Episode 36: Peace on Earth

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Growing up Catholic, this was a prayer I remember repeating often. It is from the prayer of St. Francis.

My favorite teacher was a former Franciscan monk who helped me fall in love with St. Francis. I memorized that prayer at a fairly early age.

There is a real challenge to memorizing prayers – something that, as a young Catholic, I did often. There were Hail Marys, Our Fathers, Gloria Patris, and Agnus Deis to fix in my memory bank. The challenge is that constant repetition of prayers like these find you repeating words without thinking about them; and in so doing, they often lose their impact.

That was almost always true for me – but there were rare exceptions.

“He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,” from the Magnificat.

“…to light, to guard, to rule and to guide,” from the prayer to the Guardian Angel.

And “Let me be an instrument of your peace,” from the prayer of St. Francis.

From the first time I heard that, all the way through adolescence, early adulthood, and even through today – that line stirs something deep in my heart and soul. It is a stirring that has engendered a lifelong commitment to speak and act in ways that make for peace.

Personal commitments to pacifism, vegetarianism, non-violence, and conflict resolution are all byproducts of a childhood reciting a prayer with an opening, no matter how many times I prayed it, served to call me into a life committed to peace.

I think about that this week.

Cleveland is the nexus of a political world gone mad; and what happens here this week will have global implications.

I walked through no fewer than four security checkpoints to arrive in my offices this morning. Armed security forces can be found in large and massive quantities on the streets outside my office. I walked past an eight-foot high security fence separating our front door from the people walking down the street. We have our own armed guard working the front desk of our building. It looks like a war zone out there.

While I am grateful for the security, and hopeful that nothing happens to threaten the peace and safety of those gathered here to express their rights a free citizens in a Democratic Republic – I am also aware that if ever there was a time for agents of peace to assemble, it is now.

Not just in Cleveland, or in Philly when the Democrats assemble.

The political climate is shifting. Fear is being cultivated and used as a political weapon on every side in an effort to attract voters by making them afraid.

Now more than ever, the soul of the American public is seeking those committed to peace. As a spiritual practice, I remain committed to peace. I want to be an instrument of God’s peace. I remember another line that never escaped my attention – the opening line to an oft sung hymn through my childhood: Let the be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.

Gentle souls, be at peace. Let not the noise of this political season bring disquiet and unrest to your soul. Stay focused on the things that make for love and peace in your world. And may we join our hearts and minds together in the pursuit of a peace that passes understanding as we journey side by side Into the Mystic.