Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been looking at the Prayer of St. Francis and thinking about it not only as good fodder for passage meditation, but also as a way to orient our hearts and minds for the day ahead. We started by looking at instruments of peace, then we saw Francis’s prayerful definition of the Kingdom of Heaven. Today, we look at the penultimate section of the prayer. Here’s the text—
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.
Like the items in the previous section—and the prayer in general—this section uses a series of opposites to define where we should put our focus. As a self-proclaimed grammar nerd, I love the way that the prayer juxtaposes the passive voice with the active voice, taking each need—consolation, understanding, and love—and commanding that we not be passive, wanting to receive these three, but active in bringing them into the world.
Make no mistake, humans need these three experiences in order to feel whole.
- In the midst of a world gone wrong or a world that often doesn’t feel quite right, we need to be consoled.
- In order to feel recognized and known, in order to build positive relationships, we need to be understood.
- If we are going to truly live out our call as heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven, then we need to be loved.
Fortunately, Christianity has these three baked right in. Jesus’s experience on the cross reassures us of this. God became human so that we may know that “[e]very sorrow and desolation / he saw, and sorrowed in kinship” (to steal a phrase from poet Denise Levertov). The Holy Spirit, living and active within us, constantly offers consolation and understanding. The product of that consolation and understanding should be that we know that we are the beloved children of God.
Allow me to repeat that with some emphasis:
We are the beloved children of God.
As such, our responsibility is to do exactly what Jesus did: console the downtrodden, understand even the experiences of our enemies, and love love love.
If we are to truly live out the great commandments that Jesus gives us—love God and love others—then we can say this prayer to remind ourselves not only that we are loved but also that we must love. We must move from being loved to being love, embodying it, and bringing it wherever we go—loving God, loving self, loving neighbors, loving enemies.
• • •
This week try saying the Prayer of St. Francis early in the morning as a way to orient your day. As you reflect on that experience, you might ask yourself these three questions:
- Who do I know that needs consolation?
- Where could I be more understanding?
- How can I love someone else today?