Who was St. Francis of Assisi and why do we associate him with peacemaking? He lived in the 13th century in a small town in central Italy called Assisi. He spent his youth being the life of the party. He was popular and outgoing. He went off to war convinced he would come home as a highly esteemed proud knight. Instead he was captured and imprisoned for an entire year. He came back a changed man, recognizing violence was not the answer. He experienced a radical conversion in his embrace of the lepers of his day. This put him on the road to peacemaking in a society fraught with violence and war, much like our own times. His greeting to all whom he met was: "God give you peace." He tamed the wolf of Gubbio, a small little village where a violent force plagued the town. He visited the Sultan in Egypt to broker peace between Christians and Muslims. His conversations with the sultan broadened his understanding and respect for the Muslim tradition.
What does St. Francis have to say to us todayabout peacemaking? Let's consider “The Prayer of St. Francis.” He did not write it but it certainly embodies his message Where there is hatred let me sow love. Where in our lives is love needed? Our families, our nation, our own hearts, our global community? All places where love casts out fear and enables us to see who we really are - women and men whose greatest gift is to love. Where there is injury let me sow pardon. Often the most challenging journey we take is to grant pardon to another or to ourselves. Yet peace is never restored to any situation unless we are willing to forgive. True freedom comes with forgiveness. Where there is doubt faith. There is no reasonable way to explain leading a life based on faith. It simply flowers in us by each of us walking faithfully in our own spiritual traditions. Therein lies true oneness. We all recognize a person who walks by faith. These individuals have no need to argue with us but simply listen and respect our views. We let God be big enough to hold us all.
Where there is despair, hope. If one is on a journey toward despair, it can seem like a deep well from which there is no escape – only depths of deeper despair. When a ray of hope enters, there is good reason to believe once more in the power of good and that there is a way out of the well of despair. Where there is darkness, let me bring light. No matter what darkness may surround us, there is always light because it comes from within. In the Hebrew Scriptures in Psalm 139 we read that for God darkness and light are the same. In the Franciscan tradition, we hold that God's light is already in us. Where there is sadness joy. What does it mean to live with joy? We see goodness wherever we are and within all circumstances. Not easy! O master grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as understand, , to be loved as to love for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned and in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Yes, we are called to be instruments of peace. Much like a beautiful musical instrument, the music of peace will flow through us.
Please commit to the FRANCIS Pledge below, using the letters in the name of our patron Saint Francis.
I commit to:
Facilitate a forum for difficult discourse and acknowledge that all dialogue can lead to new insight and mutual understanding.
Respect the dignity of all people, especially the dignity of those who hold an opposing view.
Audit myself and utilize terms or a vocabulary of faith to unite or reconcile rather than divide conflicting positions.
Neutralize inflamed conversations by presuming that those with whom we differ are acting in good faith.
Collaborate with others and recognize that all human engagement is an opportunity to promote peace.
Identify common ground such as similar values or concerns and utilize this as a foundation to build upon.
Support efforts to clean up the provocative language by calling policymakers to their sense of personal integrity.
Based on the Franciscan Action Network’s, “Francis commitment to Civility in Discourse.”