Bit of History Found During Rainy Afternoon Garage Cleaning

17th Century Nun’s Prayer

“As we grow O Lord, and we are getting older, keep us from getting talkative and the awful habit of thinking that we must say something on every subject and on every occasion.

“Keep us from the recital of endless details. Help us to get to the point.

“Give us the grace to listen to the tales of others’ pain but seal our lips on our aches and pains.

“Teach us the glorious lesson that occasionally we may be mistaken.

“Make us thoughtful, but moody; helpful, but not bossy.

“With our vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all but then, Lord, you know we want a few friends at the end.


(Editor’s Note: Whether in fact this is an actual prayer written by a nun of the 17th century isn’t terribly important. Whoever the author, the chaplains of both the Assembly and the Senate should strongly consider including it in their repertoire. Nor is any harm done to the prayer’s central message by excising the clause in the first sentence that alleges it’s just older folk who wax windy. This prayer was printed on the bottom of the back of the program for the March 2004 memorial service for former state Alan764Sen. Alan Blackall Short, born in San Francisco on February 22, 1920. The opening hymn was “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.” Hard not to imagine Danny Boy, the recessional, evoking tears. From 1954 to 1974, Short represented the 6th Senate District, which included San Joaquin and parts of Sacramento counties. A third generation Californian, he joined the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked. He is one of the pioneers of California’s modern mental health system. His third wife, Mary, helped create the Alan Short Center in Stockton in 1976 which uses visual and performing arts to teach life skills to the developmentally disabled. In 1957, Short — with co-author Assemblyman Donald Doyle, a Lafayette Democrat —DonDoyle102c11.eps_20110203 succeeded in getting then Gov. Goodwin Knight to sign what’s known as the Short-Doyle Act. The law, for the first time, created community-based treatment options for the mentally ill, rather than warehousing them in far-off state-run hospitals. Doyle, who died January 31 at 95, repeatedly cited the legislation as the highlight of his Assembly career, which lasted from 1952 to 1958. He was also a strong advocate for highway improvements. In tribute to that advocacy, a section of Interstate 680 near Doyle’s hometown of Walnut Creek bears his name. Short was also a co-author of the landmark 1967 Lanterman-Petris-Short Act that, among other things, ended involuntary civil commitment of the mentally ill. The measure candidate_pic-1.phpbecame a national model. Signed by then Gov. Ronald Reagan, the bill’s intent language – Section 5001 of the Welfare and Institutions Code — still constitutes the core of California’s mental health policies. The bill begins by saying its intention is to: “End the inappropriate, indefinite, and involuntary commitment of mentally disordered persons, developmentally disabled persons and persons impaired by chronic alcoholism.” An involuntary 72-hour hold of dsturbed persons is referred to by law enforcement officers as a “5150,” the code section of the act that grants them the authority to do so. Frank Lanterman, a La Canada Republican, was a member of the Assembly from 1950 to 1978Unknown and was affectionately known by his colleagues as “Uncle Frank.”  A music student at the University of Southern California, he was an owner and adept player of a church-worthy pipe organ. Lanterman died in 1981 at the age of 80. Of the trio, only Nick Petris, who represented Oakland in the Assembly and the Senate from 1958 until 1996, still lives. He celebrated his 88th birthday February 25. Top left to bottom right: Short, Doyle, Lanterman, Petris.)


Filed under: California History


  1. Goodwin Knight. Ronald Reagan. Frank Lanterman. Republicans all. Sharing mental health concerns. Wonder what they would say about the current crop of Republicans–the just say “NO” crowd.

    Comment by lotuslover — 3.22.2011 @ 4:24 pm

  2. Great men all. They would leave this republican party just like I feel when talking to some of our democratic leadership. Love the nuns’s prayer. Sending it to the editor of our mag at Aarp. Perhaps a short item. Thanks greg. Can I assure them you are a member? Donna too? Card check next time I see you

    Comment by Barbara oconnor — 3.22.2011 @ 4:37 pm

  3. Short and Lanterman. Class acts! Nick Petris……not bad either…….

    Comment by Pat Henning, Sr. — 3.22.2011 @ 7:19 pm

  4. What a special piece! I can think of so many former members who interacted with these outstanding legislators because they all put their state first. They had fun, “in the olden days”, and they had their “special interests” but they cared about the well being of the people of California and that was always their primary goal.

    Comment by Linda Muir — 3.22.2011 @ 7:27 pm

  5. There was not an aspect of mental health that Frank Lanterman didn’t know backward and forward — and he wanted everyone else to know it as well as he did.

    He spent hours tutoring me when I was a very young (Democratic) legislative staffer in order to resolve complex and arcane Short-Doyle funding anomalies that were hampering the flow of funds to County programs. (The consensus legislative package made its way to the Governor’s desk in 1975 without opposition but was vetoed [allegedly unintentionally] by then Gov. [Jerry] Brown. Alas, the same thing happened again in 1976 [Go figure].)

    Democrat Lou Papan was another champion of mental health justice who, like the others, was personally committed to the subject (there was little or no public/political interest, and who knew how to get things done. Alas, another victim of term limits…

    Comment by Celtic Snake — 3.23.2011 @ 10:37 am

  6. “Make us thoughtful, but moody; helpful, but not bossy”

    Should that read: NOT moody?

    Comment by SugarMuffin — 3.23.2011 @ 12:30 pm

  7. And to think these fine gentlemen met in Reagan’s basement to decide which mental Hospitals to close. Using their finest intellectual powers the opted for a game of pool to make the decision for them.

    Comment by ManagementSlug — 3.23.2011 @ 1:59 pm

  8. Yeah I did a double-take on that too. “But” is the word in the prayer. Could be a typo, tho.

    Comment by admin — 3.29.2011 @ 1:01 pm

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