My dear sweet mother, Berenice O'Keefe, spent her last year or so (in her 90s) in a nursing home, less and less able to leave her bed or her wheelchair. In that final trot down the backstretch heading for home, she turned frequently to a patched-together notebook of prayers.
These were drawn from many sources, clipped lovingly from magazines or prayer cards, and pasted into the notebook. She would read these snippets over and over, or ask a visitor to her bedside to read to her "anything you like."
Perhaps these fragments of classic spiritual poems may help someone you know in straits similar to my mother's waning days. So here's a column to clip and share.
"Alone with none but thee, my God, I journey on my way.
What need I fear when Thou art near
O King of night and day?
More safe am I within Thy hand
Than if a host did round me stand."
- St. Columba, 6th c,
From the great Benedictine prior, Bernard of Clairvaux:
"O Jesus, ever with us stay
Make all our moments calm and bright
Chase the night of sin away
Shed o'er the world thy holy light."
From the writings of St. Teresa of Avila:
"Oh, when a soul is hid in Thee
For what adventure can it yearn
Save love and still more love to learn
And thus to love increasingly,
So deep does love within it burn?
My God I pray Thee for a love
That yearns until I see Thy face
And builds itself a nest above
Within its true abiding place."
Here are some consoling quatrains from an 18th century poet:
"God moves in mysterious ways
His wonders to perform
He plants his footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on thy head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face."
- William Cowper
Let's close with the classic "Abide with Me.":
"Abide with me; fast falls the eventide
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail, and comfort thee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
"Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day,
Earth's joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay all around I see,
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
"Hold thou Thy Cross before my closing eyes,
Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies;
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee.
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me."
- H.F. Lyte
Cited with permission from Paulist Press from the "Sampler of Devotional Prayers," edited by Kenneth Christopher 1997.
John Patrick Grace serves as Faith Outreach chairman at St. Stephen Catholic Church in Ona. He is also a Lay Missionary of the Sacred Heart and is active in two prison ministries.