Our Morning Offering – 25 January – The Feast of the Conversion of St Paul
Lead, Kindly Light
By Blessed John Henry Newman (1801-1890)
Lead, kindly Light, amid the 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
Should 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 wil, remember not past years.
So long Thy power has blest 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.
Lead, Kindly Light is a hymn with words written in 1833 by Blessed John Henry Newman (1801-1890) as a poem titled “the Pillar and the Cloud” – it consists of 3 verses, anything after that is not by John Henry.
As a young priest, Newman became sick while in Italy and was unable to travel for almost three weeks. In his own words:
“Before starting from my inn, I sat down on my bed and began to sob bitterly. My servant, who had acted as my nurse, asked what ailed me. I could only answer, “I have a work to do in England.” I was aching to get home, yet for want of a vessel I was kept at Palermo for three weeks. I began to visit the churches and they calmed my impatience, though I did not attend any services. At last I got off in an orange boat, bound for Marseilles. We were becalmed for whole week in the Straits of Bonifacio and it was there that I wrote the lines, Lead, Kindly Light, which have since become so well known.”
Why this for St Paul? – this time in Bl John Henry’s life was a time of internal “conversion’ – after, his well-known “Sicily providential illness”, he started to turn towards “Rome” – although first the Oxford Movement had to happen and then some more difficult years before his final conversion but once he had put his hand to the plough, there was no turning back in his journey towards Truth.
I am sure you will agree with me that the words of this most beautiful prayer/poem/hymn, fit the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul perfectly.