Sunday, March 25, 2007

Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

Since my diagnosis of gallbladder cancer, I have found that I have been drawn to the prayer commonly known as the Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. While he was born in 1182, the prayer itself didn't appear in printed form until 1912, so it seems likely he didn't author it. Still, it has such a powerful message, I'm not surprised that it is so popular. Here's the prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
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;

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 giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

I so appreciate how the words turn around our normal expectations about the way to live and be happy, and to thrive. We can think that the meaning of life, having a full life, is all about us and getting what we want and believe we need, when often life is most deeply about reaching past ourselves to see how we all are connected and need each other. The words feel very healing to me.

Brugh Joy, in a workshop I attended, told a story about St. Francis that spoke deeply to me. Francis was born to wealth, and, while he wasn't always happy to be wealthy, he avoided unpleasant situations and people for much of his young life. But God was speaking to him, and at some point, he realized that he needed to do what he most feared. Brugh saw this as an example of a person challenging his shadow, that disowned part of ourselves, by doing the thing we most fear, by facing the thing that most challenges us. So, the story goes, Francis sought out a leper, whom he feared, knowing that the disease was highly contagious, and he put his hand into the wounds of the leper. In doing so, he faced his deepest fear and found himself transformed. After that, he was not the same man. Brugh used this story to illustrate how we can be transformed by facing our fears and doing the thing we fear the most. While I have no illusions that I'm like St. Francis, dealing with cancer, having a life threatening diagnosis, and being faced very powerfully with my mortality has certainly required me to face some of my deepest fears. And I'm still struggling with all of it . . .

For Christmas last year, I asked Patty to give me a mobius bracelet of the St. Francis Prayer. (A mobius bracelet has no beginning and no end, because a twist in the metal keeps the circle - and the words - going; see illustration at top of this post.) I had discovered them for sale on Healing Baskets, a website that sells custom made baskets for folks who are sick, including those with cancer. My friend Mary sent me a basket last summer, and it was filled with special wonderful items to heal and soothe and support (bath salts, a pad to warm in the microwave, ginger candy, and so on), and when I ordered a basket for a friend last fall, I discovered the mobius bracelet with the St. Francis Prayer. I like silver anyway, and the silver bracelet is just $75.00. So Patty gave it to me, and I've worn it most of the time since Christmas (except when we were in St. John, because I didn't want to worry about losing it).

Wearing the bracelet, having the first part of the prayer there and available to read through and meditate on is a wonderful soothing exercise. I love the prayer, I love my bracelet, and when my illness has me really down and worried, I feel better remembering the prayer.


Anonymous said...

Lynne....This prayer IS wonderful....Tom & Amy gave it to me, framed, a few Christmases ago and I read it every morning before I leave my home. I think I should have it tatooed onto my hand or something as a constant reminder!....I am SO relieved that you're getting the port, Lynne; whatever you need for comfort and less angst.....Your words never cease to amaze me, Lynne. YOU never cease to amaze me....God's continued grace and peace to you, Patty, Lucy and Nathaniel, Jamie

crow said...

Hi Lynne,

This prayer has always meant a lot to me: the challenge it presents is breathtaking, and I always loved how it was more of a request for spiritual strength rather than a petition to fufil some earthly desire. G.K. Chesterton wrote a very charming biography of the saint:

Finally, I think the prayer may have been actually written by St. Francis-- he was very famous by the end of his life, and a well known writer. The Catholic church has a way of not throwing things away, and being very particular about its library, so I say it's a fair bet they are the man's words.

Thanks for sharing.

Elaine Pascale said...

Hi Lynne
I am glad you had a good experience on your vacation and that your reactions have been milder to the second chemo. After reading this, I was reminded of my History of the Bible course I took many moons ago as an undergrad. I read a bio on St. Francis (as an animal rescuer, I was always drawn to him) followed by The Last Temptation of Christ. Both dealt with overcoming fear to meet your calling and were quite inspiring. When my father was in his final stages of cancer, our priest spoke to him about any wishes he had for a service. My mother and I did not know, but his only request was that they play "Be Not Afraid." For the first few years after his death, I would have to leave church if that hymn were being played: it was too emotional for me. Now, I take comfort in it as I feel like it is a message from him. The prayer you listed is a hymn as well and another one that I enjoy as it reminds me of things that need reminding.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lynne,
hmm...St.Francis...wasn't he the dude that could talk to the animals?? was Dr.Doolittle...but St. Francis was the saint that was so open to the Lord that the creatures of the woodland etc would not be afraid. I have always loved him for that....and thought about that quite a bit...of that I practically commune with the animal folk it does come to mind often! They know, those dear, innocent creatures, who is afraid and who is at ease with the world. I think perhaps it was St. Francis' relinquishing of fear and acceptance that God has his hands on his shoulders that made those animals know that he was a friend...and close compadre to God him/herself!
What peace in knowing that we don't hold the weight of life on our shoulders!! We can relax knowing that God will show us the walk in his footsteps.
That being said....time to get out to the barn and do my chores. I wish the horses would clean their own rooms!! ha!
( HA! Who am I kidding...I can't even get the manchild (aka 16 yr. old son) to do that!)
lots of love!

Anonymous said...

Wow Lynne!
You are talking about something I have been thinking about alot in the last few months. How true it is that God so often challenges our "truths" about ourselves! Sometimes I think, maybe a little bit irreverently, that He is just a teensey bit amused with our closely held beliefs about our gifts, our purpose for our lives, and our limits. I think He must nod and grin broadly when we gradually "get" that what we "know" about ourselves is small compared with what He knows about us.
Thanks for the St. Francis prayer - I love when we sing it, and I'll be humming it for hours now!
Take care,
Mary M

Anonymous said...

This prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, is a complete summary of a practical christian living for anyone who is confused as to how to go about being a real christian & also a reference for anyone who is already.
Stan Nwokocha