged. It was a challenging time for all concerned. New initiatives can make us feel uncomfortable and threaten the status quo and can often be misunderstood even in our own times. However, for positive change to occur there are always people prepared to stand up and be counted and face ridicule and opposition. It seems to be the way. The image of the shag on a rock, alone but determined captured for me something of this struggle.


Like a shag on a rock

I will keep standing firm

There’s much I don’t know

And there’s much still to learn

But the risk must be taken

Or else I will die

And there on the shore

I too will lie

I will lie

And the seagulls cry.

In today’s Gospel we have Jesus standing up facing ridicule and opposition driving out the money changers in the temple. It is an event that some say precipitated his crucifixion and death. He is on fire with zeal for his Father’s house and he challenges the system of the temple tax which disadvantaged the poor. Who does he think he is? Of course, we know who he is and on what authority he could do what he did.

Although prophets make us feel uncomfortable, let’s not be too dismissive of them. We may not always agree with what is being said and the methods used but where would our society be without the prophetic voice and action calling us to account. It reminds me of another statement of Jesus, ‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.’(Matt 10:34). Sometimes we need a shake up.


'Shag on a Rock' from the Under Southern Stars album.

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