“… To think my greatest enemies my best friends,
for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good
with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred. …”

If we really took to heart this prayer (given in its entirety below) — particularly this fragment of it — it could change our lives; it could help to keep us off of the endless (futile?) quest to drug — perhaps even to heal — the wounds life inevitably inflicts on us and brings to mind, and onto our real journey Home.

Of course, St. Thomas (the long-imprisoned-and-finally-martyred true friend of Henry VIII) was referring to the patriarch Joseph (Genesis 37, 39-45), not St. Joseph the foster-father of Jesus. What does he mean? Perhaps, he means that if we were always to live surrounded by comfort and the support of family and friends, earthly as we are, we would feel no need of seeking what truly matters — the Kingdom of God — or union with Him and its attendant guidance, consolation, etc. We would have little reason to long for our true Home in Heaven and every reason to want to stay here below as long as we can. We then might not reach Home at all at the end of our days! St. Thomas’ prayer is not a natural way of thinking at all; it is supernatural!

I also think that you can tell a lot about a person by his prayers. Here, we see that St. Thomas More was grounded in the ultimate reality — God — and that he was a humble, courageous man:

Give me Thy grace, good Lord
to set the world at nought;

To set my mind fast upon Thee,
and not to hang upon the blast of men’s mouths;

To be content to be solitary,
not to long for worldly company;

Little by little utterly to cast off the world,
and rid my mind of all the business thereof;

Not to long to hear of any worldly things,
but that the hearing of worldly phantasies may be to me unpleasant;

Gladly to be thinking of thee,
piteously to call for thy help;

To lean unto the comfort of thee,
busily to labor to love You;

To know my own vileness and wretchedness,
to be humble and meeken myself under the mighty hand of God;

To bewail my sins passed,
for the purging of them patiently to suffer adversity;

Gladly to bear my purgatory here,
to be joyful of tribulations;

To walk the narrow way that leads to life,
to bear the cross with Christ;

To have the last thing in remembrance,
to have ever before my eye my death that is ever at hand;

To make death no stranger to me,
to foresee and consider the everlasting fire of hell;

To pray for pardon before the Judge come,
to have continually in mind the passion that Christ suffered for me;

For His benefits unceasingly to give Him thanks,
to buy the time again that I before have lost;

To abstain from vain conversations,
to eschew light foolish mirth and gladness;

Recreations not necessary to cut off,
of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all, to set the loss as nothing
for the winning of Christ;

To think my greatest enemies my best friends,
for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good
with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred.

Give me the grace so to spend my life,
that when the day of my death shall come,

though I may feel pain in my body,
I may feel comfort in soul;

and with faithful hope in thy mercy,
in due love towards thee
and charity towards the world,

I may, through thy grace,
part hence into thy glory.

St. Thomas More, pray for us.

P.S. I originally came across this prayer in a gem of a prayerbook: Fr. Hardon’s Catholic Prayer Book. Hardon, of course, was a Jesuit. His book also includes some maxims of St. Ignatius (the founder of the Jesuits), one of which is:

If God gives you an abundant harvest of trials, it is a sign of great holiness which He desires you to attain. Do you want to become a great saint? Ask God to send you many sufferings. The flame of Divine Love never rises higher than when fed with the wood of the Cross, which the infinite charity of the Savior used to finish His sacrifice. All the pleasures of the world are nothing compared with the sweetness found in the gall and vinegar offered to Jesus Christ. That is, hard and painful things endured for Jesus Christ and with Jesus Christ.

P.P.S. I’ve been on quite a prayerbook kick lately. Here’s another excellent one, available for free online (as are several of Fr. Lasance’s books): With God.