Lead Kindly Light

Reflection on Lead Kindly Light

Killaloe Clergy Day, Thursday, April 4th, 2019


2019 is a significant year for devotees ofJohn Henry Newman as he is due to become an official saint of the Church at some stage, at a date to be announced.


He is the author of much great literature, classic sermons, works of theology, spiritualty, poetry and hymns.


One of his most famous hymns, that we are all familiar with is Lead Kindly Light.  It was written in 1833 as a poem called The Pillar and The Cloud.  Newman was going through the doldrums when he wrote it while he was in Italy en route by sea from Palermo to Marseilles.


Aged just 33, he was very sick at the time recovering from a life threatening illness and was literally stranded there for three weeks, due to his illness.


He was coping with difficult personal issues, family issues, a crises of faith and conscience and considering leaving the Anglican Church, so he had a lot on his mind.


Despite these massive personal challenges there is a gentle acceptance and hope in the power of the Lord to lead and give light to show the way.


In a few moments time we will get a chance to listen to the hymn, a beautiful piece of music that takes just three minutes.


I keep a copy of the poem in the back of the breviary and try to reflect on it as often as I can.


Three Phrases Lead Kindly Light

Three phrases stand out as a spring board for reflection and prayer and may set us up for the day that is ahead and the stage we are at on our Lenten journey and the bigger pilgrimage of our vocation, our ministry, our pastoral work with those to whom we minister and serve.


Lead Kindly Light

In the midst of Newman’s darkness – there was a light leading him. That light is a gentle light. It’s not harsh, glaring, intensely bright.  It’s warm, it’s kind, it’s gentle.  It’s inviting.  Gentle light. The light of Jesus, the light of the world.

Lead kindly light!


One step enough for me

I’m sure many find it that at the beginning of the day – there is so much you would like to achieve, so much to be done, people to meet, tasks to be achieved, prayers to be said, it all seems so much, with so little time in the day.


There is a line in Lead Kindly light that speaks wisely to that “One step enough for me”. One step at a time.  Little by little.  Rome was not built in a day.

One step enough for me.


Lead thou me on…

Sometimes, like the ship that Newman was on in the Mediterranean it seems like the breeze or empowering wind has abandoned us and that we are rudderless.  We look for something to put fresh wind into our sails to give us energy and life.  We look for a lead, for guidance, for direction.

The line that appeals to me in Lead Kindly light is “Lead Thou me on”.  The emphasis is on Thou.

We put our trust in the Lord to lead us and guide us, to enthuse us and give us strength, courage and hope.

Lead thou me on!


Lead Kindly Light!

Lord be with us today as we reflect on your gentle light.  May we have the patience to take one step on the way at a time and know that you are the one who will provide for us, whatever challenge we meet in the course of this day and always.

Lead kindly light!




I invite you to listen to The Pillar and the Cloudset to classical music as a source of inspiration as we begin our day together.