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by Fr Peter Michael Scott

I am like a spiritual magpie. I collect or steal advice from prayerful people and use it when spending time with God.

I particularly like some of the wise words of St Thérèse of Lisieux. In her beautiful ‘Story of a Soul’ she writes: ‘I have not the courage to force myself to seek beautiful prayers in books; not knowing which to choose I act as children do who cannot read; I say quite simply to the good God what I want to tell Him, and He always understands me.’

Quite often I come across a patient who is rekindling their spiritual life and feels uncertain about how to pray. They sometimes produce prayers given to them by well-meaning family and friends, and when I ask if they are helpful, they admit that some are…and some are not. So, preening my feathers, I take on the personality of a spiritual magpie and I show them the aforementioned quote from St Thérèse, and they always smile.

I am a privileged magpie because when I give patients the Eucharist, I witness their prayer. They might utter a few beautiful thanksgiving words under their breath or they withdraw and shut their eyes and their countenance changes. Whichever way, I sense they are talking to God from their inner most selves, masks down, presenting their needs honestly to the Father.

There is another phrase I have stolen, and this is one was given by Pope St John Paul in his message for the 5th World Day of Prayer for the Sick. He said, ‘You that bear the weight of suffering occupy the first place among those whom God loves. As with those he met along the roads of Palestine, Jesus directs a gaze full of tenderness at you, His love will never be lacking.’

It is lovely to be able to read the words of St John Paul to those praying and then say, ‘God is listening to you, he loves you, he is close to you’. These, of course, are my words, based on those I have stolen, but I hope patients and staff steal them from me and tell others.

Please pray for the patients, staff and volunteers of St Joseph’s Hospice.