Prayer for Courage in Times of Struggle — By Fr. Rich, O.P.

FrRichWebI know, I know, this is the same column as last year for the 4th of July, and, oh yeah, the year before! In my defense, many events in celebration of Independence Day have been carried from year to year. I stand in that tradition! And oh yeah — it’s still true!

I’ve continued to struggle to find coherence and succinctness in a column for the fourth of July weekend. The “Four Freedoms,” of speech, worship, from want, and from fear are a poignant and powerful expression of an ideal of freedom in this country from a time long past. And I wanted to somehow incorporate them in an article relevant to our life now.

As has happened a great deal lately, prayer has surfaced to offer me a way through the struggle. Below is an edited version of a prayer by Joan Chittister, OSB. Space constraints prohibit the complete prayer, which is available at: www.monasteriesoftheheart.org/daily-and-other-prayer/prayer-conscience-and-courage-times-public-struggle

Celebrate as you will this holiday, knowing that we can do so because in the past men and women “…with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, (pledged) to each other … Lives, … Fortunes, and sacred Honor,” in defense of those four freedoms.

Prayer for Conscience and Courage in Times of Public Struggle
Loving God, lead us beyond ourselves to care and protect, to nourish and shape, to challenge and energize both the life and the world You have given us.

God of light and God of darkness, God of conscience and God of courage, lead us through this time of spiritual confusion and public uncertainty.

Lead us beyond fear, apathy and defensiveness to new hope in You and to hearts full of faith.

Give us the conscience it takes to comprehend what we’re facing, to see what we’re looking at and to say what we see so that others, hearing us, may also brave the pressure that comes with being out of public step.

Give us the courage we need to confront those things that compromise our consciences or threaten our integrity.

Give us, most of all, the courage to follow those before us who challenged wrong and changed it, whatever the cost to themselves.

Mary, Mother of Jesus, you confronted the systems of the world in order to do the will of God. Touch our conscience on behalf of those burdened by oppressive laws and give us courage to join them in the struggle.

St. Thomas Aquinas, doctor of the church, you were condemned by the bishop of Paris for reconciling the theology of the time with the thinking of the time. Touch our conscience on behalf of new ideas and give us courage to test them.

St. Maximilian Kolbe, you gave your life in place of a condemned prisoner in Auschwitz. Touch our conscience on behalf of life and give us the courage to protect it.

St. Polycarp, you were executed for refusing to proclaim “Caesar is Lord.” Touch our conscience on behalf of just government and give us the courage to demand it.

St. Basil the Great, doctor of the church, you challenged the wealthy to redistribute their wealth to the poor. Touch our conscience on behalf of those who are paid unjust wages and give us the courage to proclaim that cause.

St. John the Baptist, you were beheaded for speaking truth to power. Touch our conscience on behalf of immoral public policy and give us the courage to speak our truth.

St. Teresa of Avila, doctor of the church, you were under suspicion by the Spanish Inquisition for developing a new form of spirituality. Touch our conscience on behalf of those who break new paths and give us the courage always to embrace new ways for the good of the world.

Holy Pope John XXIII, you opened the church to the modern world. Touch our conscience on behalf of new ideas, in support of new understandings, and give us the courage to risk them.

Holy Mohandas Gandhi, you freed India from English jurisdiction through nonviolent resistance. Touch our conscience on behalf of the oppressed of the world and give us the courage to resist oppression in ways that are not themselves oppressive.

Holy Sister Juana Inés de la Cruz, you were criticized for writing the first theological work by a woman. Touch our conscience in regard to the role of women in church and societies, and give us the courage to promote their rights.

Holy Maura Clarke and Companions, you were brutally murdered in El Salvador for supporting refugee priests, people, and catechists in their struggle against an oppressive government. Touch our conscience on behalf of the oppressed in both state and church, and give us the courage to join them in the struggle.

Holy Cesar Chavez, farmworker and organizer, you organized migrant workers to struggle for just wages through boycotts and civil disobedience. Touch our conscience on behalf of workers’ rights, and give us the courage to strive for them.

Holy Philip Berrigan, you spent half a lifetime in prison to protest the nuclear policies of the United States. Touch our conscience as citizens of the globe, and give us the courage to give our lives to making life better, safer, and more human for the rest of humankind.

Finally, Great God, give us the kind of faith in You that was the mainstay of those before us who followed you from Galilee to Jerusalem doing good, raising the dead to life, and singing alleluia all the way.

God of Conscience, God of Courage, give us whatever grace we need to work for the coming of the reign of God now, here, and always. Amen.

— Joan Chittister, OSB