Pope Francis's Christmas address to the Roman Curia on December 22 contained a lengthy examination of conscience, which was reported on in the press as a pretty stern dressing-down. In his usual vivid style, Francis enumerated 15 "diseases" or pathologies that must be addressed to improve the health of that body as a whole, and offered some prescriptions to help. So, for example, to help get over the disease of thinking one is indispensible he suggests a visit to the cemetery, and so on. Much of the Pope's advice can be helpful for anyone. 

I particularly liked a prayer of Thomas More that Francis mentioned in that talk. It came up in problem #12, "the disease of a lugubrious face." To counter the pathology of severity, pessimism, and treating others "especially those we consider our inferiors -- with rigor, brusqueness, and arrogance" he recommended humor. "We would do well to recite often the prayer of St. Thomas More," Pope Francis said, "I say it every day, and it helps." The prayer was not part of the talk, but was printed in full in the footnotes. I had never seen it before, but I know I shall have recourse to it now!

Here's the prayer:

Grant me, O Lord, good digestion, and also something to digest. Grant me a healthy body, and the necessary good humour to maintain it. Grant me a simple soul that knows how to treasure all that is good and that doesn't frighten easily at the sight of evil, but rather finds the means to put things back in their place. Give me a soul that knows not boredom, grumbling, sighs and laments, nor excess of stress, because of that obstructing thing called 'I'. Grant me, O Lord, a sense of good humour. Allow me the grace to be able to take a joke and to discover in life a bit of joy, and to be able to share it with others.

Happy new year, one and all.

Rita Ferrone is the author of several books about liturgy, including Pastoral Guide to Pope Francis’s Desiderio Desideravi (Liturgical Press). She is a contributing writer to Commonweal.

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