By Brian White
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.
I see Francis every day that I get into my car. Not in some weird way like I “see” him, but he sits there on the dashboard blocking my temperature gauge. I have a long history with Francis.
A little over a decade ago I read The Little Flowers of St. Francis. It was after I read this book that I began my journey into reading, studying, and eventually ended up in seminary. The book was filled with these wonderful stories. Some of which I know to be fantastical, but I didn’t mind because the point of it all was to tell a story about a unique man. Also, truth be told I’ve always hoped that one day I too could preach to the birds.
It was around this time the “Prayer of St. Francis,” or “Peace Prayer of St. Francis,” found its way into my life. This prayer might be one of the few standards of theology/spirituality that has stuck with me for the past decade. I used to print this prayer out, place it on my bedroom door, as I walked out every morning I would see this prayer first. The prayer opens with a simple phrase, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.” The entire purpose of this prayer is to be at peace within one self, and more importantly to be peace for others.
As a musician, the term instrument strikes a chord within me. An instrument is a vehicle of self-expression: what I cannot say with words I can express in sound. The next part of the prayer expresses the reality of life in this world: hatred, injury, doubt, despair, darkness, and sadness. I’m not one who wants to wash over the mess of life. All the emotions and realities listed above can be experienced in one day, if not multiple times in one day. The prayer counters the ugly reality of living with the beauty of life as an instrument of peace. The prayer asks us to be: love sowers, pardoners of the guilty, faithful ones, hopeful ones, people of light, and children of joy. Some days I cannot be a sower of love, so I hope that a neighbor or stranger is the one that come to sow love back into my life.
The last part of the prayer moves into Francis’ view of salvation: “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.” It is the other-directedness of this prayer that I love and the reason it has stayed with me because at the foundation of Christianity is a person named Jesus whose life was the epitome of other-directed. I seek consolation, to be understood, and to be loved. These are basic human needs in this life of which nothing is wrong, but the gospel has shown us that to experience these needs we need to be them for others.
The people of God are to be those who console those in every kind of need, whether it be material, economical, spiritual, or a simple hug. The people of God are to be those who understand and if they don’t they seek out understanding by living with what they do not understand. The people of God are those who love. There’s no room for a qualified love. As Peter was taught, “God shows no partiality.” He ends with the mystery of how death brings about life. I still do not fully understand this mystery, so I sit in the mystery of it all knowing that the one who lived as an Instrument of Peace was put to death through capital punishment and somehow through this single death all were given life, even those who put him to death.
Let’s be instruments of peace every day possible, not for ourselves, but for those loved and those to be loved.