Friday, 15 March 2013

A channel of your peace

So, Lord God.

We have a new Pope. 

I say 'we' and I mean we down here on earth, because being non-Catholic I'm not technically one of his flock, but I watched with great anticipation yesterday as the world's eyes were riveted on the chimney at the Sistine Chapel in Rome waiting for white smoke rather than black. Never has a small seagull sitting on a chimney in the rain received so much global media attention. 

As it happened I had to nip out for ten minutes to pick up my daughter from a birthday party and so I missed all the excitement but hey, that's life. 

White smoke came, the bells rang and the crowds cheered and danced and cried.

We wondered who it would be, which of the Cardinals was the chosen one, and even when it was announced, to be honest we still didn't get it. We were listening out for the Latin name of one of the candidates that we'd been expecting and he wasn't among them. The man that they - you - have chosen wasn't the one the 'experts' predicted.

I love it that you are a God of surprises. And I love it that you appear to have made a wonderfully inspiring choice for the Pontiff. He seemed different from the others. He came out on to the balcony and made a joke. He asked for prayers from the people that you would bless him so that he in turn could bless them. He bowed his head deeply and humbly and led millions across the world in prayer.

It's just such a shame that the BBC translator didn't know the Lord's Prayer when he heard it and gave such an awkward translation, but I guess that's a sad sign of the times. 

He didn't raise his hands in triumph, he didn't hold them out in aloof benediction and he didn't make intellectual or oratorial pronouncements as he faced the immense crowds in St Peter's Square in Rome. He stood with his hands by his sides and looked around at the sea of faces, and prayed. His breathing was fast; he must have been overwhelmed, but he simply looked - and prayed. When finally he spoke, it was down to earth; he came across as approachable, gentle and humble. I liked him. 

And he calls himself Francis. Pope Francis I. 

This seems loaded with meaning to me, and I admit that I know very little about the history of the Catholic Church, the Jesuits or indeed St Francis of Assisi.  All I know is that since about eight o'clock last night I have had the well-known hymn going round and round in my head. 

Make me a channel of your peace...

What better time could there possibly be for a Pope to bring peace?  It seems to me that people who don't believe anything are attacking those who believe, those who do believe are antagonistic towards those who believe something different and those who believe the same thing are squabbling about how they go about practicing their faith. A channel of your peace? Yes, please. 

What a huge and impossible job he has. But he has you, and for you the impossible is possible. 

May he sow love where there's hatred.
May he bring reconciliation where there's been injury.
May he inspire those who don't know you to reach out and find you.
May he bring hope to the despairing and shine Jesus' light into the darkness.
May he spread joy instead of sadness.

May we all do those things, Lord God. May I do them, because I know that you don't have to be a church leader with a billion people following you to show Jesus to the person standing next to you. But what a job he has. 

I'm hoping that Pope Francis I might be a calming, unifying presence in the Church in all its forms. Maybe we can start to consider our similarities instead of our differences? Start to look to you, Creator and Saviour of the world, instead of nitpicking and criticising? Shouldn't the Christian Churches stand shoulder to shoulder in days like these, even if we have our differences and peculiarities? To reach out to those who need you, instead of walking past on our self-righteous way, insisting that our way is the right way? 

Lord, grant that we might not seek so much to have our own needs met, but to look to those of others.
That your church might reach out to love and serve those who need you above everything else, and not just shout louder and louder to have our own agenda heard.

Give us a supply of love that doesn't run out even when times are hard, people don't want to know and say harsh and hurtful things. When people we trust let us down and when people who should know better bring your Name into disrepute, let us keep on loving. Never pulling up the drawbridge and looking inward and licking our wounds and saying, 'To hell with you...' 

Jesus, you loved until the last breath of your life, and then beyond. 

May we as your body on earth learn to love like you did. Forgive just as we are forgiven ourselves, and go on loving even when the whole of the world seems to be full of hatred. 

I don't think one man can do any of this, no matter how much ceremony there is, how much of a show is put on, or how pristine the robes. It seems to me from what I hear, what I read, and my brief and distant glimpse of the man of God that stood on the balcony yesterday and looked steadily and prayerfully in the face of a surely overwhelming job that perhaps you were at work. 

As CS Lewis said in Narnia somewhere, 'Aslan is on the move.'

Oh God, let it be so. Move in power. 

Let all who lift the name of Jesus Christ high come together. There are plenty of us really, even if the other guy would have us believe that we're few and weak and divided. 

We are on your team, and you never lose. 

The prayer attributed to St Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I 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.



IMG_8912.jpg by ecerroni
stpesq.jpg by delboysafa
both used from with permission


  1. A beautiful prayer, Helen. It reaches to the heavens and it searches the depths of our fallen world and hearts. What you ask for here is echoed by many. The linking with St Francis of Assisi is brilliant and thought-provoking. Our deepest desires are all there. Yes, peace, but also changed hearts and lives surrendered to the Prince of Peace; to live powerfully for Him. Thank you for this great post. May you be greatly blessed with His rest and peace :) xx

    1. Thanks, Joy. I know that many people don't agree with me on this, so I really appreciate the encouragement. There's nothing too difficult for God.

  2. Jen was so excited about this and your previous post that she has sent the email links to countless friends. Hope they bring you the many visits you deserve.
    Blessings, Ian

    1. Oh, Ian and Jen, thank you. What a lovely, lovely thing to say. Thank you for reading and taking the trouble to comment. And for the links too! Bless you.


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