August 26, 2021
In his book, The Music of Silence: A Sacred Journey Through the Hours of the Day, Brother David Steindl-Rast recalls the story of attending the ordination of Bernie (Tetsugen) Glassman Roshi as Abbot of the Riverside Zendo in New York. Zen teachers worldwide had gathered to celebrate this solemn ceremony, which was why it was so startling when someone’s wristwatch began beeping at noon in the middle of the event. As everyone glanced around to see whose it might be, the Abbot himself stepped forward and claimed it was his own watch. He said, “I have made a vow that regardless of what I am doing, I will interrupt it at noon and will think thoughts of peace.” He then invited everyone at the gathering to take a moment and do the same for a world that so desperately needed—and needs—peace.
In telling this story, Brother David goes on to explain the history of the Angelus prayer, which was intended to announce a prayer for peace, said by many Roman Catholics throughout the centuries. At noon, when the church bells used to ring, no matter where people were—working at home, in the fields, in towns—they would stop and pray peace for the world. In the monastery where Brother David lives, that practice continues with monks lifting prayers for peace at noon. Brother David continues, “I find that people are eager to help revive this custom. Now, all over the world, people are praying at high noon for peace. . . .”
If you are like me, perhaps you, too, have wondered “What can I possibly do?” in the face of the dire and disturbing news coming out of Afghanistan. Or maybe if you live as far away as I do from the Holy Land, the ongoing conflict there is nothing more than a blip on your radar, and, like me, you just shake your head. Perhaps, like me, contention over Covid and how to respond to its never-ending presence in the wake of so much division makes you feel disillusioned, if not angry, and powerless. Perhaps the radicals in any political party or religion stir up angst in you, and you feel helpless or worried or aggravated, as I often do. So when I read Brother David’s story, I realized there IS something I can do. I can accept his invitation and commit to praying for peace each day at noon–which I have begun to do.
When I stop what I am doing, around lunch time, I stand at my kitchen window and I breathe out, “Peace for my city. Peace for my state. Peace for my country. Peace for our world, the ‘peace that surpasses all understanding.’ And peace for myself.” Then I name those distinct places most in need of peace. Sometimes those places are in my own heart, so I include myself in that prayer because what we pray leads to how we act. Finally, I close with St. Francis’ well-known prayer for peace:
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’s in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born
To eternal life.
The entire prayer takes a minute or two. Admittedly, I am not perfect since accepting this invitation to peace. Sometimes I forget. But most of the time, I do remember to pray for peace, and as I do so, I imagine the invisible community across the world doing the same, in whatever ways they pray or meditate and by whatever names of God they use, making the same offering, and I feel like I have “done something,” something essential, in the presence of so much unrest. Maybe you would like to accept the invitation, too. May peace abound. May peace be with you. Blessings~ Rosemary firstname.lastname@example.org