In 2001, I started to pray a Prayer for the Decade of Nonviolence, created by Mary Lou Kornacki, OSB. I prayed this prayer almost every day for ten years. If a habit forms after three weeks, this prayer became part of the fiber of my being over ten years and helped shape my conversation with God about how I am to live.
1) One line in the prayer is May my love for friend, enemy and outcast be without measure. As I prayed these words every day, I found the biggest stumbling block to be enemy, those people I don’t really like or trust or who have hurt me in some way. When I react negatively toward someone, I remind myself that God loves that person as much as God loves me. So while I can so clearly see their faults and flaws, God sees their goodness and invites me to look for that.
2) Another line is May my heart forgive without limit. When I first learned the Prayer, I was working with the Cabrini Sisters, who practice a spirituality of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Learning this spiritual practice offered me a framework for having a forgiving heart. Mother Cabrini is said to have changed hearts with Jesus so that she could love and forgive as he did. When I find myself withholding forgiveness, I try to step back, put on the heart of Jesus and then look at the person. Something changes. Everything changes (although it can take me a while before I actually integrate the changes).
3) May my needs be few and my living simple. Our culture promotes the message that we need all kinds of things that we really don’t need—the latest version of every gadget, the most up-to-date fashions, new cars—the list goes on and on. It is easy to be seduced by the marketing messages. Standing against those messages and staying clear on needs versus wants is an ongoing challenge for me.
4) May my tongue speak for those who are poor without fear of the powerful. My life’s work has been advocating on behalf of people who are marginalized and voiceless. It may look like I have no fear of the powerful, but the truth is my stomach still clenches when I read this line of the Prayer because I do fear the powerful. I also know how important it is to speak truth to power.
5) May I risk reputation, comfort and security to bring this hope to the children. When I started working with people who have disabilities thirty years ago, I was taught to ask, “Is this what I want for myself or my child?” I asked this question of human service providers, schools, stores, restaurants, etc. People who are vulnerable and do not have strong voices need others to take risks to ensure their safety and well-being. But first, I have to put myself in the position of the person who is vulnerable and look at every situation from that vantage point.
Prayer for the Decade of Nonviolence
I bow to the sacred in all creation.
May my spirit fill the world with beauty and wonder.
May my mind seek truth with humility and openness.
May my heart forgive without limit.
May my love for friend, enemy and outcast be without measure.
May my needs be few and my living simple.
May my actions bear witness to the suffering of others.
May my hands never harm a living being.
May my steps stay on the journey of justice.
May my tongue speak for those who are poor without fear of the powerful.
May my prayers rise with patient discontent until no child is hungry.
May my life’s work be a passion for peace and nonviolence.
May my soul rejoice in the present moment.
May my imagination overcome death and despair with new possibility.
And may I risk reputation, comfort and security to bring this hope to the children.