Prayers of Life
Copyrighted in French 1954, in English 1963
The Sea (p 33)
Lives that are effective are not always those that attract attention. They are never those of the proud who storm against obstacles which cannot be removed. Lives lived humbly, under the eyes of God, illumined by his grace and radiant with love for others, are always effective.
Love is patient; love is kind and envies no one. Love is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude; never selfish, nor quick to take offence. Love keeps no score of wrongs; does not gloat over other menís sins, but delights in the truth. There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, and its endurance. (I Cor. 13, 4-7)
Lord, I saw the sea attacking the rocks, somber and raging.
From afar the waves gained momentum.
High and proud, they leapt, jostling one another to be the first to strike.
When the white foam drew back, leaving the rock clear, they gathered themselves to rush forward again.
The other day I saw the sea, calm and serene.
The waves came from afar, creeping, not to draw attention.
Quietly holding hands, they slipped noiselessly and stretched at full length on the sand, to touch the shore with the tips of their beautiful, soft fingers.
The sun gently caressed them, and they generously returned streams of light.
Lord, grant that I may avoid useless quarrels that tire and wound without achieving results.
Keep me from these angry outbursts that draw attention but leave one uselessly weakened.
Keep me from wanting always to outstrip others in my conceit, crushing those in my way.
Wipe from my face the look of dark, dominating anger.
Rather, Lord, grant that I may live my days calmly and fully, as the sea slowly covers the whole shore.
Make me humble like the sea, as, silently and gently, it spreads out, unnoticed.
May I wait for my brothers and match my pace to theirs, that I may move upward with them.
Grant me the triumphant perseverance of the waters.
May each of my retreats turn into an advance.
Give my face the light of clear waters.
Give my soul the whiteness of foam.
Illumine my life that it may sing like sunbeams on the surface of the sea.
But above all, Lord, may I not keep this light for myself, and may all those who come near me return home eager to bathe in your eternal grace.
Hunger (p 59)
All men are our brothers, for the blood of Christ made us sons of the same Father. When a member of a family suffers and dies, the other members grieve. Since we know now that millions of men die of hunger in the world every year, we can no longer live as before. Even if financial means permit, a mode of living other than that which is fitting and necessary, is a sin Ė we repeat it again Ė it is a sin to live without fighting with all our might, where we are, for more justice in the world.
There once was a rich man, who dressed in purple and the finest linen, and feasted in great magnificence every day. At his gate, covered with sores, lay a poor man named Lazarus, who would have been glad to satisfy his hunger with the scraps from the rich manís table. Even the dogs used to come and lick his sores. (Luke 16, 19-21)
He said to his disciples, Make them sit down ... Then, taking the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. They all ate to their heartsí content. (Luke 9, 14-17)
I have eaten,
I have eaten too much,
I have eaten only because others have done so,
Because I was invited,
Because I was in the world and the world would not have understood;
And each dish
And each mouthful
And each morsel was hard to get down.
I have eaten too much, Lord,
While at that moment, in my town, more than 1,500 persons queued up at the bread line,
While in her attic a woman ate what she had salvaged that morning from the garbage bins,
While urchins in their orphanage divided some scraps from the old folksí home.
While ten, a hundred, a thousand unfortunates throughout the world, at that very moment twisted in pain and died of hunger before their despairing families.
Lord, itís terrible, for I know,
Men know, now.
They know that not only a few destitute are hungry, but hundreds at their own doors.
They know that not only several hundreds but thousands are hungry on the borders of their country,
They know that not only thousands, but millions, are hungry throughout the world.
Men have made a map of the prevalence of hunger,
Areas of starvation and death, appalling.
The figures stand out in stark and implacable truth.
The minimum wage for a month here is, for millions and millions of human beings, their maximum wage for a year.
One third of humanity is underfed.
Several million die of hunger in India in the course of one famine alone.
On an average, the Indians live for barely 26 years.
Lord, you see this map, you read these figures,
Not like a calm statistician in his office,
But like the father of a large family bending over the head of each of his sons.
Lord, you have seen this map, you have read these figures since the beginning of time,
And you told the story, for me, of the rich man at table and the poor starved Lazarus;
And you spoke, for me, of the Last Judgement.
"...I was hungry..."
Itís you who queue up at the bread line,
Itís you who eat the scraps of garbage,
Itís you who are tortured by hunger and starve to death,
Itís you who die alone in a corner at 26,
While in another corner of the great hall of the world Ė with some members of our family Ė I eat without being hungry, what is needed to save you.
"...I was hungry..."
Remind me of that, Lord, if I cease for a moment to give myself.
Iíll never be through giving bread to my brothers, for there are too many of them.
Thereíll always be some who wonít have had their share.
Iíll never be through fighting to get bread for all my brothers.
Lord, it isnít easy to feed the world.
I would rather say my prayers regularly, properly;
I would rather fast on Fridays,
I would rather visit my poor man,
I would rather give to fetes and orphanages;
But apparently that isnít enough.
Itís nothing, if one day you can say to me: "I was hungry!"
Lord, Iím no longer hungry,
Lord, I donít want to be hungry again.
Lord, I want to eat only what I need to live, to serve you and to fight for my brothers.
For you are hungry, Lord,
You die of hunger, while I am surfeited.
Lord I have time (p 76)
All men complain that they havenít enough time. Itís because they look at their lives from too human a point of view. Thereís always time to do what God wants us to do, but we must put ourselves completely into each moment that he offers us.
Be most careful then how you conduct yourselves: like sensible men, not like simpletons. Use the present opportunity to the full, for these are evil days. So do not be fools, but try to understand what the will of the Lord is. (Eph. 5, 15-17)
I went out, Lord.
Men were coming out.
They were coming and going,
Walking and running.
Everything was rushing, cars, lorries, the street, the whole town.
Men were rushing not to waste time.
They were rushing after time,
To catch up with time,
To gain time.
Goodbye, sir, excuse me, I havenít time.
Iíll come back, I canít wait, I havenít time.
I must end this letter Ė I havenít time.
Iíd love to help you, but I havenít time.
I canít accept, having no time.
I canít think, I canít read, Iím swamped, I havenít time.
Iíd like to pray, but I havenít time.
You understand, Lord, they simply havenít the time.
The child is playing, he hasnít time right now ...Later on...
The schoolboy has his homework to do, he hasnít time ...Later on...
The student has his courses, and so much work, he hasnít time ...Later on...
The young man is at his sports, he hasnít time ...Later on...
The young married man has his new house, he has to fix it up, he hasnít time ...Later on...
The grandparents have their grandchildren, they havenít time ...Later on...
They are ill, they have their treatments, they havenít time ...Later on...
They are dying, they have no...
Too late! ... They have not more time!
And so all men run after time, Lord.
They pass through life running Ė hurried, jostled, overburdened, frantic, and they never get there. They havenít time.
In spite of all their efforts theyíre still short of time, of a great deal of time.
Lord, you must have made a mistake in your calculations.
There is a big mistake somewhere.
The hours are too short,
The days are too short,
Our lives are too short.
You who are beyond time, Lord, you smile to see us fighting it.
And you know what you are doing.
You make no mistakes in your distribution of time to men.
You give each one time to do what you want him to do.
But we must not lose time
For time is a gift that you give us,
But a perishable gift,
A gift that does not keep.
Lord, I have time,
I have plenty of time,
All the time that you give me,
The years of my life,
They days of my years,
The hours of my days,
They are all mine.
Mine to fill, quietly, calmly,
But to fill completely, up to the brim,
To offer them to you, that of their insipid water
You may make a rich wine such as you made once in Cana of Galilee.
I am not asking you tonight, Lord, for time to do this and then that,
But your grace to do conscientiously, in that time that you give me, what you want me to do.