(My faith is an important part of my life. I do not set up my life or my beliefs as anything other than my understanding of the Divine. If they shine some tiny light on your journey then I will be happy for us both. YMMV)
A few years ago, I was given the chance to take a sabbatical. If you’re not familiar with the term, it is time away from the job that is often associated with some course of study or self-improvement. It’s not a vacation, but a time to recharge batteries while you grow professionally. It was an amazing time for me.
My study was on some of the foundations for prayer in the Anglican tradition. This was new territory for me, as the churches I grew up in didn’t spend much time on things like this. As a youth minister, I was growing concerned about some of the gaps in the faith foundations of many of the young people in my ministries. Those same gaps were evident in a lot of adults as well. So, this was “removing the plank” in my own eye time.
I learned a lot during that sabbatical. I continue to be fascinated by the Rule of St. Benedict, a system of living designed for monastics. I expected it to be austere and perhaps a little grim. Instead, it was concise and even a bit funny. There’s a rule for what to do when your superior tells you to do an impossible task! Benedict knew real life.
Then there’s Julian of Norwich, one of the great English mystics. Her reminder that “All will be well” has become a touchstone in times of trouble.
But I particularly fell in love with a prayer, The Lorica of Saint Fursa. A lorica is a protective prayer. Probably the best known is “Saint Patrick’s Breastplate”.
We don’t know much about Fursa (also called Fursey). Legend tells us that he might have been an Irishman who came to England. The stories say that he was respected for his holiness.
What strikes me about this prayer is how it involves all the senses. This isn’t a prayer solely from the mind or heart. It is an all-encompassing sensory response to God’s presence. This is the immanent Divine, surrounding us in all things and at all times. That we can engage with the holy through any and all of our senses is a tradition of long standing. I think it’s one that the modern church seems to forget. We do sight and sound and don’t consider anything else. There is a richness that is lost along the way.
This prayer is a wonderful expression of my understanding of the Divine. No part of us is apart from the relationship. No part escapes God’s attention. That’s pretty cool, I think.
The Lorica of St. Fursa
The arms of God be around my shoulders,
the touch of the Holy Spirit upon my head,
the sign of Christ’s cross upon my forehead,
the sound of the Holy Spirit in my ears,
the fragrance of the Holy Spirit in my nostrils,
the vision of heaven’s company in my eyes,
the conversation of heaven’s company on my lips,
the work of God’s church in my hands,
the service of God and the neighbor in my feet,
a home for God in my heart,
and to God, the Father of all, my entire being.