I currently serve as Pastoral Associate at a Catholic parish in Buffalo, NY, where our pastor decided to hold monthly Prayer Hours for Peace in response to the violent outbreaks in Syria, the uprising in Ferguson over Michael Brown’s death, ISIS, gang violence — to name a few.
Our November Prayer Hour for Peace offered four rounds of Scripture passages and ten-minute reflection and prayer time, followed with an excerpt from a Pax Christi USA prayer called “Just for Today.”
I read this excerpt aloud:
“Just for today, I will believe that world peace is possible. I will remember that hope is the most important gift I can give my world.”
The next Scripture verse was from Psalm 122:6-8.
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels. For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, Peace be within you.”
For the next ten minutes, I inhaled “belief….possible” and exhaled “hope most important gift.” Physically, my body relaxed, and I watched my hope flow out into my immediate surroundings. Then, from there, I watched hope travel to:
My hometown of St. Louis, as people like Brittini Gray and others work together to keep the urgent need for racial justice alive;
My 26-year-old daughter, Erin, who continues to inspire me with her endless hope, as she begins a new transition into joy;
Palestine, where Roberta Wall, a fellow believer in the power of Nonviolent Communication (a model of communication developed by Marshall Rosenberg), facilitates a workshop where Palestinians and Israelis realize the common language of universal human needs through her Steps2Peace work;
All of the people I work with in Buffalo — including VOICE Buffalo, PUSH Buffalo, OPEN Buffalo, St. Joseph University Parish, Nativity parishioners and staff — who are working to establish a restorative justice movement in the courts, schools, and in peace circle hubs.
In those ten minutes, hope became the part of the unknown that I controlled, if only for that minute, that day.
To no surprise — yet just as exciting — the more hope I released, the more I believed. Grateful, so grateful,for this ever-emerging confidence and owning of my own gifts of compassionate welcome that bring hope and peace to the world; realizing more and more that even as a young girl, even before I heard the passage, that I accepted the call in Micah 6:8: “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
And I still had five minutes to let it settle!
Each year, Advent brings me closer to all that God has planned for us. This prayer service offered me a chance to start celebrating the season of hope a little earlier than usual — and that is the kind of pre-season celebration I welcome!
Amy Vossen Vukelic, who lives in Buffalo, feels passionately that until all people can rest, she cannot rest, and communicates that often to her husband, four young adult children, and anyone else who will listen and/or act.