Eight hundred years ago a small Italian man lived his life in the heart of Italy. He was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant who dreamed of glory won on the battlefield. When war broke out between his home town and a neighboring, much more powerful city, he instantly became a knight. His father spared no expense in outfitting him as a proud and noble knight. In the battle that ensued, he witnessed the brutal and violent death of many of his friends and townsmen. He was captured and thrown into a dark dungeon that wreaked of disease and death. For the next year he would ponder what had happened to him and what was to become of him. Finally, after long negotiations and many bribes, his wealthy father secured his release.
Sick and emaciated, the young knight, who still harbored visions of glory through battle, reached his home and the arms of his mother. For several months, he lay sickly, weakened by his horrible ordeal in prison. As time passed he regained his strength and found himself. . .and God. From that point onward, his was a life lived in the peace and joy of Jesus Christ. He had come to understand the depth of love that God has for us all and swore to never raise the sword against anyone.
Centuries after his death, a prayer was written expressing his philosophy and ideals, his way of life. The prayer, while penned by a Catholic, has been quoted by members of all faiths. It was even read by the late Senator Hubert Humphrey from the United States Senate floor. The young knights name? Francesco Bernadone more commonly known as St. Francis of Assisi. The prayer, composed by an anonymous author, honors the memory of the great saint and gives us a guideline by which to live.
In honor of all those who have served and have given their last full measure of devotion, I wish to share with you that simple prayer that not only sums up the life of Saint Francis, but also should be used as a blueprint for daily living.
Peace Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; when 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.
May nations seek this way of settling all differences. large and small, that exist between them. Our future depends on it!