Gandhi liked him. Martin Luther King, Jr. liked him. The Sufis like him. The Catholics like him. The Dalia Lama likes him. Mandela likes him. Bishop Tutu likes him. Aung San Suu Kyi likes him. Atheist humanitarians like him. Chris Hedges likes him. There is even a new Pope who liked him enough to take his name. The New Age crowd likes him. In fact I don’t think I have ever read any bad press about the man. But just who is Saint Francis and why does he matter now more than ever?
In today’s world where the peace movement is ineffective, gets duped time and time again into voting for pro-war candidates, and carries inner bitterness while they are carrying signs for peace, the time has come to take a good hard look at the real Saint Francis of Assisi for what he is and not what people have made his image out to be.
The political activists have created Francis in their own image, but he was never political. The New Agers have viewed him as some kind of a guy that pursued pantheistic harmony with the forces of the cosmos, but he never worshiped nature, preferring rather to call the Sun his brother, and the Moon his sister. No Mother Earth talk here folks.
Catholics seem to view him as some kind of an idol to worship or pray to, when he was just an ordinary man going about serving others and asking for nothing in return. The Peaceniks seem to think that their peace was the same as his peace, when nothing could be further from the truth. And this is where the crux of the matter comes in at really misunderstanding the man. Peace 101 needs to correct this misconception that has had horrible results.
Saint Francis who is a historically verifiable person, not a man of fiction, was a former crusader who had a dramatic conversion to Christ, and left all to become destitute and serve the poor and rejected from society until the day he died. He quoted only the Sermon on the Mount, wrote some poetry, among his most famous poem, “The Peace Prayer”. Why does this matter? Because everyone seems to be attracted to the by-product of his peace example, meanwhile ignoring how he obtained the inner peace to carry all of this out.
Francis’ famous peace poem begins with “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace”. Did you see that? He begins with the word “Lord”. Then he goes on to say, “make me an instrument of your peace”. Whose peace? “YOUR PEACE”. He is not asking for the absence of conflict. He is not asking for a political solution. He is not speaking to nature. His is speaking to his Savior Jesus. He is asking for His peace. He is grasping for something eternal to continue in his life. So why is this different than just asking, say for some guy on the street, or a spouse, or the United Nations for peace?
It is qualitatively different because Francis understands via his conversion experience that he was forgiven for his former war crimes and his deep inner guilt by the blood atonement of Christ on the cross having become reconciled back to the divine. This peace that comes about by that, this present world cannot offer. It has nothing to offer for true inner transformation. Nothing. Nada. Nil. And the history of the human race is evidence of that. And yet those who miss this and continue using Francis as their example without experiencing his Christ that brings true and lasting peace, will only have peace when they are reloading their guns, or drones.
Saint Francis’ Christ conversion peace is Peace 101. The course where one learns to begin again. Everything else is just the ignorance and inner strife of an old worn out useless paradigm that won’t change a damn thing.
The Peace Prayer
by St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
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.