Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of letters Paul Graves is writing to his grandchildren about St. Francis’ Prayer of Peace.
Dear Andy, Claire and Katie,
Your Grandma and I had such great fun with you last weekend in your Hillsboro, Ore., home. Being there for Andy’s First Communion at St. Matthew’s Catholic Church was important for us too, as we know it was important for each of you.
Sacred rituals like Communion are especially important when we need reminders of God’s hope for us. Especially in tough times, they also remind us to not lose hope in ourselves, each other, or other people.
In today’s letter, think with me about the part of St. Francis’ Prayer of Peace where we are reminded “that where there is despair, I may bring hope; that where there are shadows, I may bring light.” These are steps on the peace journey you kids take every day, and usually don’t even know it.
Like everyone else, you have daily rituals. Getting ready for school, for instance, includes little rituals like taking a shower, brushing your teeth, putting on clean clothes, eating breakfast, and walking/riding to school. These rituals give you a sense of helpful order in your life, even when the rituals aren’t particularly fun to do. Rituals can help you keep hope when you feel despair. “Despair” comes from a Latin word that simply means “without hope.”
When rituals of any kind remind you that hope is possible, they become sacred, special rituals. Did you think that brushing your teeth could be a special ritual? A ritual doesn’t have to be religious, like Communion, in order to be sacred. In fact, there are times when those religious rituals we do become boring or have little meaning.
In those times, they don’t remind us about God’s hope for us or even our own hope for us. So in those times, we need to depend on other people whose hope in us gets us energized again.
Likewise, when a friend is feeling down, without hope, she may need you to remind her that you are proud of her, or that you will stick with her in her tough times. You can do that for each other. You may even use a special ritual in your friendship to remind her to hope.
You may get her to laugh, put an arm around her shoulder, or simply take a walk together.
“Where there is despair, let me bring hope; where there are shadows, let me bring light.” The prayer uses different words to say the same thing: you can help another person in a difficult moment be more hopeful, be able to “see some light at the end of the tunnel.”
You kids have been good friends to other kids before. That certainly is one way you act out this part of the “peace prayer.” Bringing hope and light isn’t about doing any certain action, but it is about doing that action out of compassion.
It also isn’t about consciously thinking “Well, it’s about time for me to bring hope and light into someone’s life today.” That would be so unnatural. So be yourselves!
You have been loved and raised by your parents and other adults to be generous, compassionate and hopeful. Bringing hope to other people is simply part of who you are. I know that because of the hope and light you offer me even when I just think about you.
Rituals are good reminders of hope at times. Simply knowing inside you are loved is the best reminder.