Probably my greatest hero is St. Francis of Assisi. The son of a welthy merchant, he abandoned his privilege to embrace the underprivileged of society. He embraced the preople that others believed were the most untouchable, and loved those deemed the most unloveable. The little friar of Assisi has been called the most Jesus-like of all the Catholic saints. The famous Prayer of St. Francis (which may have been written by a follower instead of by Frandis himself) illustrates the gentle and humble spirit of the man:
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.
And 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-
And it's in pardoning that we are pardoned.
And it's in dying that we are born to eternal life.
This prayer has been a go-to for me when I find myself in emotionally trying times. I've found it particularly helpful when I've dealt with people who are unloveable or difficult, or those who tend to bring out the worst in my own personality. Sometimes (gasp!) I can be impatient and self-centered, prone to anger when challenging people knock me off my emotional balance. When I'm in a situation like this, I'll step aside and quietly pray this prayer. Or I'll pray it when I know I'm about to deal with a difficult person.
This prayer is unique because instead of praying FOR peace, it asks the pray-er to BECOME peace, or at least to become an intrument of peace. It takes the focus off of me and helps me to put the focus on the other person, so that I'm more interested in them than I am in myself.
In Martin Buber's book I Thou, the Jewish philosopher and theologian talks about treating people as people, rather than treating them as objects like we so often do. Instead of engaging people in "I-It" relationships, Buber recommends treating people "I-Thou." To me, the Prayer of St. Francis inspires this kind of interaction.
One of my favorite songs, "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace," was written by Sebastien Temple in 1967. Based on the Prayer of St. Francis, it inspires me to not just hope for peace, or even to work for peae, but to literally become a channel of God's peace. I offer it to you today, and hope you'll be a channel of peace, too.