“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” —Eleanor Roosevelt
In my writings, I often refer to the big table where we gathered when I was growing up. This is where we would do our homework, play games, and do art projects. Anything and everything happening in our house usually centered on the big table, including our evening meal. My dad would come in from the radiator shop, and all of us had to help my mom get dinner ready, including setting the table. My parents believed in the importance of being together at the end of the day, and visitors always found space. Before the dishes were passed, we would join each other in prayers of gratitude and one for peace–what is known as the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. My dad had heard it first at a retreat and thought it was a beautiful prayer. It became part of our daily blessing.
The origins of the prayer are a little unknown, and ironically it is not likely to have been written by St. Francis at all. It is believed to have been first published in 1912 in a small parish in France and gained popularity during the great world wars. Both political and religious leaders worldwide have invoked the prayer over the years, and popular culture has quoted it in songs and movies. It is a marvelous prayer of motion that, upon consideration, reflects the spirit of the Civil Graces Project. It is in what we are willing to offer of ourselves and how we show up that we can change the world. It is the flow between the inner life of spirit and the outer life of purpose.
So much that we are witnessing today is about creating separation and discord. Power is stoked by being forceful and willful. How elegant that a simple prayer for peace holds the keys to a world transformed. Rather than come from a place of “right is might,” the words invoke us to consider that we are connected to one another. What we do to each other, we give to ourselves, so, therefore, let everything be in the spirit of love.
At the beginning of this year, our leaders suggested war was the answer to settle disputes among countries, and I remember thinking about how irresponsible it was. I heard young people worriedly talking about being drawn into a conflict, and I decided to do something to change the energy. We opened our farm to friends and their kids, and together we lit some candles. 195 candles, to be exact, one for each country in the world. We said a prayer for peace. We talked about creating the energy of peace and not to let the headlines control us. The war never happened, and while we had no control over that decision, we did have control over the space of our minds. We created a space for love to begin this new year.
We have that same decision to make today…what seeds are we sowing? What kind of energy do we wish to carry into the next new year? Will it be that of anger, revenge, and discord? Or will we become instruments of peace? In researching the history of this prayer, I am almost glad that it wasn’t written by a revered saint but was probably written by an ordinary person who saw the world on the brink of war and made a plea for peace. That is the power of our words and our ideas to change the world we live in today. We don’t have to be elected, noble or famous. We can each just do our part to light the way for each other on the journey.
In closing, I want to share the words of the Prayer for Peace and ask that you read it slowly. Feel the rhythm of the text and the invitation to create a balance within yourself. It is in giving that we truly receive all that we could ever ask. It is in love that we make a life that will be cherished and remembered by those we touched long after we are gone. Let us be instruments of peace in our world today and take active steps to bring all that we are to be a blessing!
This is the original text translated into English:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me put love.
Where there is offense, let me put forgiveness.
Where there is discord, let me put the union.
Where there is error, let me put the truth.
Where there is doubt, let me put faith.
Where there is despair, let me put hope.
Where there is darkness, let me put your light.
Where there is sadness, let me put joy.
O Master, let me not seek so much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
because it is by giving that we receive,
it is by forgetting oneself that we find,
it is by forgiving that we are forgiven,
it is by dying that we are renewed to eternal life.
P.S. Later today, Donna Seebo, founder of Delphi Vision Broadcasting, will air an interview she did with me a few weeks back. Donna felt the work of the Civil Graces Project embodies the work of ”Warriors for Peace.” Click here to listen. It was such an honor to be on the show with Donna. (I was a little nervous! Hopefully, it sounds okay!)
P.S.S. Signed copies of The Civil Graces Project: The Pursuit for Common Ground are available on the “shop” tab. I hope you will share your thoughts on the book with me.
Photo credit: Vince Moro, Chartres Cathedral, one of my favorite peaceful places. October 2019