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Be Thou My Vision, O Lord of My Heart

Monday, February 24, 2020 by Sarah Perkins - National Adjunct Faculty, The Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program

Be Thou My Vision

One of my favorite hymns to sing in prayer or at Mass is set to the Irish folk tune Slane. I grew up knowing this hymn as “Lord of All Hopefulness”:

Lord of all hopefulness,
Lord of all joy,
Whose trust, ever childlike, no cares can destroy;
Be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,
Your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day…

Recently, I discovered another set of words to this tune, which were new to me but (apparently!) have been widely in use for decades:

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that thou art
Thou my best thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light...

Though this version employs a structure and a vocabulary that wouldn’t come naturally to me in spoken prayer, I am finding it easy to sing, particularly to my three-month-old son, Joseph. I am especially drawn to the core petition of this hymn: Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart.

What would it look like to live each day with the Lord as my “vision”?

I think my 3-month old son Joseph is my best model of this way of seeing. From their earliest days, babies love to fix their gaze on faces. Joseph’s gaze is steady and true. He delights in having his siblings, John and Mary, get close to his face so he can make direct eye contact with them, prompting them to exclaim excitedly, “Mom! He’s looking right at me – and smiling!” I’m convinced that this is how God looks at us: lovingly, joyfully, and directly. I hope to learn to look at God – and the people in my life – in the same way. 

In a world in which so much can distract me and pull at my attention, I’m comforted to remember that all of us, as infants, very quickly developed the skill of gazing right at those we love the most. Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart. Joseph’s example, and this hymn, remind me to keep my eyes “fixed on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2) as I go about my daily tasks.

Today, as we serve our students, communities, and families, may we be blessed with the eyes of faith to see the Lord at work in our lives and in our vocations. In times of joy and of trouble, may we lift our eyes and our hearts to God.