I’m not Catholic, but I love many of the beautiful traditions of the Catholic faith. My favorite is the lovely story and mythology surrounding the 13th century Italian Saint Francis of Assisi, the church’s patron saint of animals. My mother always had some stone version of St. Francis in her flower gardens, usually surrounded by bird feeders and birdbaths. Often the real birds, which she loved so much, would sit perched on top of or next to their stone likenesses on the statue, all of them wrapped in the tender embrace of the Saint’s arms. I could never look at that scene without feeling a quieting in my soul. My father fondly, albeit a little irreverently, referred to him as “Frank” which always tickled my mother and is how we also referred to my own saintly version that resided in my flower garden at the Ranch.
Francis of Assisi was considered the first Italian poet by literary critics. The anonymous 20th-century prayer, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace, is widely attributed to his earlier writings. He was known for many beautiful qualities, one of which was finding and seeing the good in every living thing, person, and situation. The words of this famous poem reflect that trait. The poem was part of the daily prayers of Mother Teresa, Desmond Tutu, and the current Pope Francis. It was recited by Margaret Thatcher on the doorstep of #10 Downing Street when she was elected Prime Minister and is considered the “Step 10 Prayer” for members of Alcoholics Anonymous.
On this week of Christmas, I’m sharing Sarah McLachlan’s hauntingly beautiful version of the Prayer of St. Francis for several reasons. First, given the complexities of our current conditions and the difficulty in finding the answers and the actions which would make a positive difference for our future, it’s easy to feel impotent and helpless which often leads to further feelings of despair. However, if I allow myself to stay in this space, I never feel creative, certain, or empowered to create change. But if I turn my attention to the impact that I can make in my small sphere of influence, and I focus my attention on the heroism, selflessness, and love I see demonstrated all around me, I find amazing inspiration and creative ways to respond or contribute. This prayer speaks to that.
Secondly, this song is sung not only by Sarah McLachlan but also by a choir of teens who attend her School of Music, supported 100% by donations of money and gently used instruments by average people like you and me to provide intensive, after-school music programs to underprivileged and at-risk children. It’s a testament to what one person, and many aligned in a common vision, can do when they make others their focus. It shows us there is still so much good in the world being done and being shared. This poem speaks to that.
And lastly, it’s the holiday season and that’s always a good time to remind ourselves that where there is darkness we can sow light, where there is despair we can sow hope, and that it is in giving that we receive.
From all of us here at LionSpeak, we are wishing you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a holiday season filled with light, hope, and peace.