31 Mar 2015
I used to be a School Chaplain at the De La Salle pastoral centre in West Belfast. There, classes of pupils came for a day of reflection, retreat and fun. I loved the job. Each day, we’d ask the young people to design a time of prayer to end their day.
They could choose a reading, write a few prayers, choose a song from one of their phones, talk about why they like that song. I sat through hundreds of these services – each simple, forgettable and beautiful.
At one of those prayer services, a young person wrote the following prayer:
Dear God, thank you for putting me on this earth, but people can get lonely and I don’t like people being lonely cause sometimes I am and it’s not a good feeling. So I’d like you to pair them up with someone who is not lonely, if you can. Amen. Sad can be happy
He read it out, seemingly without much self–consciousness, then crumpled it up and put it in a bin. I fished it out, framed it and have thought about it for years. His words are so strong, so clear, so humble. He tells the truth about human loneliness and he tells it without shame.
I love that he initially had the remedy to loneliness to be an encounter with someone who is not lonely, but then he remedied his remedy and suggested that loneliness shared with another is loneliness transformed, in a little way. And his humble petition, too, appeals to God – he says “if you can…” There are many great prayers recorded in the sacred texts of our world. This one is worth living a life by.
As part of our Corrymeela Community worship rhythm – taking time to think of the names of the members each day, the volunteers and staff, holding some intentions or our world and reflecting on a gospel text, I wanted to write a prayer for us. The young person’s prayer here is a prayer of courage, humanity and story. May we live by this witness. At Corrymeela, we know that welcome is the first word of our witness, and that we bear witness to this in our actions, our love, our admission of our own complicity and our looking toward a hope that is both greater than us all and deep within us. May we find courage and love in this shared endeavor of Corrymeela.
Courage comes from the heart
and we are always welcomed by God,
the Croí of all being.
We bear witness to our faith,
knowing that we are called to live lives of courage,
love and reconciliation in the ordinary and extraordinary
moments of each day.
We bear witness, too, to our failures
and our complicity in the fractures of our world.
May we be courageous today.
May we learn today.
May we love today.
Pádraig Ó Tuama, Leader, Corrymeela Community