Last week at the UMass Dartmouth campus, we dedicated the Peace Pole. This annual event is held on the International Day of Peace. This pole is to symbolize the oneness of humanity and our common wish for a world at peace. It is to remind us to think, speak and act in a spirit of peace and harmony. And it is to stand as a silent visual for peace to prevail on earth. The pole has the saying, “May Peace Prevail Throughout the World” in many different languages.
For the opening prayer of this dedication, I read the prayer widely attributed to St. Francis that is very much known to most of us. It begins, “Make me a channel of your peace.”
In preparing remarks for the dedication, I came across a story that I had read that captures the essence of the International Day of Peace and I would like to share it with you as, what I hope, will bring to the front of your minds, something that we all desire: peace.
This story is a Cherokee legend, and it is about an old Cherokee who is teaching his grandson about life.
“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil — he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good — he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you — and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
When we think of peace we generally think about stopping war. However, as the wise Cherokee grandfather identified, it is not only about that but also about our very selves. We need to first identify the inner conflict of our own lives. We need to decide which wolf we will feed and then, and only then, can we take the first steps towards dialogue with each other and ultimately reconciliation leading to peace.
It seems to me, that this is an opportune time for us all to reflect on peace and peacemakers. The second reading from St. James a few weeks back read,
“Is it not from your passions that make war?
“You covet but do not possess.
“You kill and envy, but you cannot obtain.”
You see, there is this disordered part in all of us that wants what we want, when we want it. We can be envious and selfish. We can be angry and arrogant. There is conflict on the outside because there is a war in the inside between these two wolves.
Sometimes it is difficult to think we can have any influence over the world picture. What can you or I do about a particular war or global situation such as those happening in Afghanistan or on our southern border and elsewhere? It is so much bigger than any one of us. But we can start to make a personal decision to feed the good wolf. To make the conscience decision to align ourselves with the good. Then and only then can we reach out toward peaceful dialogue with others in our personal relationships, within our families, our community and ultimately, we can even inspire others, our communities, and perhaps even our nation toward good.
Let’s recognize our need to feed the good wolf. Let’s identify relationships that are in conflict to explore ways of making peace, peace within ourselves, within each other in this community, peace with our friends and members of our family, peace within our hometowns, our state, and our nation.
And so, we pray:
May we be led from death to life, from falsehood to truth.
May we be lead from despair to hope, from fear to trust.
May we be led from hate to love, from war to peace.
And may peace fill our heart, our world, our universe. Now and forever. Amen.
Anchor columnist Frank Lucca is a deacon in the Diocese of Fall River assigned to St. Mary’s Parish in Dartmouth and a campus minister at UMass Dartmouth. He is married to his wife of 43 years, Kristine, and the father of two daughters and their husbands, and five grandsons! So blessed! Thanks to Sister Madeleine for sharing the Cherokee story.