One of the loveliest collects in the Book of Common Prayer is found in the Evening Prayer and Compline services.
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or
weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who
sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless
the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the
joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen. (BCP. page 132)
I have always loved this prayer, but the line, "shield the joyous" used to stand out to me as odd. Shield the joyous? Why do the joyous need shielding? Aren't they already happy? "Shield the joyous" is what I would have prayed at the finish line of the Boston marathon had I known what was about to happen. Those runners crossing the finish line with a mixture of relief, exhaustion, and joy needed a shield against what would happen next. If only there had been a shield big enough to protect the runners and crowds from the explosions of the bombs.
I remember when my mom was diagnosed with cancer the 2nd time. She had come to visit me in Norfolk with a friend, and we had lots of fun activities lined up. She told me she had had an abnormal mammogram. It seems to me that it was going to be about a month before she would hear the results of further testing. She had decided that she was not going to worry because there would be nothing to worry about. I remember praying "Shield the joyous" during that time, hoping that there would be no cause for worry, trying to live in the present moment and enjoy every minute of it in case the news was bad. She did have cancer, and there were many months when our prayer shifted to tend the sick, give rest to the weary, soothe the suffering, and pity the afflicted.
The whole prayer is appropriate now for all who were affected by the events in Boston and Texas last week. And, of course, the whole prayer is always appropriate for people around the world in a variety of situations. Tonight, God, I pray again, shield the joyous. We never know what's around the next bend. Help us to appreciate our joy in the moment.