17th Century Nun’s Prayer

mary ward

This may be a fake old text (there is some contention surrounding its provenance) but it is still awfully funny, human and apt. Mum and I found it sifting through boxes of stuff  from my parents move last summer. Could it be the handiwork of plain-speaking Yorkshire nun Mary Ward (1585-1645) who defied the vatican’s rules; her nuns jettisoned their habits, refused to be confined to cloisters and she encouraged women to perform in plays (at a time when acting was a male preserve). Most famously Ward had a vision that men and women were equal before God (a radical thought at a time when men in universities were still discussing whether or not women had souls).

“Lord, thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older and will some day be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.

Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of other’s pains, but help me to endure them with patience. I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a saint-some of them are so hard to live with-but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the Devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places and talents in unexpected people. And, give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so. Amen.”

 

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