Recently, I mentioned here my reliance on Saint Francis’ peace prayer, especially in times of discord.
My spiritual director suggested it to me a while ago to address unrest within my family, but I’m finding it applicable in many other ways, too. The meditation is, in part, a response to a fallen world — a radical suggestion to return darkness with light.
“Lord, make me a channel of your peace,” it begins.
Rather than an eye-for-an-eye, Jesus suggested we turn the other cheek when treated poorly. But this isn’t our natural inclination; supernatural grace is usually required.
Lately, the prayer has been helpful in contemplating more controversial issues in this column. My recent take on the Women’s March on Washington, for example, elicited some strong responses.
One reader who’d attended the protest defended her participation through email. She challenged me to reprint Donald Trump’s 2005 “locker-room talk” rant, daring me to defend our president’s indefensible past actions.
The march itself wasn’t the issue for me, however. As I said in the initial column, “I understand the great need to gather and express one’s thoughts and concerns…” and will always support peaceful protest.
It was the accompanying fist-flailing at the march that I question. Though righteous anger is real, it also matters how we carry out our frustration. In my own weaknesses, I find Saint Francis’ suggestions helpful.
David Anders, a Christian apologist who spoke recently in Fargo, said protests are “the mark of a society that has lost its ability to have intelligible moral discourse.” We’re reduced to shrieks and signs.
Our Lord’s own voice came not in the noisy wind, booming earthquake, or raging fire, but through “a still, small voice,” shows Kings 19:12.
Certainly, it’s not easy to love those who’ve upset us, but Christ showed us how. Not through revenge, but by stretching his arms wide and surrendering himself on our behalf, in an act of total humility.
I suggested to the reader that peace will come when we begin returning unjust sentiment and action with love.
“Lord, 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.” By meditating and acting upon the beautiful and transforming words of Saint Francis, our hearts change.
But if we only rail against those who’ve harmed us, and never come back with the supernatural response of love — no matter how undeserved it might seem — we are no better than the uncivilized who destroy one another in fits of rage.
“O master, grant that I may never seek, so much to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved, as to love with all my soul.”
Turning the other cheek doesn’t mean ignoring injustice, but responding to others with both justice and mercy. Doing so, we may find the raucous world turned aright.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on March 4, 2017.]