“Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace…..”


These first words of the “Peace Prayer of St. Francis” give us a good subject for meditation as we begin the New Year 2008 .If there is anything we really need in the world, it is peace within our own hearts and peace among one another. St. Francis was such a person who attained the reputation of being a peacemaker, as we see in the following story.


In the year 1220, Francis was preaching in the public square at Bologna, to a large gathering of people who listened intently to what he had to say. His style was not like the manner of other preachers of the day, but was very plain and unpretentious. The City had experienced much violence and bloodshed, but Francis’ manner and words touched their hearts. Their thoughts of violence were changed into thoughts of peace and reconciliation. That day, the little man of peace brought unity to a turbulent population, a conversion of hearts towards a union of mind and spirit.


Francis took the words of the Gospel seriously. “When you come into a house, salute it saying: ‘Peace be to this house’.” And even when he came to die these same thoughts were on his lips: “The Lord revealed to me this salutation that we should say: ‘May the Lord give you His Peace’.” St. Thomas says that peace is the “tranquility of order, within oneself and with others…Within ourselves in so far as we love God with our whole heart, by referring all things to Him, so that all our desires tend to one Object, God…With others, in so far as we love our neighbor as ourselves, so that we wish to fulfil our neighbor’s will as though it were our own.”


If charity is the cause or basis of peace, then failures in charity will certainly lead to a loss of peace; for example, a stubborn clinging to our own opinions, our own ideas. Someone expressed this attitude very well by saying: “There are two sides to every question – my side and the wrong side!” To have peace there must be consideration of the thoughts and feelings of others, a true listening to what may be different from our own opinions.


St. James says: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” A little condescension, mild speech, can go a long way towards a peaceful home. “A mild answer breaks wrath, but a harsh word stirs up fury.”(Prov.15:1). A friend once told me –“The stubborn, angry person forgets that we are all human, we all make mistakes. That’s why there are erasers on pencils!”


A beautiful example of a peacemaker is our own St. Elizabeth of Portugal, a Secular Franciscan. Her very birth in 127l brought about reconciliation in her own family, between her father and grandfather. When she grew up and married King Denis of Portugal and bore him two children, her husband became a dissolute man who was a scandal to the court and whole country! Elizabeth was hurt not so much for herself, but that her husband was offending the Lord. So she persevered in prayer and penance until he finally received the grace of conversion.


That was not the end of her suffering. Her husband had a very serious quarrel with his brother over property rights and possessions. Elizabeth again became the peacemaker by giving to her brother-in-law an estate of her own. Harmony was once again restored, but her role as peacemaker continued.


Her own son, Alfonse, became ambitious and rose up against his father.  He gathered a considerable army to overcome his kingship. Not only did Elizabeth pray fervently for peace, but when the two armies faced each other, she mounted her horse and rode out into the middle of the two opposing groups, and her stirring words and courage prevented a terrible calamity. Her son was so moved by her courage and presence and pleas, that he dismounted from his horse and cast himself at the feet of his father, and asked his forgiveness….And her final effort as a peacemaker, was a similar feud between her son and son-in-law in which war was once again averted by her peacemaking efforts. All this took a terrible toll on her health and she died in 1336…..”How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, for they shall be called children of God” (Rom.10-15).


Carmel Flora OFMCap

National Spiritual Assistant SFO – Oceania.