Loving Kindness

May I be at peace.

May my heart remain open.

May I realize the beauty of my own true nature.

May I be healed.

May I be a source of healing for this world.

May you be at peace.

May your heart remain open.

May you realize the beauty of your own true nature.

May you be healed.

May you be a source of healing for this world.

This is the loving-kindness prayer from Buddhist tradition. However, the moment I wrote “from Buddhist tradition,” I wondered if practicing Buddhists humbly smiled or openly grimaced. Is it possible some Buddhists would declare the May I be at peace… prayer was never in their faith tradition? Could it be made-up and willy-nilly tossed into Buddhism by others, or is it a corruption of an ancient expression watered down for modern listeners? I’m not Buddhist, nor a world religions expert, so I don’t know.

But I’m Christian and recall my sadness when discovering the “Prayer of St. Francis” (Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love…) first appeared in a French magazine published in 1912. In other words, likely not written by the Italian-born saint who lived from 1181 to 1226.

Whether the loving-kindness words are traditional or not, I know a hospice chaplain that used it during a visit with a patient and the gathered family. They were Buddhist, and the dying patient could no longer speak. Sitting beside the bed, the chaplain quietly spoke the sentences. Based on the patient’s reaction, the words pleased and comforted the family’s beloved elder. So, in my ignorance about other religions, I’ll be cautious about the prayer’s origin. But in my experience with the dying and grieving, I’m aware of the power of honest, compassionate prayers.

Prayer can be formal, based on an awareness of and belief in God. Or Jehovah. Or Jesus. Or YHWH. Or Supreme Being. Or Allah. Or the Spirit. Prayer can be informal, muttered by those unsure about any God, but comforted by saying I forgive youplease forgive methank youI love you. (Those simple phrases come from Ira Byock’s “The Four Things That Matter Most.” But who has not expressed them?) Prayers are wailed, whispered or wordless. Candles are lighted, rugs placed on the floor, a string of beads grasped, a hand gestures the sign of the cross, a shrine anchors the corner of a room, a phylactery is strapped to the arm . . . and on and on.

Some don’t believe, don’t pray. However, when I’ve visited with a self-proclaimed non-believer, I’ll often ask, “Could I pray for you later when I say my prayers?” No one has ever refused me. Were they only being polite? It’s possible. But truthfully, even the most cynical have never appeared upset when they were asked for permission to be included in my prayers.

Was I disappointed to learn that St. Francis’ prayer may not have originated from him? Of course. However, I would still use it at funerals or weddings or other times when fellow humans gather to weep or laugh. If only influenced by Francis’ life, the words ring true to our best hopes.

For those dying and grieving, shared prayer is a reminder we are not alone.

For those dying and grieving, sharing between two people can bring comfort.

One speaks, one listens. Or both speak. Or both remain silent. However it’s done, being together is the key. Honest prayer cannot be done incorrectly.

May you be at peace, may your heart remain open . . .

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(Hospice vigorously protects a patient’s privacy. I’ll take care with how I share my experiences. Any names used are fictitious. Events are combined and/or summarized.)

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