By Sr Hilda Scott
THE Peace Prayer of St Francis is well known to us.
It has been set to music and most parishes sing it in one form or another; “Lord make me an instrument of your peace etc”.
It is attributed to St Francis of Assisi and even if he didn’t actually write it, the sentiments in the prayer are certainly his.
His story is familiar to us all.
As a young, wealthy, sensitive man full of unfilled dreams, he went off to the war between Assisi and Perugia.
And was captured and imprisoned.
At the war’s end, he returned home broken in every way.
He faced a long time of convalescence and emerged from the whole experience as a man obviously searching for “something”.
It was a “something” that had to do with his relationship both with himself and his God.
That search took a dramatic turn on the day he was repulsed by a leper and ran away only to return and embrace him a while later.
I like to think, that was a point of conversion for Francis, a time when he saw that real life can be had when we die to ourselves, unpalatable as that may appear.
Sometimes our point of conversion, and there can be many in the average life, is the moment when, like Francis, we choose to embrace something life-giving and hard.
We all know what that looks like in big and little ways.
How many marriages have been saved because the couple decided to do the hard thing and get some marriage counselling?
As we have heard so often, “Life happens when the pain of staying as we are, is greater than the pain of getting help”.
Anyone from Alcoholics Anonymous will tell you the same thing. Only then, it seems to me, can we become instruments.
The prayer of St Francis fits this situation of seeking life well. There is a way forward when we know sadness, doubt, despair, hatred, injury and darkness of whatever kind.
There’s the sowing of love, joy, hope, light, pardon and faith. The words come easily enough but the next step is as hard as the first.
We ask not to be consoled but to console, to understand rather than be understood, to love rather than be loved.
It all sounds perfectly lovely but, let’s face it, to do it is not easy.
Let me offer you another version of this prayer.
Next time you find it hard to put consolation, understanding, love, forgiveness or whatever Francis says here, into your life or the life of anyone else, how about sitting quietly and allowing God to say to your heart:
“Peter (put your own name in here), make me an instrument of your peace; where there is injury, let me sow pardon, where there is doubt let me sow faith, where there is despair let me sow hope.”
And when your need for consolation is really very great and you have no room to give it to anyone; when your heart cries out for understanding for yourself or another; when your life is so depleted of love you feel like a rock in the outback, then sit quietly as God says to your soul:
“Oh, Peter, where you need consolation I console you, where you are not understood I understand, where you feel unloved, I love. In my giving I want you to truly receive, in my pardoning you are truly pardoned and in our dying you can truly live.”
It doesn’t matter whether you feel it or not, just do it. I promise it will make a difference.
Sr Hilda Scott is the vocations director for the enclosed Benedictine Abbey at Jamberoo, NSW.