Instruments of Peace

How can we become instruments of peace? Fear, anger, bluster, or revenge do not overcome violence; they feed it—whether between people or nations.

Saint Francis of Assisi knew that only love will bring peace: a fierce, gentle love that gives us the courage to face suffering, a love whose power even death cannot defeat. As Christians, we claim this to be divine love, embodied in Jesus: in his ministry, on the cross, and in the resurrection.

Opening ourselves to this fierce love through prayer, and then acting out of it—personally and in our public policies—is the only pathway to peace.

  

Finding God in His Creation

While both Clare and Francis left the world to pursue God insofar as they abandoned their status, wealth and security, never did they renounce the world for the sake of God. Rather, they realized that the created world was the world embraced by God; thus God could not be found apart from the world. The world, not the monastery, was the true cloister.

—from the book Clare of Assisi: A Heart Full of Love

Knowing My Worth

Edith Stein believed that before we can carry out our specific roles and fulfill our God-given vocations, we need to “first become a person!... Before a woman can become wife and mother in a positive way, she must first mature in her own self-possession. Although woman longs to love and receive love, she must also become strong enough to be a true gift to another.”

It seems to me that this statement is a clarion call for our times: Woman, know thyself. One biographer of Edith said it another way: “Before they can be ready to assist others, women first need to be securely anchored in their own depths.” Because the very essence of our vocation as women is self-donation, the truth is clear that we cannot give away what we do not possess. What we need to possess is an inherent and soul-deep understanding of our dignity and worth as women in the eyes of God. We are not simply speaking of a psychological acceptance, but of a spiritual maturity that blossoms and bears fruit through the contemplation of our vocation as women as an outpouring of our intimate, loving relationship with Jesus Christ.

—from the book Embracing Edith Stein: Wisdom for Women from St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Looking for the Lord

“Why are you weeping?” the angels ask her as she leans into the tomb. Mary Magdalene is not ashamed of her emotion; she is not hesitant in her answer. She is missing her Lord. No, she does not fully grasp the great theological mysteries of the passion and the resurrection that she is about to encounter. She cannot explain that she leans in to look because everything about Jesus indicated there was something greater coming on the other side of his hideous death. All she knows is that she is there because she is looking for her Lord. And that is enough to lead her straight to the Resurrected One.

—from the book Who Does He Say You Are? Women Transformed by Christ in the Gospels

Organic Simplicity and Communion with Christ

In the host of saints of the Catholic Church, there has never been one so connected to the earth, yet so joined to the Spirit. The rhythm of the seasons, the cycles of the moon, the bounty of the harvests, and the elements of wind and fire surrounded her each day. And from this organic simplicity, a huge capacity for spiritual communion with Christ was nurtured and matured like a mighty tree, the symbol of the Iroquois. Yet Saint Kateri Tekakwitha remained a gentle lily.

 

–from the book Lily of the Mohawks

A Pilgrim Prays by Walking

That is very simply what a pilgrim does: walk. And it is the way the pilgrim prays, with his or her feet. And the feet walk through dark clouds to illumination to the light that is holy action. Through dark, cloud-filled days to a hint of subtle lightening to the sun breaking through, the feet taking us where we least thought we’d go, where before we had thought darkness dwelt, and finding there instead, in bright sunlight, the broken, the poor, the marginal, those made ugly or disfigured by abuse and oppression and woundedness. We are changed simply by walking, rain or shine, toward and back from whatever shrine we had thought contained our hope and longing. We walk back toward what was there all along that we could not see.

–from the book Enter Assisi: An Invitation to Franciscan Spirituality

God’s Life-Giving Water Brought You Here

The eleventh degree of humility in the Rule of Benedict treats a situation like this quite specifically. “Do only those things sanctioned by the community,” the sixth-century document reads. Take counsel. Listen. Seek direction. While moving ahead stay close to the kind of counsel that has strengthened the community in the past. Stay close to the spiritual well whose life-giving water has brought you to this point. The value of this saying is immeasurable. It is much more than an exciting new answer, the effects of which no one knows. It is a reaffirmation of spirituality based in experience, grounded in the wisdom of the elders, and rooted in self-control.

–from the book In God's Holy Light: Wisdom from the Desert Monastics

The Wall within Our Own Hearts

Always, it seems, there is the “enemy” beyond the walls, which may be of our own making, who wants to sneak in and take over our city, appropriating as his or her own the property and goods and people within. And those of us within know and fear this threat to our lives and, in turn, wall ourselves in for protection, even though the “enemy” may already be inside our walls, may in fact reside within our own walled-in hearts.

–from the book Enter Assisi: An Invitation to Franciscan Spirituality

Leave the Judging to God

Saint Elizabeth is known as Isabel the Peacemaker, and it’s no wonder. Her intervention led to the end of a feud between her brother, the king of Aragon, and her son-in-law, the king of Castile. Elizabeth also accepted her philandering husband, King Denis of Portugal, as he was, and she raised his children born to other women. When Denis and their son Alfonso were at war with each other, she was the one who convinced them to resolve the dispute. After Denis died, Elizabeth moved to a convent she had helped found. 

It’s difficult not to take sides in family disputes. It also can be difficult in our heart of hearts to accept children from a spouse’s prior relationships in the same way we love the ones we bear. Elizabeth’s example reminds us of God’s counsel to love all, and leave the judging to him.

 

–from the book Sisterhood of Saints

The Gospel Finds a Way

Saint Junipero Serra had a vision that did not turn out as he originally conceived, after human sinfulness overwhelmed the design, as it did in the Garden of Eden. Yet the Holy Spirit succeeded, and the missions today are sacred places, alive with God’s Spirit and God’s people.

The faithful who inhabit and tend these missions can give hope to all pilgrims, that however flawed our own efforts are, the Gospel will still find a way.

–from the book Saint Junipero Serra's Camino: A Pilgrimage Guide to the California  Missions

Meeting God in the Upper Room