In response to recent acts of violence and increasing racial tensions across the United States, Franciscan parishes are inviting individuals of all faiths to come together to pray for peace and unity. Over the last few weeks, ministries around the Province have offered vigils and novenas, some attracting media attention.
In a letter distributed to HNP members on July 8 — the day after police officers were murdered in Dallas, Texas — Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, expressed concern about recent events. “Sad to say that each day seems to be filled with more and more stories which indicate the spread of violence increasing on global, national, and local levels,” said Kevin. “This blanket of violence seems to be like a plague that knows no boundaries. In just the past week or so, we are repulsed to learn about the senseless loss of life in Istanbul, Dhaka, Bagdad, Orlando, Falcon Heights (Minnesota), Baton Rouge, and Dallas. People have been targeted and killed because of their religion, ethnicity, race, sexuality, and profession. The perpetrators of these killings seem to be filled with ignorance, fear, and hatred. They tragically disregard the intrinsic value of life and commit crimes against God and humanity.
“We, Franciscan friars, must recognize that the current context of our world has a profound impact upon the way we choose to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the 21st century. Now more than ever, we must choose peace and we must witness to the value of non-violence. We must see ourselves first and foremost as instruments of peace, healing, and reconciliation. We are called to be bridge-builders. We enter into the midst of the ignorance, fear, and hatred, and we offer a different response — not an “eye-for-an-eye” or a “get even” type of response, but rather an alternate approach that walks in the midst of suffering, injustice, pain and death and calls out in a non-violent voice for understanding, dialogue, healing, justice, mercy and peaceful resolutions.”
In North Carolina, St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Raleigh offered a Novena for Peace that began on July 14 and continued through July 22. Pastor Steven Patti, OFM, said he had received a request from the Raleigh Bishop Michael Burbidge to pray the Peace Prayer of St. Francis over a period of nine days.
“On the first day, a member of our staff started the prayer by sending out an email to other staff with the first line ‘Make me an instrument of your peace.’ Another staff member then filled in the next line, and on from there,” Steven said.
“It was a beautiful beginning to a prayer that asks, ‘make me an instrument of peace,’ let it begin with me,” he said. “We printed the prayer in the worship aid on Sunday and asked the people of the parish to pray it as well. We wanted to highlight the Franciscan call to be peacemakers in a troubled and violent world.”
Joining in Solidarity
“In light of the recent violence in Louisiana, Minnesota, Texas and other places throughout the country and the world, we are joining with our bishop, the Knights of Columbus and Catholics throughout the country in offering the novena for peace. Its heart is a simple peace prayer,” said Trevor Thompson, the parish’s director of justice and peace, in the event announcement that was emailed on July 13.
In addition, on Aug. 2 at 7 p.m. in St. Mary’s Chapel, the parish is planning to host an Evening of Prayer for Peace titled “Make Me an Instrument of Peace.” All are invited to join the friars and faithful everywhere in lifting voices in praise, solidarity and hope on this feast of the Portiuncula.
In Durham, N.C., Immaculate Conception Parish’s social justice committee held a Vigil of Mercy and Compassion on July 22 to remember the people who have lost their lives in recent weeks due to violence. People from all faith communities as well as civic leaders, law enforcement personnel and other concerned citizens, came together on Friday for one hour to remember, reflect and pray.
“It was important to give people an opportunity to bring to God their sadness and fears due to the recent violence and find in solidarity a message of peace and hope,” said Christopher VanHaight, OFM, the pastor of Immaculate Conception Church.
“We feel this is an all-hands-on-deck moment,” said parishioner Reba Heggs in a video posted Friday night on ABC Eyewitness News website. Two friars – Mario Gomez, OFM, and David McBriar, OFM — can be seen in the story.
“Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace”
At St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish in Hartford, Conn., the Prayer of St. Francis was the focus of a Mass of Healing and Peace held on July 19.
“We often pray the prayer attributed to St. Francis, ‘Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.’ This is a powerful prayer that engages our imagination,” said Thomas Gallagher, OFM, pastor of St Patrick-St. Anthony.
“For Franciscan people, it is a remembering of the witness of St. Francis in the embrace of the leper, in the friendship with the Muslim leader, and the reconciliation of the bishop with the mayor of Assisi,” Thomas said. “We seek to embody this prayer that is not simply words but deeds. In these weeks where we have seen division, death, and discord around our world and within our nation, we are called to be instruments of peace, healers.”
Each Wednesday through the end of August, the parish community will gather for Circles of Peace “to deepen understanding, our community, and our commitment to peace-making.” Two one-hour prayer opportunities are available each week – on Wednesday afternoon at 12:35 p.m. and on Wednesday evening at 6:30 p.m. in the Franciscan Center.
– Karen Karaszewski is a freelance writer based in Western New York.
- Five Dallas Police Officers Killed by a Lone Attacker, Authorities Say – July 8, 2016 The Washington Post
- Mercy & Compassion: Immaculate Conception hosts prayers for peace and justice – July 22, 2016, Herald Sun
- “Ministries React to Orlando Tragedy with Prayer, Calls for Reform” – June 28, 2016, HNP Today
- “Finding a Spiritual Home” by Trevor Thompson – Sept. 26, 2015 HNP Today