May 23, 2008

Lead, Kindly Light

A few weeks ago it was announced that John Henry Cardinal Newman will be beatified later this year. This is happy news indeed; Newman was a great and holy man.

For a long time I knew little about him--except that he was a famous convert from the Anglican Church, and that he had written a lot. My mother, a convert as well, admired him. When I was in highschool I was given my first introduction to Newman's work; unfortunately it was not his autobiography Apologia Pro Vita Sua, nor was it the classic Idea of a University; it was a book of dense and thoughtful sermons, with sentances as long as paragraphs, and paragraphs spanning three of four pages. Sadly, it was not a good introduction to Newman, or the Victorians as a whole.

Then, in my senior year, I discovered Newman the poet and mystic:
Lead, kindly Light,
amid th'encircling gloom,
lead thou me on!
The night is dark,
and I am far from home;
lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet;
I do not ask to see
the distant scene;
one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus,
nor prayed that thou
shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose
and see my path; but now
lead thou me on!
I loved the garish day,
and, spite of fears,
pride ruled my will:
remember not past years!

So long thy power hath
blessed me, sure it still
will lead me on.
O'er moor and fen,
o'er crag and torrent, till
the night is gone,
And with the morn
those angel faces smile,
which I have loved long
since, and lost awhile!


These lines were a source of comfort and inspiration during the turbulence of my senior year of highschool (Where should I go? What should I do?). I can't say I've engraved them on my heart, but as many things are changing in my life right now, I hope I've learned something about patience and trust.

Truly, it is such a difficult thing to ask for: "I do not ask to see/ the distant scene;/ one step enough for me." One step is never enough, but in giving ourselves up to God's will seeing one step is more than generous. What is faith other than a step into the unknown? If that one step into the unknown is illuminated, who needs anything more?

I'm not expressing my thoughts well, but I know there are several people who read this silly little blog who are in similar situations as I am in today. Much is uncertain. But--"So long thy power hath /blessed me, sure it still/ will lead me on."

(This poem was turned into a hymn, for music click here. Also, check out this icon of Newman by Bro. Robert Lentz, ofm.)

1 comment:

  1. I had to memorize it for a class in ninth grade. Good times!

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