make me a channel of your peace

Part of my Happiness Project for 2010 is reading more honest-to-goodness books. I was once a voracious reader, but the past seven tornadic years dwindled my reading to a few pages of Harry Potter to the boys each night, and an occasional perusal of the same back issue of O Magazine that I kept in the car for stolen moments in the passenger seat.

I realized I could now get that part of my life back, now that I don’t fall asleep at 9:15 p.m., and based on my sister’s excellent review (and personal exhortations; she handed me the paperback) I have just finished Mary Karr’s memoir Lit

It’s not a parenting book, per se– I don’t think Ms. Karr would recommend that any of us follow her gin-soaked methods of raising a toddler. But that toddler is a fine young man now, Ms. Karr is sober, and many of those wounds have been healed–including from Karr’s own childhood with her truly terrifying mother. For the guilty mother in all of us, Ms. Karr shows that there is always hope of redemption.

However, I did get one of the best pieces of parenting advice ever from Lit. Ms. Karr finds Catholicism on her path to recovery, and no one is more surprised than she upon discovering that prayer can make an immediate and marked difference in one’s life. One of Karr’s favorite prayers is the Prayer of St. Francis, which may have actually been written seven hundred years after St. Francis died, but don’t hold that against it. If you were raised Catholic, as I was, you already know it well from singing it in church. If you don’t, all you really need to know is the first line: 

Lord, make me a channel of your peace. 

Karr says in her book that she began praying that aloud whenever she felt her old fiery temper start to rise. And that, to her great surprise, it worked. 

A few hours after reading that, I was trying to get Seamus to brush his teeth while he sobbed and wailed about how “not tired” he was. I opened my mouth to yell at him, but instead, I said, “Make me a channel of your peace.”

“What you say?” Seamus asked, rubbing his eyes.

“Nothing, honey,” I answered. “I know you’re tired. I’ll help you brush your teeth really fast.”

World War Three averted.

I promise that this is not a permanent detour into the Power of Prayer as this blog’s theme. But I think this can work whether you believe in God, a Higher Power, the Universe, whatever. The next time you’re about to lose it, and there’s no Calgon to take you away, just ask for some peace– not for yourself. To give away to others. I have been very surprised to find just how much I have to give.