One of my all-time favorite songs is John Michael Talbot’s version of Saint Francis’ peace prayer. Years ago, with pounding hearts, my wife and I sang it as a duet at our wedding Mass, to express some of the core values on which we want to build our marriage.
My mom, after recently surviving a grueling course of chemotherapy, asked us to reprise that song at a large party she threw to celebrate her gratitude for still being alive.
She feels that she has survived for a reason, that there’s something more God wants her to do in this world, and “make me an instrument of your peace” articulated her wish to take this calling seriously.
Those were fitting words at celebrations of love and life. But such a song, such a prayer, is all the more needed in the troubled times we all are going through.
As I write this, I am trying to wrap my heart and head around the recent violence in our nation and our world: the senseless shootings in Saint Paul, Baton Rouge, and Dallas (and who knows where else by the time this goes to press), and the horrific truck rampage in Nice, France.
Pope Francis is right that there can be no peace with our planet without also striving for peace among people.
In Laudato Si’, he wrote: “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis, which is both social and environmental.” Only healthy communities can ensure a healthy planet, and vice versa.
How can we become instruments of peace? Fear, anger, bluster, or revenge don’t overcome violence; they feed it—whether between people or nations.
Only love will bring peace: a fierce, gentle love that gives us the courage to face suffering, a love whose power even death cannot defeat. As Christians, we claim this to be divine Love, embodied in Jesus: in his ministry, on the cross, and in the resurrection.
Opening ourselves to this fierce love through prayer, and then acting out of it—personally and in our public policies—is the only pathway to peace.
Let’s Take Action
—Can you honor Saint Francis of Assisi by praying his peace prayer and by committing to one peacemaking action in your life?
—Saint Augustine once said that those who sing, pray twice. Our Church has a treasure trove of good music to support love-inaction. Sing out at Mass—and anywhere else!
—Consider organizing a parish prayer vigil for peace. Pray, for example, for victims and perpetrators of gun violence.