Almost a thousand years ago, St. Francis wrote a prayer that has become part of me:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in the giving that we receive,
it is in the pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
I started praying this prayer in December mainly because I realized that I had been doing just the opposite: desiring consolation, understanding, and love so much that it was difficult for my thoughts and preoccupations to go very far beyond myself. So this prayer entered my life as a way to voice a tired cry: "Father, help me do better."
For the last couple months I've been turning these words over and over in my mind, being reawakened to the beauty and mystery of the seemingly upside-down way of Christ. In moments when I was alone and everything was still, I found myself thinking about Francis' words and praying, "Father, I want to live this out, if only you'll give me the strength."
I don't know how to explain it, but lately I've found myself not just thinking about, meditating on, or even just praying this prayer - I've been living it. I don't know how to describe it except to say that there's a strength beyond my strength enabling me to comfort, understand, love, and give in ways I didn't know I was able. And while I find myself in need of my Father's peace, miraculously and mysteriously, I'm finding that as he enables me to give to and take care of others, he takes care of me, too. Seeing how he answers this prayer and how he makes it real, out of genuine love for my Father and his children, in humbleness and gratitude, I've lately been praying, "Father, let me be a channel of your peace.
Through our lives, our words, our embraces, our eyes, and even our silences, may the peace and love of Christ be channeled to his children.