A little over a year ago while I was studying abroad in Italy, we visited La Verna Monastery, known for its association with Saint Francis. There, I was familiarized with the Prayer of Saint Francis.
I had heard bits and pieces of this prayer prior to the trip, but had never recognized the fullness of it. It begins by saying, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”
This struck a chord in me: How beautiful of a concept is it to be a vehicle for peace in this fallen world? How meaningful would it be to bring healing to a hurting people? I began praying these words, meditating on them, repeating the phrases ad nauseum in hopes that they would infiltrate my actions and life.
For most of my life, the concept of peace has been a desirable one. I thought of it as a state to which you could arrive; it seemed tranquil and relaxing and correct, and all I needed was to let go of the hard parts of life and fall into this blissful mindset. Peace almost had a passive connotation in my mind. In a lot of ways, it seemed like the easier or safer decision; all I needed to do was let go and let peace arrive. While I don’t think this thought process is completely faulty, more recently I have grown to view peace in a much different light.
Earlier this summer, my dad asked me, “What has been your prayer for this season?”
He meant, “What has been your prayer throughout the continual devastation brought upon our Black brothers and sisters? What has been your prayer during the upheaval of society as we knew it? What has been your prayer while millions of people are affected by a virus that no one understands and no one fully knows how to fight?”
I told him the prayer on which I had been leaning was the Prayer of Saint Francis.
“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.”
Although a year after my initial captivation with these words, they had never seemed more applicable, more completely necessary, than then. Because in 2020, I learned the harsh reality that peace is not a passive route, but it is the most active route there is. Arriving at true peace — the kind where justice has prevailed and even “the least of these” are treated as they should be — is messy. It is not simple or light; rather it is the blood and guts of living on this soil we call earth. Peace is not something you keep, but it is something you make; peace is something for which you must fight.
“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.”
This prayer, which has been around for centuries, still rings true today. And when I reflect on its meaning, I know why it is still so important: Jesus did not come to this earth to smooth things over and be sure to not step on anyone’s toes; he did not come from heaven to be a people-pleaser and take the easy route. God became flesh on this earth to bring a hope that would dismantle injustice everywhere because he knew that only by remedying prejudice and pain would he be able to provide true peace.
So, may we be a people that is more concerned with making peace than with keeping it; may we fight for this peace for others, rather than grasp to retain only our own.
“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.”