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 birdfeeders 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 still our family reference to my own saintly version who resides in and presides over the birds and blooms 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.
Though it’s not officially a Music Monday, I’ve decided to recycle a song I’ve written about before…. Sarah McLachlan’s hauntingly beautiful version of the Prayer of St. Francis… for several reasons. First, like every year, 2018 has had its fair share of tragic events. Given the complexities of finding answers and actions which would make a positive difference for our future, it’s easy to feel impotent and helpless. If I allow myself to stay in this negative space though, I never feel creative, certain, or empowered to create any change.
On the other hand, if I turn my attention to the impact that I can make within my small sphere of influence, and I focus my attention on the heroism, selflessness, and love I see revealed in many of those stories and events, I find amazing inspiration and creative ways to respond or contribute. This prayer speaks to that choice.
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 under-privileged 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 also speaks to that.
And lastly, it’s the dawn of a brand new year, 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.
Sarah McLachlan – 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.
And 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’s in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
To learn more about this inspiring music program for under-privileged and at-risk children
or to make a donation to the Sarah McLachlan School of Music, click here.