A Prayer for Peace

To walk in to the Amigos de Jesús chapel yesterday between 11:00am and noon, it would have been difficult to believe it was full of some 25 teenaged boys and two girls, anywhere from 13 to 22 years old. You would have found the capilla in reverent silence, save for the church music serving as a background to the kids' meditations. The Amigos de Jesús family was answering Pope Francis' request for prayers for peace.

The capilla at Amigos is the second floor of the office building and it is open air. All four sides have a concrete rail and through it you can see the mountains in the distance and overlook the rest of the Amigos campus. The service began with Amy, our co-director, explaining what was happening in Syria; that it is locked in a civil war, that there is destruction everywhere, that the government used chemical weapons against its own people, that those who suffer the most are the children. She showed a short news clip with some images of the fighting in the streets. All the kids were rapt with attention.

Then two of the boys took turns reading the text of the Pope's message delivered last Sunday calling for peace (you can find the text in English here http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/angelus/2013/documents/papa-francesco_angelus_20130901_en.html). It was a profound moment. As I listened to the words in Spanish, sitting in this open-air chapel overlooking the beauty of the Honduran countryside, I felt the force of the Church's universality in a way I never had before. Those words redounded around the world in every type of setting, in every language.

Before the time for prayer, Amy called attention to the Pope's call for peace not only in Syria, but also around the world. Honduras, though not at war, is also not at peace, she said. We must pray for the people of Syria, and for peace in our own nation, and in our own hearts.

Everyone was invited to pray for as long as they thought fit. Then every head bowed and silence descended on the chapel while the hymns played in the background. No one stayed for less than half an hour, and when the hour was up there were still several boys at prayer. Each teenager there has suffered so much and for that hour, their prayers were with those suffering so much now.

A few hours after the service, I was hanging out with two of the boys aged about 13 and 15. We were laughing and talking, but soon it became obvious that the morning's prayer service was still on their minds. They kept asking about Syria and the situation there, why the people were fighting the government, why so many people were dying, and why there was such destruction. I found I couldn't answer most of their questions. Then one of them said that during the prayer service he was thinking, what if this hogar wasn't in Honduras, but in Syria. He said he imagined the destruction of his home, the soldiers and tanks bursting through the front gate. And he was grateful that he lived in Honduras.

Sometimes there are moments here when the spirituality, the thoughtfulness, the goodness of the kids, and by proxy the presence of God, is overwhelming. Once in a while it happens during nightly prayer circle, sometimes it's during a conversation or witnessing a moment of kindness, and sometimes it's during such spontaneous moments as a prayer hour with the home's teenaged boys - who have known war - praying for peace.