Monday, November 17, 2014

Peace and All Good

The Meeting of St. Francis and the Sultan
Once there was a war and two armies came together in battle. They fought from the time the sun came up in the east till it set in the west. When the day was at a close, only two warriors remained, surrounded by their dead comrades covered in the blood and gore of war.

They stood facing each other, so exhausted from death that they could barely move. Finally one said, “Let us rest until dawn and then finish this fight and only one will go home.” The other warrior agreed.

And so they took off their dented helmets and unstrapped their shields and sheathed their swords. They lay down among their fallen comrades only a few feet apart from each other. But they were so weary that they could not sleep. It was the weariness that comes with too much killing. Finally one turned to the other and spoke.

“I have a son at home in my village and he plays with a wooden sword. Someday he wants to grow up and be like me.”

The other man listened and finally replied, “I have a daughter at home and when I look into her eyes I see the youth of my wife.”

The two men started to tell each other stories. Stories of their families, their villages, their neighbors, the old stories that they learned at their grandparents’ knees when they were young. All night long they told stories till the sun started to creep to life in the east.

Slowly they stood and put on their helmets. They buckled on their shields and drew their swords. They looked deep into each others’ eyes and slowly sheathed their swords and walked away, each to his own home.

This story is called, "The Two Warriors" by Dan Keding and highlights a fundamental understanding of promoting peace for Franciscan.  Peace comes through relationships of mutuality based on justice (Read: Promoting Justice) . As Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara we are dedicated to promoting peace.  What is the scriptural understanding of peace?

The Hebrew word for "peace," shalom, is a blessing of God that provides wholeness, balance, completeness, health and happiness (Lev 26:6). Peace also means the absence of hostilities and war (Josh 10:1-4; Rev 6:4).  This is the salvation that Franciscan friars ask and desire for all people:  "May the Lord give your peace."  This would become Francis' greeting and his desire for all, "Peace and All Good."

If you are interested in our way of life you'll need to test your abilities and clarify your desires to serve the poor and marginalized by promoting peace.  You'll need to start by searching out opportunities to promote peace and learn about non-violent engagement.  To learn more about nonviolence visit Pace e Bene a peace ministry founded by Louie Vitale, OFM a Franciscan friar of the Province of Saint Barbara.

As you volunteer or work in this field you'll again need to become aware of the movements of consolation and desolation before, during, and after engaging in the works of peace. As you reflect on your experience you'll ask:  Did I experience desolation?  Did I feel weary, dry and dissatisfied?  Did I feel consolation?  Did I feel cheerful and satisfied?  Was I able to engage in these activities with a joyful and generous heart?  These two movements well help reveal the movement of the Holy Spirit in your discernment process.  Read the blog post "Consolation and Desolation" for more information on using this discernment tool.

Next, take your experiences and engage in theological reflection.  Theological reflection is an essential ingredient in the process of spiritual discernment.  It holds the possibility of discerning God's presence and/or direction.  It's the process of standing before your experience 'open' to what may or may not be revealed through the lens of faith.  Read the blog post "Theological Reflection" for more information on using this discernment tool.

Next, share you experiences with your spiritual director and/or vocation director.  This person will listen to your story with an ear for the movement of the Holy, of the Divine.  They will also help you discern between your voice, the world (family, culture, and society) and God's voice within your experiences and theological reflection.  Read the blog post "Spiritual Direction" for more information on using this discernment tool.

Lastly, remember to be nourished by the Word and the Eucharist at Mass in order to be sent forth in mission to love and serve the Lord.  Read the blog post "Freely You Have Received, Freely Give" for more information on why Mass is important for discernment.

At this stage in the journey you are trying to put on the "habit" of serving the poor and marginalized by living in and promoting peace and non-violent engagement.  You're trying to see if you have the abilities and the desire to work for peace as a religious brother or priest.  This work is not easy, but it's the love of God that sustains and nourishes us in this work.

Peace and all good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM

Listen to this Radio Pod Cast:  St. Francis and the Sultan
In 1219, St. Francis went to Egypt in an attempt to convert the Sultan. This radio podcast explores some aspects of this encounter and how the meeting of St. Francis and the Sultan can serve as a model of peace and brotherhood. 

Personal Reflection:
To begin the discernment process you'll need to reflect upon your abilities, talents, and experiences.  Then you'll ask, "Can these gifts be used in the mission of the Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara to promote peace for the poor and marginalized?"  How have you or will you promote peace in your community?

Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
1500 34th Ave
Oakland, CA 93105
Phone:  (408) 903-3422

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