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.

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