Friday, March 15, 2013

Through Peace to Light - Adelaide Anne Proctor

Today (20/10/13), while visiting my parents, I discovered that in the book my mother is currently reading, for a bookmark, she was using a transparent, plastic protector containing a small scrap of paper that had turned brown with age. The front of it read:

I do not ask my cross to understand,
   My way to see;
But that in darkness just to feel Thy hand
  And Follow Thee.

On the back was written in my mother's hand,  "Saint Joan of Arc / May 30, 1941." My mother said that it is the one prayer that always works. She explained that the prayer never fails to bring to awareness the presence of Jesus--making everything all right again (restoring faith and hope).

My mother is 81 years old, and she recalls that when she was about 10, she and some other girls visited a church, Saint Joan of Arc, in Jackson Heights (in Queens, New York City), and it was there that she found the prayer, tore it off from whatever paper it was on, and saved it. Since she not only saved it but wrote the date and location, it must have made a very strong imprint on my 10 year-old mother. Her own parish was Saint Bartholomew in Elmhurst (Queens also), and my mother recalls that the reason for the visit was that five of the churches in the area had organized a prayer pilgrimage that involved praying at all five churches. But my mother said that due to their age, she and the other girls only visited the one other church.

With a quick Google search, I discovered that the prayer is part of a poem that was written by an Englishwoman, Adelaide Anne Procter, (1825-1864).  I am not sure if the title of the poem is a reference to a particular line of scripture, but the body of the poem is based on Isaiah 40:28-31.

Per Pacem Ad Lucem

 I do not ask, O Lord, that life be
    A pleasant road;
 I do not ask that Thou wouldst take from me
    Aught of its load;

I do not ask that flowers should always spring
    Beneath my feet;
I know too well the poison and the sting
    Of things too sweet.

For one thing only, Lord, Dear Lord I plead,
    Lead me aright--
Though strength should falter, and though heart should bleed--
    Through Peace to Light.

I do not ask, O lord, that Thou shouldst shed
    Full Radiance here;
Give but a ray of peace, that I may tread
    Without a fear.

I do not ask my cross to understand,
    My way to see;
Better in darkness just to feel thy hand
    And follow Thee.

Joy is like restless day; but peace divine
    Like quiet night:
Lead me, O Lord,--till perfect Day shall shine
    Through Peace to Light.

Adelaide Anne Procter was the favorite poet of Queen Victoria.  She was the second most popular poet in England, after Alfred Lord Tennyson. She was a friend of Charles Dickens, who published many of her poems in the publications that he controlled, and he also wrote the introductions in some of the books that contained her poetry. She was very active in charitable works. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "Miss Procter was of a charitable disposition: she visited the sick, befriended the destitute and home- less, taught the ignorant, and endeavored to raise up the fallen ones of her own sex. She was generous yet practical with the income derived from her works. In 1859 she served on a committee to consider fresh ways and means of providing employment for women; in 1861 she edited a miscellany, entitled "Victoria Regia", which had some of the leading litterateurs of the time as contributors and which was set up in type by women compositors; and in 1862 she published a slender volume of her own poems, "A Chaplet of Verses", mostly of a religious turn, for the benefit of the Providence Row night refuge for homeless women and children, which, as the first Catholic Refuge in the United Kingdom, had been opened on 7 October, 1860, and placed under the care of the Sisters of Mercy."

Incidentally, the book my mother was reading was Rediscovering Catholicism, by Matthew Kelly. At my brother Matthew's parish, they were giving the book out for free. He did not have time to read it, so he gave it to my mother.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Lowly but Chosen

Here are a few quotes from and about Pope Francis, the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge  Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires.  He chose, "Lowly but Chosen," as his Papal motto.

Since I posted the below quotes, which I cobbled together from various sources, the Jesuit magazine America posted Quotes from Pope Francis. America Magazine.  March 13, 2013.  Their compilation of quotes is better. It shows more of the surrounding context and sounds more powerful.


As Archbishop, he gave up a palace for a small apartment, rode public transportation instead of a chauffeur-driven car and cooked his own meals.

Bergoglio regularly visited the slums that ring Argentina’s capital. He accused fellow church leaders of hypocrisy and forgetting that Jesus bathed lepers and ate with prostitutes.


“Jesus teaches us another way: Go out. Go out and share your testimony. Go out and interact with your brothers. Go out and share. Go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit,” Bergoglio told Argentina’s priests last year.

"Only someone who has encountered mercy, who has been caressed by the tenderness of mercy, is happy and comfortable with the Lord...The privileged locus of the encounter is the caress of the mercy of Jesus Christ on my sin."


"In front of this merciful embrace–and I continue along the lines of Giussani’s thought–we feel a real desire to respond, to change, to correspond; a new morality arises. We posit the ethical problem, an ethics which is born of the encounter, of this encounter which we have described up to now. Christian morality is not a titanic effort of the will, the effort of someone who decides to be consistent and succeeds, a solitary challenge in the face of the world. No. Christian morality is simply a response. It is the heartfelt response to a surprising, unforeseeable, “unjust” mercy (I shall return to this adjective). The surprising, unforeseeable, “unjust” mercy, using purely human criteria, of one who knows me, knows my betrayals and loves me just the same, appreciates me, embraces me, calls me again, hopes in me, and expects from me. This is why the Christian conception of morality is a revolution; it is not a never falling down but an always getting up again."

"In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don't baptize the children of single mothers because they weren't conceived in the sanctity of marriage," Bergoglio told his priests. "These are today's hypocrites. Those who clericalize the Church. Those who separate the people of God from salvation. And this poor girl who, rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it into the world, must wander from parish to parish so that it's baptized!" 

"We live in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most yet reduced misery the least. The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers."

The Church

"At the last feast of Saint Cayetano, during the sermon, Father Bergoglio told all those who were there in front of him: some of the hundreds of thousands of Argentineans who as every year packed the outlying neighborhood where the shrine stands to ask favors from the saint of bread and work or thank him for those received. “Let me ask you a question: is the Church is a place open only for the good?”; and all in chorus: “Nooo!”. The cardinal, in reply: “Is there room for the bad guys, too?”. And the others, still all together, “Yeeees!!!”. “Do people get thrown out because they’re bad? No, on the contrary, they’re welcomed with more affection. And who taught us that? Jesus taught us. Imagine, then, how patient the heart of God is with all of us”. 
"We have to avoid the spiritual sickness of a self-referential church," Bergoglio said recently. "It's true that when you get out into the street, as happens to every man and woman, there can be accidents. However, if the church remains closed in on itself, self-referential, it gets old. Between a church that suffers accidents in the street, and a church that's sick because it's self-referential, I have no doubts about preferring the former."

General Philosophy

"On the other hand, to interrogate oneself in the face of these signs, one needs an extremely human capacity, the first one we have as men and women: wonder, the capacity to be amazed, as Giussani calls it, in the last analysis, a child's heart. The beginning of every philosophy is wonder and only wonder leads to knowledge.
"Notice that moral and cultural degradation begin to arise when this capacity for wonder is weakened or cancelled or when it dies. The cultural opiate tends to cancel, weaken, or kill this capacity for wonder. Pope Luciani once said that the drama of contemporary Christianity lies in the fact that it puts categories and norms in the place of wonder. But wonder comes before all categories; it is what leads me to seek, to open myself up; it is what makes the answer - not verbal or conceptual answer - possible for me. If wonder opens me up as a question, the only response is the *encounter*, and only with the encounter is my thirst quenched. And with nothing else it is quenched more."  - A Generative Thought