By Mary Bridges, chaplain
While you are reading this in almost November, I actually wrote it on October 4, which is celebrated by many churches as the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis was born at Assisi in 1182. After a carefree youth, he turned his back on inherited wealth and committed himself to God. Like many early saints, he lived a very simple life of poverty. He established the rule of St. Francis, which is known today as the Order of St. Francis. He died in 1226, aged 44.
In 2004, I was called to be the interim pastor at Messiah Lutheran Church in Lindsborg for the year that their pastor, Stephen Pera, was called to active duty in the Middle East. During that year, we used what has become known as the Prayer of St. Francis as our theme. It is a prayer that not only touches hearts, it summarizes how we should live.
Although this prayer is associated with St. Francis, it is entirely absent from his writings. The prayer in its present form has not been traced back further than 1912. The prayer was heavily publicized during both World War I and World War II. It has been set to music by songwriters and quoted by well-known leaders. Its inclusive language appeals to diverse faiths and encourages service to others. It has often been called The Prayer of Peace.
This week, I read an article that said the United States at this point in time, is more divided than at any time in our history including the Civil War. I don’t know about you, but this frightens me. How do we get back to the country our founders envisioned for us? I don’t have any answers but this is my personal plan. I am not only going to reclaim the words of this gentle prayer and pray it daily. I am going to work 24/7 to live its words in my daily interactions with others. I challenge each of you to do the same. Can we change our world and our environment by doing this? I don’t know but what do we have to lose?
Join me in showing love and respect to all those we meet and especially those we disagree with. Let us find a way to change hate to love. Love must begin somewhere and love can overcome hate.
Let all of us live into the words of “This Prayer of Peace.”
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.