and where there is sadness, joy.

I’ve found joy at funerals and weddings, in McDonald’s and on Mount Washington. It’s the same with sadness; sometimes there’s an obvious reason, but many times it seems to come without one. Yesterday, it came to church.

A son preached about his mother. She suffers from dementia these days. He talked about how she kept and still keeps a spotless house, and how she prepared beautiful meals that she couldn’t enjoy if it didn’t look like the picture in the cookbook. He talked about how she loved her sons, and how she never saw herself as worthy of love as a gift rather than something earned. He talked about her talents and her faults, and how God loved her because of her faults – not in spite of them. With a few dozen words, a son shared joy with the hundred or so people gathered there.

Joy isn’t earned and it doesn’t cost a thing. It can find us at church, on the beach, at the bus stop, and at home. It comes through words and silence, work and play. For reasons known to God alone, it can grow out of our saddest moments.

With Francis, I pray that God brings joy through me today.

Lord, Make me an instrument of Thy Peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

This prayer is attributed to Saint Francis. He was born in 1181 or 1182 into a wealthy family in Assisi, Umbria. He grew up in comfort, turned into a rowdy youth, and eventually looked for glory on the battlefield. His life plan altered when he encountered God. In prayer, he heard God tell him to rebuild the church. He devoted himself to a life of prayer, poverty and service. He is the founder of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM), usually called the Franciscans. He died in 1226 after a life of prayer, poverty, and service. His life, work, and words have inspired countless numbers of people.

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