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examinationSelf-reflection comes about most often as I pray.  One of my favorites? The Prayer of St. Francis.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

As I’ve discussed before, the Prayer of St. Francis may be my all time favorite prayer.  It pretty much says it all.  Imagine my joy when we got to sing it as an anthem in choir.  This isn’t quite the version that we did but I think you’ll love it as much as I do.

–SueBE

Shakespeare knew a thing or two about tragedy.  On the page and the stage, sorrow, betrayal, pain… all of it coalesced into high art.  But he had much to contend with to get to the point of greatness.  Nobody believed in him during his own lifetime.  He was called derivative, a panderer, lowbrow.  Yet, today, the very name evokes the highest creative standard.  No one wrote about soul struggles the way Shakespeare did.

A wretched soul, bruised with adversity,
we bid be quiet when we hear it cry;
but were we burdened with like weight of pain,
as much or more we should ourselves complain.

William Shakespeare

It’s one thing to experience tragedy vicariously, through a play, but another thing altogether to have to live through it yourself.

In our blog posts last week, we spoke of service, and I see the message of the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi as being an extension of that topic. With so many souls going through dark times – unemployment, health issues, hunger – service to humanity may include the simple act of being kind, even if someone is brusque with you.  Even if you can’t solve a neighbor’s problem and help them avoid foreclosure, you can provide an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on.

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”  What a magnificent opening line, filled with fervor, seeking God’s favor.  At some point, we all realize that we already are instruments, bringing various influences into others’ lives.

Hardship is resistance training for the soul. We may find ourselves on an unforgiving road, unsure of where we’re headed and what tomorrow will bring. This prayer is a GPS system of sorts to help us find our way.  A map to help unravel some of the great mysteries of life, such as, what am I here for? How can I help anyone else, when it seems at times that I can’t even help myself? “Where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light…”

It’s clear to me why the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi endures to this very day, and most likely beyond.  We’ve seen dark days, and we know what it feels like to be in despair, or to feel unloved.  The power of this prayer is really about weightlifting, from the inside.  Lifted by God’s Love, we made the decision to lift up others we met along the way, and found our own burdens lifted.  It’s a prayer about small moments and big impact, about keeping the faith, and sharing the load. No wonder the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi has withstood the test of time.

I can’t claim to have written this one but if you aren’t familiar with it, I hope that you will come to love the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi as much as I do.  It is the perfect antidote for a me-centric day.

The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Amen.

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