An Anti-St. Francis Prayer
Today is Saint Patrick’s Day, when we celebrate the deep spirituality and great corporeal acts of mercy (charitable service) of the 5th Century’s great missionary to the Irish. This has made me think of the need to balance both contemplation and action.
Fr. Kenneth Leach, contemplative and key voice in the Christian Socialism and Anglo-Catholic renewal in the U.K. in the last half of the 20th century, wrote in 1974: “If spirituality and prophecy are not held together, both must decay. There must be contemplation and resistance, holiness and justice, prayer and politics. For our vision is of a God whose holiness fills heaven and earth, and who has called all people into freedom, justice and peace within his new order.”
One of my favorite texts from the Prayer Book is the great call to serenity and service, the St. Francis Prayer, called that not because Francis wrote it (he didn’t) but because it sums up so neatly his take on life:
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
A friend of mine shared with me last week an anonymous Reverse St. Francis Prayer that rounds out the action side of contemplation, and explains well how spiritual serenity should never be a kind of opiate or soporific. God calls us not only to peace and calmness, but also to dissatisfaction, and at times anger:
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, may I be a voice. Where there is too much comfort and too little action, grant disruption; 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… Grant that I may seek rather to do justice than to talk about it; Disturb us, O Lord. To be with, as well as for, the alienated; To love the unlovable as well as the lovely; Lord, make me a channel of disturbance.
Grace and Peace,