Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Leonard Cheshire & Sue Ryder - wedding-day prayer

Leonard Cheshire and his wife Sue Ryder at the opening of the
Raphael Hospital at Dehra Dun, India, early summer 1959.

Some  time ago I posted on Group Captain Leonard Cheshire VC, OM, and his wife Sue Ryder  CMG, OBE.,  and briefly mentioned that prior to their wedding in April 1959,  they had together composed a special prayer, which for reasons of space and time, I did not publish.
I have recently received a comment from Siobhan, who has asked for details of this particular prayer,  which is reproduced below:- 
Thou,O My God,
Who art infinite love,
Yet who hast called us to be perfect
Even as Thou art perfect,
Who so loved the world
That Thou hast given us Thine only begotten Son,
And hast thereby given us Thine all, Thine everything.
Who emptied Thyself of Thy Glory,
And was made obedient unto death,
                         Even the death of the Cross                             
For us.
To Thee
We offer our all, our everything
To be consumed in the unquenchable fire of Thy love.
We desire to love Thee even as Thy own Mother loved Thee.
To be generous as Thou Thyself was generous,
To give our all to Thee even as Thou hast given Thine to us.
Thou hast called us, O Lord, and we have found Thee,
In the sick, the unwanted and the dying,
And there we will serve Thee,
Unto death.
It is interesting to record that Sue Ryder subsequently wrote of her initial uncertainty about the step she was taking:-

"My work had meant my life, and nothing I felt should or could change this. How in the future could one combine both marriage and work?..... Moreover even in normal circumstances, marriage inevitably brings great responsibilities - I had always felt that it was a gamble. Furthermore, the implications are so serious that it is wiser to remain single and work than to run the risk of an unhappy marriage. Comparatively few people prepare themselves for or are equal to sharing literally everything"

Happily the marriage went ahead on 5th April 1959 in a private chapel in Bombay's Catholic Cathedral, with Cardinal Valeria Gracias officiating, and just a handful of close friends in attendance.

How successful they were in combining marriage and work, can be gauged by the worldwide expansion of their charitable work to this very day. 'To love God above all things, and thy neighbour as thyself for God's sake' was their inspiration for everything they did.


Cheshire was no stranger to death, having faced it countless times during the war, and thereafter in his work for the homeless, sick and disabled. When asked for his views on death, he had this to say:-

             "Death is the final and crucial consummation of that lifelong process of self-determination and struggle for perfection.  It is the bringing to maturity of all that a man has made himself during his lifetime, the taking possession without possibility of self-deception or ambiguity of his own personality as it has been developed through the conduct of his life, and most particularly in the domain of his freely expressed moral acts. As such it is an act of the profoundest meaning and consequence, which gives an irrevocable direction to our life for all eternity"
"It's no use running the race brilliantly and then stopping one yard short. You have to cross that tape."

Leonard Cheshire, his wife Sue Ryder, and Fr Ted Burns in
Melbourne, Australia.(1989)
Finally, a comment made shortly before his death on 31 July,1992:-
"I find that the beginning of the day as you wake up is important ..... Picture in your mind a whole world waking up to a new day. People are getting organized to go out to their work: some of them are leaders of government, others are going to sweep the streets, others ill or disabled and at home. But there in that moment you have the whole world waking up, we hope to put the day to the best advantage.
       The morning light is brushing aside the night's darkness. That also symbolizes the fact that we are all in a state of becoming and evolving, so God is at work all the time, recreating the present earth and heaven into the new heaven and the new earth. So that process is also going on: identify with it. Don't try to be clever and think it out - just have that thought in your mind. Beauty is springing out of darkness ........Somebody once said: 'the things that we see help us understand the unseen things'. I like the linking of what we do and what we see, with a prayer aimed at the spiritual counterpart:
           'The shining sun looks down on all things
              and the work of the Lord is full of His glory.'
                                                                               Ecclesiasticus, 42:16

   (Acknowledgement:-  'CHESHIRE' - The Biography of Leonard Cheshire, VC,OM' by Richard Morris. Published by Penguin Books 2001)


N.B. You may find this post of interest :-Leonard Cheshire and Sue Ryder - Saints of our time

              "The maxims of the world are diametrically opposed to the maxims of Jesus Christ. What the world esteems Jesus Christ has called folly.  And what the world regards as folly Jesus Christ has strongly recommended, such as crosses, pains and contempt"
Thoughts from St Alphonsus for every day of the year. (28th  November)
God bless our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.  
                    Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us all.