Franciscan Spirituality reflection: May God Give You Peace

Posted on: 17 June 2021

Author:Sister Joan Kerley


Franciscan Spirituality Reflection: “May God Give You Peace.”
Sister Joan Kerley, FMSJ

In Franciscan Prayer, Ilia Delio, OSF begins Chapter 9, “The Way of Peace”, by quoting this prayer of St. Bonaventure found in The Soul’s Journey into God (p. 163) ” I call upon the Eternal Father through his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, that through the intercession of the most holy Virgin Mary, the mother of the same God and Lord Jesus Christ, and through the intercession of blessed Francis, our leader and father, He may enlighten the eyes of our soul to guide our feet in the way of that peace which surpasses all understanding. This is the peace proclaimed and given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ and preached again and again by our father Francis. At the beginning and end of every sermon he announced peace, in every greeting he wished for peace, in every contemplation he sighed for ecstatic peace- like a citizen of that Jerusalem of which that Man of Peace says, who was peaceable with those who hated peace, pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” Francis teaches us what a peacemaker is: a person rooted in God’s love; a person who walks peacefully among his enemies; a person who meditates daily on Scripture; a person who recognizes that all beings are cherished by God. May God give us peace!

In her chapter Delio shares some insights about the Franciscan spirituality of peace:
1. “The Franciscan path of prayer leads to peace because it is a path of active love.” (p.165)
2. The way of peace is Trinitarian because God is “Trinity, giving, receiving and sharing love.” (p.165)
3. Peace is incarnational, that is, it centers on the human person. She quotes Francis of Assisi: “As you announce peace with your mouth, make sure that you have greater peace in your hearts…Let everyone be drawn to peace and kindness through your peace and gentleness.” (p.166)
4. Francis’ peace was found in prayer through his praying of Scripture.
5. Francis embraced a life of prayer, poverty, penance and conversion which led him more and more to a deep realization of his dependency on and need for God.
6. Franciscan prayer plunges us into the depth of humanity and its suffering, violence and abuse. If we truly wish to be peacemakers, we must also be willing to suffer for peace. Delio quotes St. Francis: a. In Admonition 15: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. (Mt. 5:9) The true peacemakers are those who preserve peace of mind and body for love of our Lord Jesus Christ, despite what they suffer in this world.” (p.171); b. Canticle of Creation: “Praise be you, My Lord, through those who give pardon for your love and bear infirmity and tribulation. Blessed are those who endure in peace for by you Most High, they shall be crowned.”
7. “The Symbol of peace for Francis was the Eucharist:.” (p.172) In his Letter to the Entire Order, Francis writes: “I implore you brothers to show all possible reverence and honour to the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in whom that which is in heaven and on earth has been brought to peace and reconciled to almighty God.”

In his book,Surrounded by Love, Murray Bodo also reflects on the Franciscan spirituality of peace. (Chapter 5: Fifth Teaching: Making Peace). Bodo cites two Franciscan sources that illustrate Francis’s desire for his followers to be peacemakers: 1. St. Bonaventure,Major Life of St. Francis 3:7: “St Francis used to say to his brothers, Go, announce peace to all people; preach repentance for the remission of sins. Be patient in trials, watchful in prayer and steadfast in weariness. Be modest in speech, responsible in your actions, and grateful to your benefactors. And in return at eternal kingdom is being made ready for you.” and 2. Legend of the Three Companions,58: “The peace, which you proclaim with words, must dwell even more abundantly in your hearts. Do not provoke others to anger or give scandal. Rather, let your gentleness draw them to peace, goodness, and concord. This is our vocation: to heal wounds, to bind what is broken, to bring home those who are lost.”

These two small excerpts challenge us to reflect how we promote peace. Do we see peacemaking as an activity or an attitude? If it as an activity, we may simply sign a petition for peace, pray for peace, or work with a local organization to promote understanding and cooperation. All these things are excellent beginnings, but they are only that. Franciscan peace requires a deep conversion and new insights. It begins first with a personal conversion but quickly extends to all our relationships, including those we would prefer to avoid! How peaceful are we within our own communities, especially with those who annoy us or misjudge us? How do we see, and judge, the world around us? Do we try to learn about other religions, to see “both sides of the story” in a conflict and work for a peaceful resolution?

Many will think of the beautiful prayer, “The Peace Prayer of St. Francis,” as a wonderful summary of what it means to be a peace maker. The prayer was probably written by a French priest Father Esther Bouquerel in 1912. (Source: Wikipedia). Thus, while the prayer was not written by St. Francis, it certainly embodies his spirit!
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; 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 giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.