I’ll never forget my first day at St. Thomas. It was the fall of 1983 and I was a wide-eyed freshman enrolled in Father James Reidy’s English Literature class. A legendary taskmaster, Father marched into class, promptly made the sign of the cross and started to pray:
“Grant, o merciful God, that I may ardently desire, prudently examine, truthfully acknowledge, and perfectly accomplish what is pleasing to Thee for the praise and glory of Thy name. Amen.”
He then matter-of-factly informed us that every class would start precisely on time and with the recitation of this prayer, the Prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas, so we had better learn it.
I quickly learned to appreciate that prayer. There was something about it that stuck in my brain long after my days at St. Thomas. Over the years, it evolved from a “go-to” prayer to a sort of mantra.
Wrapped up in this simple prayer is a blueprint for human fulfillment.
Grant, o merciful God …
Right from the start, Aquinas reminds us of one of life’s simplest truths: We are not in control. Have faith in yourself, but trust in God, from whom all good things come.
that I may ardently desire …
Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Truly happy people find a way to turn their passions into a profession. If you do what you love, you’ll love what you do.
prudently examine …
Our modern Internet-enabled (or disabled?) world seems to be at odds with so many virtues, chief among them is patience. We rarely take the time to judge things properly before hitting “reply all.” Now, more than ever, it’s time to slow down and think.
truthfully acknowledge …
The truth should be obvious given its absolute nature. Yet it’s ironic how something that’s designed to bring unity can be so divisive. In acknowledging the truth, one must use your head, but follow your heart. And above all, be brave.
and perfectly accomplish …
For me, happiness is striving for perfection all the while knowing I will never achieve it. In this way, life is more about the journey than the destination.
what is pleasing to Thee …
Beauty might be in the eye of the beholder, but I am convinced God discerns a difference between that which is beautiful and that which is base. Our culture continually puts on a pedestal things that are novel or shocking. If we want to elevate our culture, we need only elevate our standards.
for the praise and glory of Thy name.
Self-glorification is intoxicating. The only problem is, the loftier the perch we put ourselves on, the greater the fall. It’s paradoxical, but once we accept that we are not the center of the universe, we can begin to realize the greatness God has in store for each and every one of us.
Amen, indeed. Thank you, St. Thomas Aquinas, for your inspiring words, and Father Reidy for introducing them to me. You might say without them, I wouldn’t have had a prayer.
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