St Francis on his Head
There he is – beautifully presented in all his multicolored glory, standing at the top of this week’s edition of the Eagle. He looks exactly like you’d expect – dressed like a monk, with a cool-looking tonsure, irenic face, an olive branch, and surrounded by his feathered friends and furry familiars. St Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) has never looked better.
In recent years St Francis has found his way into the hearts and calendars of most Episcopalians. It is now common for Episcopal parishes to hold services of Animal Blessing on or around his feast day, October 4th. St John’s has been doing it for years, and it has become an important and joyful occasion to worship the God of creation and all that is in it.
The other thing that has endeared St Francis to 21st century Christians is the beautiful prayer that is attributed to him – Make me a channel of your peace. If you don’t know it, then a quick Google search will give you the words of this all-in, self-offering to God. I dare you to read it and not be moved to acts of great piety and thoughts of great holiness.
But, as with many great truths or profound sayings, over-use has led to St Francis’ prayer becoming a bit of a cliché. It has lost some of its power as we have institutionalized it in our hymnals and liturgy books. That’s a pity because it is radical and transformative stuff.
Enter Rina Wintour and Pat Lavercombe. They are concerned that when St Francis’ prayer is taken out of the context of a devoted life of service, it can become a bit … you know… how shall I put it … meh. So, Wintour and Lavercombe have written a new version of the old classic. Their aim is to rouse us to action and shock us out of our individualistic, inner peace. What good is the peace of God if all it does is make you feel warm and fuzzy? It is supposed to be fleshed out in our lives, especially in relation to others. So, here is their prophetic and slightly uncomfortable alternative – The Disturbance Prayer:
Lord, make me a channel of disturbance.
Where there is apathy, let me provoke.
Where there is compliance, let me bring questioning.
Where there is silence, let me be a voice.
Where there is too much comfort and too little action,
Where there are doors closed and hearts locked,
Grant the willingness to listen.
When laws dictate and pain is overlooked…
When tradition speaks louder than need…
When we refuse to take control of our own spiritual growth…
Our own mission…
Our own poor,
Disturb me, O Lord.
O Divine Master
Grant that I may seek rather
To do justice than talk about it;
To be with as well as for, the poor;
To love the hard-to-love as well as the lovely;
To kiss the children of the poor rather than the feet of the crucifix.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in walking-with that we truly understand.
It is in challenging evil that we achieve justice.
It is in the struggles of this life that we touch eternity.
Lord, make me a channel of disturbance. Amen.
Nice one. Right? So, may it be our prayer and our passion to be filled with the peace of God, and then to allow that peace to disturb our world. Amen to that.