God of our life
There are days
When the burdens we carry
Chafe our shoulders and weigh us down;
When the road seems dreary and endless,
The skies gray and threatening;
When our lives have no music in them,
And our hearts are lonely,
And our souls
Have lost their courage.
Flood the path with light,
We beseech Thee;
Turn our eyes to where the skies are
Full of promise;
Tune our hearts to brave music;
Give us the sense of comradeship
With heroes and saints of every age;
And so quicken our spirits
That we may be able to encourage
The souls of all who journey
With us on the road to life,
To Thy honor and glory.
 - St. Augustine

On the day of 9/11, my mother-in-law’s breast cancer returned. She died a month later. In the ensuing weeks while the nation mourned, her family and friends gathered around her to comfort her in her final days. What I remember most is that she would lie in bed, singing hymns and reciting prayers. Drawing upon years of devout worship, she drew upon a deep well of prayers, scripture, and hymns that she had memorized over the course of her life.

In difficult and uncertain times, we all seek comfort in words—songs, prayers or stories that give us the strength to articulate what we can no longer express on our own. St. Augustine’s prayer, written in the fourth century, offers a timeless affirmation: “Tune our hearts to brave music, we beseech you,” O Lord, as we carry “the burdens that chafe our shoulders and weigh us down,” whether we are saying final goodbyes to a loved one, facing another day of isolation, or walking down a grocery aisle, we call upon the “heroes and saints of every age” to remind us that we do not walk alone. 

This week, many of our students expressed hitting a wall, feeling overwhelmed, unmotivated, and simply tired of virtual school and the isolation it brings.  Augustine’s prayer reminds us that social distancing does not mean we stop connecting or offering encouragement and hope, especially when we ourselves are feeling isolated and the road seems “dreary and endless.” We have no idea what a phone call, letter, Zoom or email may do to “encourage the souls of all who journey with us on the road to life.” The weight and strength of our words matter, as much now as in the time of Augustine.  

-- The Rev. Katie Solter, St. Mark’s School

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