As our society and world continues to be visited by bitter conflicts, suffering, and division, it is understandable that even a strong faith can be tested. Whether it be political convictions, the lingering controversies that remain around COVID, relationships across race and ethnicity, age and background, and more recently the potential reversal of 1973’s Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, we are living in times of enduring controversies. People often select voices that speak to their existing convictions, and even common vocabulary and common civility can fail us.
With so much commentary circulating it is hard to beheard clearly today; I will not say much about Roe v. Wade here. My personal conviction that innocent life deserves respect, reverence, and protection in every stage and circumstance of life does not arise from Catholic teaching, although it is fully in accord with that teaching; it does not come from any political affiliation; it is not a scientific conclusion. For me, it is a self-evident truth, a consequence of the reality that across all differences of age, appearance, state of development or decline, or any other accidental factor, we share a common life and humanity that carries with it inherent and equal value, dignity, and worth. Laws are one way to shape a society. But far more effective is the shaping of minds and hearts to strive freely for those goods that are truly worthy of human persons. That striving is demanding. It will challenge and stretch us, and yet can also draw out the best of us. With such sharp focus on the question of abortion today, I invite you to take some time to consider the origins of your own views and convictions around human life.
How do we hear the voice of Jesus, our Good Shepherd, amid the clamor of so many voices, often raised in anger and accusation? The best answer I have found is quiet reflective prayer, perhaps in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament or simply in some place and time when you can be still. Turn off electronic devices, put away the things that distract or disturb your peace of mind, pick up a Bible or a book of prayer, and begin with attention to your breathing and posture. Hand over the tension, the distractions, the frustrations, the worries, the troubled thoughts and feelings into the care of God.
Prayer will not suddenly resolve the problems that concern us and the troubles that do need attention and action in charity. But prayer gives us strength and perspective in ways that nothing else can. As Psalm 46 assures us, God is our shelter and our strength, an ever -present help in time of trouble.
St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) did not write the prayer we so often associate with him, at least not in (Ministry & Life Perspectives Continued) any form we know; the “Peace Prayer of St. Francis” does not appear until 1912. But this cherished prayer certainly reflects his spiritual insight and his love for the humility of Jesus and Mary, which were a lifelong fascination for him after his conversion.
I invite you – especially in moments of tension and anxiety – to offer this prayer from your heart. It is also powerful when prayed with another, even one’s opponents in argument:
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;
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.