It’s not often that I title my blog posts in French. My actual working knowledge of the language is not strong. French happens to be the first language of my mother, who was born in Quebec. Her family’s genealogy can be easily traced back to France on both sides. I do so love the French language despite my lack of understanding of it. I love listening to my mother and her family speak it. Two of my children, Olivier and Rosalie, have French names that show up in the family tree several generations back. The other two, Mateo and Andreas, have names with very close French equivalents. I want to keep the connection to the French side of my own history. I want my kids to be reminded of it when they hear their own names. Someday, I want to take them to visit both Quebec and France. I’m always kicking myself for not keeping up with the language or sharing it properly with my kids.
When I turned on the news tonight to watch as the terror attacks in Paris were being reported, my heart sank. This cannot be. What I was seeing is a war zone. Paris and terror are not words that go together. Paris is the city of love. Not hate, not fear, not violence. Certainly not terror.
And I wanted to pray, for Paris and it’s people, but I couldn’t even find the words. What do you pray? One word came to mind. Peace. And a prayer I was reminded of.
The Prayer of Saint Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of thy 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;
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;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.
I decided to look up the prayer online tonight, as I wasn’t even totally sure of it’s history or authenticity. Sure enough, while the prayer was later attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, it was first published in 1912 long after his death. Where? In Paris.
Of course in Paris. Here is the original French, which as usual, reads more beautifully than the English anyway.
Belle prière à faire pendant la Messe
Seigneur, faites de moi un instrument de votre paix.
Là où il y a de la haine, que je mette l’amour.
Là où il y a l’offense, que je mette le pardon.
Là où il y a la discorde, que je mette l’union.
Là où il y a l’erreur, que je mette la vérité.
Là où il y a le doute, que je mette la foi.
Là où il y a le désespoir, que je mette l’espérance.
Là où il y a les ténèbres, que je mette votre lumière.
Là où il y a la tristesse, que je mette la joie.
Ô Maître, que je ne cherche pas tant à être consolé qu’à consoler, à être compris qu’à comprendre, à être aimé qu’à aimer, car c’est en donnant qu’on reçoit, c’est en s’oubliant qu’on trouve, c’est en pardonnant qu’on est pardonné, c’est en mourant qu’on ressuscite à l’éternelle vie.
“Faites de moi un instrument de votre paix” – my French is not strong but I do understand that statement. In a world where terror tries and fails to destroy democracy and freedom, faites de moi un instrument de votre paix. I may not be of any influence on a global scale, but in my small part of the world, where I may be but a breath in light of eternity, faites de moi un instrument de votre paix. At the grocery store, in my own home, among friends or in the company of strangers, at church, or the bookstore, or the playground – wherever and among whomever it is needed, faites de moi un instrument de votre paix.
The world is watching Paris tonight because Paris isn’t just any other city. Paris is a city that belongs to the world. A place people feel connected to through travel, film, literature, art, history, language, and even proud genealogy. An attack on Paris is a shot through the heart. Globally, I think.
So how do I pray? I just pray for peace. Peace for Paris. La paix pour Paris. That I would be an instrument of peace in a world where people strap actual bombs to themselves as instruments of terror. That the people of Paris and France as a whole, would find this peace, a peace that surpasses all understanding. How do you drive out terror with peace? It doesn’t make sense. It’s not possible. But it is, in my faith anyway. We – Christians I mean – call Jesus the Prince of Peace. When we pray for peace, we’re praying for Jesus. Jesus who was murdered by a government to whom He would not bow, and yet death had no victory over Him. The power of peace is the resurrection power of Christ; a power that death cannot defeat. We sing Peace on Earth, Goodwill To All Men – and when we sing it, it’s more than just a pretty carol. We mean it to the marrow in our bones. It’s a prayer. It’s a declaration. Peace and Goodwill.
So that’s my impossible, ridiculous, small faith, sorrow and hope and agony filled prayer for Paris. Peace. In hearts and minds, and on the streets. La paix pour Paris. Not a peace that dismisses or ignores or passively sits down, but a peace that is confident and sure of a just, victorious end. Peace for leaders to make wise decisions and secure their city and people. Peace for children to be able to sleep at night. For peace to replace panic. For peace to bring healing, in time.
Faites de moi un instrument de votre paix. Fais de nous des instruments de votre paix.
“Belle prière” indeed.
*link to the French prayer: http://www.franciscan-archive.org/franciscana/peace.html
copyright (c) 2015 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved