Psalm 23: The Shepherd

Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle

February 22, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on this Feast of St. Peter we pray with Psalm 23 – the Good Shepherd.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    In verdant pastures I am given repose;
Beside restful waters the Lord leads me;
    refreshing my soul.

Psalm 23

The history and devotion intrinsic to this feast can inspire us to pray especially today for our dear Pope Francis who carries Peter’s grace and burden in our time. He carries, in Primacy, the charge reflected in our first reading:

Tend the flock of God in your midst,
overseeing not by constraint but willingly,
as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.
Do not lord it over those assigned to you,
but be examples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd is revealed,
you will receive the unfading crown of glory.


Pope Francis faces resistances just as Peter did. There are always forces within a community who pull its energy in contradictory directions. When rooted in love and reverent dialogue, that counteraction can generate growth. But when born of selfishness and obstinance, such opposition poisons the whole Body.

Francis needs our prayer. The Church needs our prayer. According to Teresa of Avila, Saint and Doctor of the Church, that prayer should be scriptural:

All the troubles of the Church,
all the evils in the world,
flow from this source:
that human beings do not
by clear and sound knowledge
and serious consideration
penetrate into the truths
of Sacred Scripture.

St. Teresa of Avila

Today, Psalm 23 inspires our prayer for our Pope:

Even in the dark valley
    may you fear no evil; for you are at God’s side
Whose rod and staff
    give you courage.
May God spread graces before you
    in the sight of your troubles;
and anoint your head with oil;
    your cup overflowing.
May goodness and kindness follow you
    all the days of your life;
May you dwell in the LORD’s sanctuary
    for all your days.


Poetry: When I was a boy … (Da ich ein Knabe war …) – Friedrich Hölderlin

Pope Francis’s favorite poet is said to be the German writer Friedrich Hölderlin. Perhaps Francis, composer of the lyrical Laudato Sí and Fratelli Tutti, loves this rhapsodic poem.

When I was a boy
Often a god would save me
From the shouts and blows of men;
I played safely and well
With the flowers of the fields
And the winds of heaven
Played with me.

As you make happy
The hearts of plants
When they extend to you
Their delicate tendrils,
So you make my heart happy,
Father Sun, and like Endymion
I was your favorite,
Holy Moon!

All true and neighborly gods!
If only you knew
How much I loved you then!
True, at that time, I didn’t
Know your names, and you
Never bothered to name me, like men
Who only pretend to know one another.

Yet I know you better
Than I’ve ever known anyone,
I understood the silence of the upper air,
But I’ve never understood the words of men.
I was raised by the sounds
Of the rustling grove
And learned to love
Among the flowers.
I grew up in the arms of the gods.

Music: Psalm 23 with Bach’s Sheep May Safely Graze

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