Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
when there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
~Franciscan Peace Prayer
I don’t read the newspaper very often. When I do, I’m reminded why I’ve given up the habit. Page after page, we read stories of wars, violent deaths, crime and corruption. Who doesn’t hunger for a little peace and goodwill?
In my travels, I ran across a Latin phrase scattered across the hilltop town or Assisi, Italy. Home to the 13th century saint, Francis and his friend Clare, the village of Assisi is a contemporary hot spot for spiritual pilgrimage. A swift walk down Via San Francesco from the Piazza del Commune you discover store after store crammed with tourist trinkets honoring the memory of Francis and Clare. One of the most common trinkets you’ll find is the letter Tau, a “T”, hanging on a leather cord. Francis loved the letter Tau, claiming it portrayed the cross of Christ. The letter Tau is widely recognized today as a symbol of St. Francis, a symbol of his selfless and joyful way of life, his spiritual vitality, his peace and goodness. Pax et Bonum.
In addition to the letter Tau, observant pilgrims find a Latin phrase, Pax et Bonum. all over Assisi, carved in stone on pillars, painted on the ceiling of the community hall in the Mayor’s palace, emblazoned upon flags and banners, adorning postcards and hand decorated ceramics. The letter T in the Latin word et is most often found capitalized to emphasize the Tau representative of Franciscan spirituality. Pax eT Bonum.
Peace and Goodwill. This is the dual gift sung by the angel choir to shepherds “watching over their flocks by night”, at the birth of Jesus: Peace on earth, goodwill towards all.[i] Frances revealed the way to find these two gifts, personally, in our daily lives. First, we strip away our arrogance and our self-centered attachment to material security. Frances is said to have stripped himself bare before his parents and the Bishop, handed his clothes to his father and walked naked through Porta Nuova down through olive orchards to the ruined church of San Damiano. The rest of his life he wore the course brown clothes of beggars. He is widely recognized as one of the most selfless humans who have ever lived, bringing peace to his world through the emptying of self.
Second, we celebrate the goodness of God discovered every day in the ordinary lives of creatures and nature. Sun and moon, wind and rain, bird and beast. These are our brothers and sisters. They teach us to live more fully in the simple gift of life. Peace comes by laying down our life for others. Goodness comes by picking up the gift of each day through living more intimately connected to God’s good creation. Pax et Bonum.