To be consoled as to console
I am preparing a class on the St. Francis prayer. This prayer while not necessarily straight from St. Francis is a portrait of the life he led. This was his life. From the moment he saw his first vision until his death he lived the words of this prayer. He was and still is a vibrant example of the gospel life. While this prayer may or may not be original with St. Francis it describes not only who St. Francis was, but also what a life following Christ really looks like.
I would like to reflect on each line. I have posted my thoughts on this prayer once before and you can find that blog here: https://godwrestler.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/a-personal-look-at-the-st-francis-prayer
I may even write a book based on this prayer.
The second half of the prayer goes deeper into what it means to pray and live the first seven imperatives. The eleventh line of this prayer is asking that we console others, that be present to others and provide the hope and light they need. As we console others, we find the same thing. In the moment we open ourselves to our hurting brothers and sisters, we see that life is more than the hurts and losses. This can be hard to know and can transform our lives. The more and better we console others the more light and hope we find. The eleventh line like the rest of the of the St. Francis Prayer is about being a presence of God’s love and grace to a broken, dark world perishing. It’s about being present to others and seeking their good over our own and listening to them without any agenda attached. It’s about being a living presence of hope and light for others who are struggling, hurting, and fearing the worst. There will be times when praying this prayer that we need God’s love, hope, and peace in our life, as much if not more than we want to share these aspects of the Kingdom with others. God won’t zap us with these attitudes, but will give us moments in which to experience them in our life and the lives of those around us.
The world is full of chaos, pain, agony, and loss. Somewhere at this moment as I write this and you read it, someone is hurting or lonely or struggling. The question is not whether people are hurting and struggling, but what are we going to do about it. The simplest gesture, smiling or saying hi, opening a door, or asking how someone is or wishing them a good day can brighten a person’s spirit. We can lift someone up by doing the simplest and easiest things. It only takes a moment. Often, too often our first inclination is look after our own concerns. Yet, if we refuse to give into that and stretch towards love and grace, towards God and His Kingdom we will find a way not only to go on, but also a way to be better than we used to be. To express and extend Jesus to a world that needs Him now more than ever. Mother Teresa said, “Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.”
With this line, we ask for the ability to console people in pain and to show others the love and grace of God. God first loved us and now it is our turn. It’s our turn to love and serve. It’s our turn to be the peace of God in the world. J.R.R. Tolkien said, “For myself, I find I become less cynical rather than more–remembering my own sins and follies; and realize that men’s hearts are not often as bad as their acts, and very seldom as bad as their words.”