Praying For Peace

In light of the troubling news stories about violence here and in other parts of the country, I was particularly moved by the liturgies on the weekend of July 10. I finished my Sunday duties at St. Peter’s and prepared for the family events that would occupy the rest of my day. I reflected on the words from Ephesians 6 as I drove to meet my wife, daughter and granddaughter for lunch:

“For our struggle is not with flesh and blood, but with the principalities, with the powers, with world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens…”

 I made a conscious decision to wear my clerical garb for most of that Sunday. Seeing a priest or deacon in clerical attire typically evokes a response in people, and I have decided I need to be more deliberate about doing this in public. I entered the grocery store to pick up a few things for our evening meal. There in aisle 4, the Global Foods section, I encountered three young men, who recently came to Minnesota from the country of Ghana. They greeted me warmly, we exchanged a few words and I was on my way.

A few minutes later in aisle 12, I encountered one of the men. He approached me and asked what church I belonged to, if it was Catholic and where it was located. I told him about St. Peter’s and gave him my business card. We introduced ourselves, and I offered him a blessing. So there in aisle 12, I laid hands on this man from a world away and blessed him. I was reminded again of how beautifully our Lord orchestrates the people and situations in our lives.

The food I purchased for that evening was for a special meal with an honored guest. We met Ferome several years ago when he and Anne were paired up as behavioral specialists in a north Minneapolis school. The image of the two of them working the halls always makes me laugh. Ferome is about twice the size of Anne in both height and girth. He is a former gang member turned gang reformer, and Anne is a teacher with a passion for helping kids in crisis.

Ferome arrived for dinner after attending the wake for a two year old child, the latest casualty in the violence on the streets. He comforted the grieving family, said a prayer for the precious child who died, and then made his way to our house for dinner. Over the course of the next two hours, Ferome shared stories of his work with young men in the gangs of Minneapolis. He is a warrior of sorts who long ago laid down his weapons in favor of a gentle but firm hand for young men who have wandered.

“Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.”

 After years of gang life and crime, Ferome gave his life to Christ. He will proudly raise his shirt to show any interested person the 13 bullet holes that are evidence of the life he left behind. He spent some of his youth and young adult years in prison. Now he walks the streets of north Minneapolis. His calling card is the respect he has earned by “walking the walk” and living up to his word with the young men he is trying to rescue from the gangs.   He is regularly called upon to mediate violent encounters between rival gangs.

I gave him blessed salt and blessed oil to add to his arsenal for the spiritual battle. He smiled and thanked me.   I then placed my stole over his shoulders, as I prayed over him. After each intercession I prayed for him and those he is trying to help, His strong voice echoed an “Amen.” I felt the presence of holiness as I prayed over him. I felt honored and blessed to be able to bless him and to pray for the protection he needs to do the work he does in the streets.

I am blessed to know Ferome. Whenever I am in his presence, I feel the depth of his commitment to help those who have gone to the gangs. I feel the depth of his love for his brothers and sisters, and for his community. I also feel his pain. He carries the pain of those who have been lost in the battle and those he is desperately trying to save.

My prayer is that each of us would commit to pray for peace in our hearts, our homes, our community and our world. Peace is a gift that we must not take for granted.   May God’s peace come into our hearts and shine through our words and actions to others.

May God bless you with His peace!

Deacon Tim

 

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