In the aftermath of the shootings in Las Vegas and in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, a friar encourages both action and deep prayer. This message was originally printed in the bulletin of Hartford’s St Patrick-St Anthony Parish.
Many of us are still reeling from the shooting and deaths in Las Vegas last week. Many of us are numb from the constant senseless killing of children, women, and men. Many of us no longer listen to reports of these events. It is hard to believe the level of violence, division, and cruelty that is the experience of our nation and our world. Yet, the world of Jesus and the world of Francis was also a world of oppression and violence. In that very world experience, Jesus’ resurrection message was peace. It was – and is – his gift to any and all who are open to accepting that gift.
We gathered a few weekends ago to remember Francis of Assisi. We blessed animals – living and plush. We told the stories of Francis’ life and gave thanks for the dynamism of the Franciscan movement. The seriousness of the movement is its rootedness in Christ, the gift of God’s peace. Francis was in love with this experience of God in Jesus. He told the brothers that their message was to always be one of peace: “Wherever you go in the world, you are to announce peace.” A significant way that this offer can be genuine is for the bearer to be a person of peace. While we must work for an end to the violence, a new beginning of peace, our stance comes from a place of nonviolence and peace.
The peace of Christ, the peace realized in the life of Francis, is the conversion of heart that enables the proclamation not only of peace but also of hope. Hope is a most desperately needed message in our world. In the Second Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation, we pray, “In the midst of conflict and division, we know it is you who turn our minds to thoughts of peace. Your Spirit changes our hearts; enemies begin to speak to one another. Those who were estranged join hands in friendship and nations seek the way of peace together.” This is the heart of our prayer. It is the call to conversion and reconciliation, and, as we noted earlier this year, the call to forming a community of compassion.
Saying prayers is not enough. Yet, we must pray and actively work to be peacemakers in our world. Francis discovered a brother in the sultan, he realized Christ in the leper, and he healed the fragile relationship between the bishop and the mayor. As his biographer recounts, it was not that Francis prayed – it was that he became prayer. If God formed the poor man of Assisi into prayer and a person of reconciliation, surely God will do the same for each of us. I invite, urge, and encourage you to deeper prayer and action.
Perhaps from our shared prayer, we can discover new ways of action that enable the healing we so greatly desire.
Peace and all good.
— Fr. Thomas is pastor of St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish in Hartford, Conn., and a member of the Provincial Council.
- “Las Vegas Shooting Death Toll Rises to 59, No Apparent Connection to International Terror” – Oct. 3, 2017, ABC News
- “Franciscan Presence in Hartford Commemorated with Mass, Block Party” – Nov. 12, 2015, HNP Today
- “WNY Secular Franciscans Advocate for Gun Violence Awareness” – April 2, 2014, HNP Today