"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where the is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
Oh, Divine Master, grant that I may
Not only seek to be consoled, but to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love."
~Saint Francis of Assisi
For nearly a thousand years, these words have brought inspiration and purpose to those seeking to be better, to be more like the Divinity that brought us forth. It's hard to imagine anything being so well-loved after so many centuries, and yet this prayer remains a centerpiece of many a spiritual practice to this day. A Catholic prayer that is used by people of many faiths, it strikes a chord of universality. We know we are hearing the recipe for a sacred life in these words, as difficult as they may be to follow. Saint Francis calls us to look beyond ourselves and our own needs and seek to be a source of comfort and love for those around us. And yet, it does not ask us to be martyrs or to turn away from comfort and love ourselves. It affords us consolation, as we console; understanding as we understand; love as we love. For me, this calls to mind a favorite New Thought adage, "The Universe does not give us what we want, it gives us what we are." As we love, so we are loved. As we bring peace, so we are peaceful. As we choose to be a beneficial presence, we benefit from the Presence of Good.
Our modern world doesn't quite know what to do with these ideas. As a thoroughly modern girl, I know what it is to be discouraged from altruism and called naive, or a goody-goody. I have occasionally been taken advantage of by those who would accept my understanding and love without returning it. I have faced confusion in the eyes of people who don't understand why someone would choose a life centered around being a beneficial presence over chasing some external definition of success. And yet, I see such need for hope and light and faith. I see the need for healing that only pardon and understanding can bring. I see it in the raging anger of the political divide. I see it in the false narrative that says you can either support the troops and law enforcement officers OR believe that the lives of black people matter, but not both. And what I know is that choosing to be a loving and beneficial presence no matter what -- NO MATTER WHAT -- is the only sane path forward.
I can't pretend to be someone who always stays on this path. I fall off nearly every day. (Especially when my husband listens to the news in the morning!) But I lean into this prayer and the idea that I can be one person choosing love. I can join my voice to the millions of others all over the world that read this prayer and know that, together, we are instruments of peace.
(If you are a music lover, my favorite way to enjoy this prayer is HERE.)