Tuesday, October 5, 2010

St Francis

A Catholic friend of mine randomly made the comment today that the prayer attibuted to St. Francis is 'sappy'.  Being not-catholic, I had no idea why we were suddenly dissing this prayer - one of the few Christian-based prayers I can unabashedly get behind.

After some back and forth, it turns out she's speaking to the tune it's set to - one I've never heard of before  although I am a fan of Sarah McLachlan's version.

Sadly, my friend's conclusion is that the music is so horrible (and yes, the version she sent me to was a very hideous elevator musical mess involving some guy with a bad haircut) that the prayer has lost all meaning for her.

How sad is that?

One of the most charming customs of the Catholic Church - and one being picked up by other denominations - is the Blessing of the Animals on October 4 (THAT is why she brought this up - it seemed so random until just now!). But beyond that, this prayer... which apparently is actually from an anonymous source in the early 20th century.. speaks to me of a profound and deep religious humanism, where one's faith includes a response outward to value humanity.

I don't quite not how to see this as maudlin or 'sappy'.. it seems so brave, so difficult to live up to to me:

Lord make me an instrument of your peace
(your peace, not mine, where I'll stop fighting unless you annoy me again)

Where there is hatred let me sow love
(just let me plant some seeds - I know it may take awhile to see any result)

Where there is injury, pardon
(because forgiveness is what heals - both giving it and getting it)

Where there is doubt, faith
('you're wrong' never led a single person to faith - let me be an example instead of a critic)

Where there is despair, hope
(because without hope, there is no path out of despair)

Where there is darkness, light
(help me be brave enough to share what I know)

Where there is sadness, joy
(and remind me that that isn't the same thing as just being happy)

Oh Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console
(remind me that I get what I need when I give it freely)

to be understood as to understand
(that change in outlook alters everything)

to be loved as to love
(help me be willing to be that vulnerable)

for it is in giving that we receive
(the law of return)

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
(because we can never feel that pardon while we carry the burden of bitterness)

it is in dying that we are born into eternal life
(we need to be willing to face profound change in order to move onto the next stage - help me not cower in stagnation and fear)

It is really profound... and not a little intimidating.  But sappy?  Only if you're talking sappy like the lifeblood of an oak...

I love St. Francis.. he was a good pagan. ;)

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