That's the first line of the beloved poem known as The Prayer of St. Francis. The rest goes like this...
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;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoledas 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.
We all want peace and acceptance, and we want to be loved. We smile at each other, we volunteer, we give money, we teach, and we pick fights. (Yes, even initiating conflict is an attempt at achieving some sort of comfort and happiness. It's a cry for attention – a plea for validation and acceptance, even if it's also counterproductive.) Belonging is a universal longing. We just have different ways of trying to achieve it.
This poetic prayer, not actually written by St. Francis of Assisi and also known as Prayer for Peace, points to universal truths that offer counsel, reassurance and practical guidance. It's a longtime favorite of mine and I frequently meditate on it. One of the reasons I find the Prayer of St. Francis so appealing is that it communicates compassion and wisdom found not only in the words and work of Jesus, and it conveys truths inherent in other faith traditions. St. Francis of Assisi was a devout Christian, but he crossed geographical and theological boundaries to befriend and connect with people of other faiths. His actions are an example for us, and though Francis didn't pen this prayer, his teachings (as well as goodness inherent in other paths) are reflected in this poetic meditation, the author of whom remains a mystery.
Following Jesus is my way, but there are many ways -- many paths -- that lead seekers to the divine flow already happening. My way of being "an instrument" is to make art, write and share, so over the next few weeks, I'll deconstruct the prayer dubbed by French historian Christian Renoux, "a riddle to be solved," and I'll share my insights with sincere hope that in doing so, I might spread just a little bit of peace.
(image: Le Visage de la Paix, Pablo Picasso 1950)
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