Kristi Anderson: ‘Lord, make me an instrument of your peace …’

As a journalist, almost 100% of my ministry is listening. When people trust me with their sacred story, it is a precious gift that deserves beautiful packaging.

By Kristi Anderson

With each narrative, I pray that the Holy Spirit whispers the right questions into my ear and that the same Spirit flows through my fingertips as the letters take shape into words on the page.

 “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…”

I placed these words from the prayer attributed to St. Francis intentionally in front of my computer so I can see them as I type. And I earnestly pray that God will use me.

On March 2 — Ash Wednesday — the same words began our annual Lenten diocesan staff retreat. Our entire staff gathered together at St. Mary’s Cathedral for a day of prayer and reflection. The theme was “Listening to God, ourselves and each other.”

Two of my colleagues led us in a modified experience of “lectio divina,” which is traditionally a reading of Scripture, meditation and prayer. In this instance, we were asked to focus on the spoken St. Francis prayer and to listen closely for a word or phrase that reached into our hearts.

 “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…”

Those same eight words again pierced my soul. I wondered, “How can I be an instrument of peace in this weary world? How can I sow love where there is hatred? How can I plant faith where there is doubt? How can I bring joy where there is sadness?”

As we moved into the next portion of our retreat, Benedictine Father Michael Peterson helped answer that question. He told us a story about an elderly fellow monk who told him that one of the symbols of life was open hands.

“When your hands are open, you can give and receive freely from God and those you care about,” Father Michael explained. “When your hands are fists, then you’re just fighting against God and life. … When your hands are open, you’re able to listen to what really matters and is meaningful in life.”

As the retreat continued, Benedictine Sister Janine Mettling led our staff through a synod consultation (read more about the synod at www.stcdio.org/synod-2021-2023). The synod on synodality, if you haven’t heard about it yet, is an opportunity for everyone to be listened to by the leaders of the Catholic Church.

As I write this, dozens of people from around the diocese are training to be listeners for this synodal process so that you — yes, you — can be heard. Yep, even the tough stuff — your wounds, your dreams, your hopes, your fears. Please, if you haven’t already, find a consultation near you or go online and complete the questionnaire found there.

With all the noise in the world today — destruction, division, disease, despair — it can be hard to hear God’s voice.

But when I get the chance to stop and really listen, I hear the stories of people like Ted Bechtold who is working in Ukraine and the folks doing great things with grants that will care for the earth. I see people carrying crosses and the Eucharist through their towns as signs of their faith (Way of the Cross, Divine Mercy). I hear about people preparing for fish fries and prayer opportunities. And even though these things may not be what God is asking me to do right now, with his grace, I can see Christ in every one of them. I hear them answering God’s call in their lives because they took the time to listen.

 “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…”

This Lent, the prayerful plea of St. Francis has been a balm for my soul and, at the same time, a call to action. Perhaps, like the prayer says, it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Perhaps I can die to my own voice so I can hear someone else’s. My hands are open, Lord, I’m listening.

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.
— Prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi

Kristi Anderson is associate editor of The Central Minnesota Catholic magazine.

Top photo: Getty Images/ Peopleimages

Author: Kristi Anderson

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