By Susan Ciancio

Monday was a very special feast day—the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis was a young man who renounced his family wealth to follow Christ. His efforts started the beloved Franciscan order.

Many know the story of how, when praying in front of a cross, Francis heard God say: “Go, Francis, and repair My house, which as you see is falling into ruin.”

Being a dutiful follower, Francis began cleaning up and repairing a church called San Damiano. But this is not what God meant. It was not a physical church that God wanted Francis to rebuild, but the Catholic Church—the body of people. When Francis finally understood this, he went out and did this joyfully.  

Today the beautiful cross Francis prayed in front of hangs in the Basilica of Santa Chiara in Assisi, Italy. Millions of people every year visit the little chapel that houses it.

When you see the cross in person, you cannot help but feel a sense of awe and a sense of peace. Perhaps this feeling helped inspire the writer of the Peace Prayer of St. Francis.

Peace Prayer

The first appearance of this prayer was in a French spiritual publication. Though it was published anonymously, many think it was written by the magazine’s editor. Regardless of its authorship, this prayer exemplifies Francis’ teachings and reflects his simplicity and his love for God and his fellow man. It goes like this:

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;
And 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. Amen.

Imagine what the world would be like if we all acted like instruments of God’s peace.

Our world desperately needs peace today. Not only that, but it needs courageous people who will speak up for others, who will follow God’s laws, and who will see the beauty inherent in all people.

At the Culture of Life Studies Program, we understand this. Not only do we understand this, but we teach this. All of our lessons are geared toward helping kids in pre-K-12 become instruments of God’s peace and promoting the peace of Christ. Further, many of our lessons help your students live out the teachings of this prayer.

We have gone through the lines of this prayer and carefully chosen lessons that align with them. So you can see that, not only is this a beautiful prayer to learn, but it’s a beautiful prayer to live.

Lord make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love

Our lesson Caring for the Least of These shows K-2 students that every person has a duty to care for the weakest and most vulnerable people around us and that we must stand up for others.

Older kids can learn this lesson with When Heroes Become Saints: Saint Damien de Veuster of Molokai. This lesson tells the story of St. Damien de Veuster of Molokai, a heroic priest who volunteered to serve the lepers on the desolate peninsula of Molokai in Hawaii. St. Damien showed his flock that even though they suffered from a debilitating disease they deserved to be treated with dignity and respect and honored as adopted sons and daughters of God.

Where there is injury, pardon

Kids can learn forgiveness with our lesson about St. Maximilian Kolbe, the heroic priest who gave his life for another man in Auschwitz. Through this lesson, students will see Maximilian’s love and compassion for his fellow man along with his willingness to forgive—and even evangelize to—his captors.

Where there is doubt, faith

Serving the Poorest of the Poor: St. Teresa of Calcutta teaches about this wonderful saint who often doubted herself and God’s love for her, but who remained steadfast in both her work and her teaching. Students learn how to use her example to live out the Corporal Works of Mercy.

Where there is despair, hope

Facing a terminal illness, a young woman named Chiara Luce Badano could have fallen into despair. Instead, she taught her family and friends that there is joy in suffering and that we must all trust in God. With this lesson, middle and high schoolers learn to use her example and apply it to those advocating for assisted suicide or mercy killing.

Where there is darkness, light

Like many pro-lifers, Nellie Gray was both sickened and saddened when the Supreme Court decriminalized abortion in 1973. The next year, she and her friends decided they had to do something, so they began the March for Life. In The Power of One: Nellie Gray and the March for Life, high school students read about Nellie Gray and learn concrete ways to speak out and stop abortion. They also learn to be that light in an increasingly dark world.

Where there is sadness, joy

Do Small Things with Great Love: Saint Teresa of Calcutta teaches children in pre-K-2 about this amazing saint who literally picked sick and poor people up out of the gutter and took care of them. St. Teresa saw these people treated with disgust and disdain, yet she offered them love and happiness, even if it was just for the last few minutes of their lives.

O Divine Master grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console

Without Mercy: An Introduction to Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide, and Other Threats to the Medically Vulnerable examines the complex topics of euthanasia and assisted suicide and teaches students the reality behind what the culture of death advocates regarding end-of-life issues. This four-class supplement provides students with a basic understanding of the Catholic Church’s teachings on euthanasia and gives students the tools they need to not only defend those teachings but to teach compassion.

To be understood, as to understand

All Shapes and Sizes: Learning about the Beauty and Dignity of People with Disabilities and Other Challenges teaches empathy and helps students understand that the value of every human being exists because we are all made in the image and likeness of God. Our value does not depend on our appearance, ability, or background. This lesson shows children the beauty of the human person from creation until death by exploring Down syndrome, autism, the beauty of the elderly, and the fact that it’s okay to be different.

To be loved, as to love

Life Is Precious illustrates the basic facts of human development and teaches kids to care for others. Pre-k-2 students learn about taking care of a new baby—both before and after birth—that each of us is unique, the importance of standing up for what you believe in, and defending those who cannot defend themselves.  

For it is in giving that we receive

In Giving with a Happy Heart: Teaching the Culture of Life in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” students examine Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol under a pro-life lens to find themes that support the culture of life and reinforce the principle that all human beings are sacred, unrepeatable, and deserving of respect. Students learn what it takes to reach out to the “Scrooges” in daily life and come to understand how they need to treat each person with dignity, regardless of how they are treated in return.  

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned

In this 8-page movie discussion guide, we give a brief overview of the movie Unplanned, a Life Theme, 14 discussion questions (and answers!), suggestions for a small group/discussion project, optional essay questions, and activities for further research. After watching this movie, you can help your teen truly come to an understanding of the movie, to the reality of abortion, and to the fact that God can forgive anyone who asks for forgiveness.

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life

In Dream of the Rood, a lesson on the medieval poem of the same name, high school students learn about the death of Christ from the perspective of the cross. This lesson reinforces the teaching that Christ came so that we could have eternal life with Him, and it teaches students the redemptive value of suffering, as they learn to unite their suffering to His on the cross.

St. Francis inspired countless people in his lifetime and has continued to do so over the past 800 years. Let him also inspire you. Allow his teachings and the words of this prayer to permeate your thoughts, to change your actions, and to build a culture of life in your homes and communities. When we do so, we will all be that instrument of peace.