Franciscan Spirit Blog

Novena to St. Francis | Day Six: Peace

Though he probably didn’t write it, the Peace Prayer attributed to St. Francis captures much of his spirit. He spent time and energy being an “instrument of peace.” He sought to reconcile.

As a young man, Francis aspired to knightly glory, to participate in great battles. He did fight against the neighboring city of Perugia. We don’t know for sure, but he may have killed some of the enemy. Assisi lost the battle, and Francis spent about a year as a prisoner of war. When he came home, sick and perhaps suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, he was a different man. He knew there had to be something better. He prayed in the caves around Assisi. And his conversion began. From one who wanted fame and glory, he changed to someone dedicated to building bridges and promoting reconciliation, by being a brother to everyone he encountered.

There is a wonderful story about a hungry Wolf from Gubbio, which was terrorizing the town. Francis talked to the wolf and promised that the people would feed him if he would stop his vicious attacks. Francis prevailed and reconciled the hungry wolf and the fearful people.

There was a time when the bishop and mayor of Assisi were at odds with each other. He called them together and sang his “Canticle of Creation,” but he added a special verse: “Praised be you my Lord, for those who give pardon for love of you, and bear infirmity and tribulation. Blessed are those who endure in peace, for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.” The bishop and the mayor were moved to reconcile.

Francis lived during the time of the Crusades, when Christians were fighting the Muslims to regain the Holy Land. It was a bloody mess and a time when the opponents often demonized one another. Francis had another approach. He made his way to Damietta, in Egypt, where he risked entering the camp of Sultan Malik al-Kamil. For days they dialogued and grew in esteem for one another. The Sultan gave Francis safe passage and gifts, and Francis came back home enriched in many ways. He later wrote a prayer called the “Praises of God,” which many see as inspired by the Islamic prayer invoking the 99 names of God. He called for bells to ring to call people to prayer, which many see as inspired by the Islamic call to prayer. Instead of war and bloodshed, he sought understanding and dialogue.

Our lives are not easy either. Sometimes our relationships get messy and distanced. There are moments when we are hurt and are tempted to retaliate. We say and do things we regret.

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Let Us Pray

Gracious God, I thank you for the example and inspiration of St. Francis.
In my little piece of the world, may I do whatever I can to build bridges, to reconcile, and to be an instrument of your peace.


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