Prayer Before A Twenty-Dollar Bill

Lord, see this bill! It frightens me.
You know its secrets, you know its history.
How heavy it is!
It scares me, for it cannot speak.
It will never tell all it hides in its creases.
It will never reveal all the struggles and efforts it represents, all the disillusionment and slighted dignity.
It is stained with sweat and blood,
It is laden with all the weight of the human toil which makes its worth.

It is heavy, heavy, Lord.
It fills me with awe, it frightens me.
For it had death on its conscience…
All the poor fellows who killed themselves for it,
To possess it for a few hours,
To have through it a little pleasure, a little joy, a little life.

Through how many hands has it passed, Lord?
And what has it done in the course of its long, silent journeys?

It has offered white roses to the radiant fiancée.
It has paid for the baptismal party, and fed the rosy-cheeked baby.
It has provided bread for the family table.
Because of it there was laughing among the young and joy among the elders.
It has paid for the saving visit of the doctor,
It has bought the book that taught the youngster,
It has clothed the young girl.

But it has sent the letter breaking the engagement,
It has paid for the death of the baby in its mother’s womb,
It has bought the liquor that made the drunkard,
It has produced the movie unfit for children,
And has recorded the indecent song,
It has broken the morals of the adolescent and made of the adult a thief.
It has bought for a few hours the body of a woman.
It has paid for the weapons of the crime and for the wood of the coffin.

O Lord, I offer you this bill with its joyous mysteries, its sorrowful mysteries.
I thank you for all the life and joy it has given.
I ask your forgiveness for the harm it has done.
But above all, Lord, I offer it to you as a symbol of all the labors of men, indestructible money, which tomorrow will be changed into your eternal life.

– Excerpt from Michel Quoist’s Prayers (1963)


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