Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen began his book, Peace of Soul, by writing: “Unless souls are saved, nothing is saved. There can be no world peace unless there is soul peace.” His words explain why there is a lack of peace in this country and in the world. Many people do not have that peace of soul that can only come from faith in God. As Archbishop Sheen surmised, their lack of peace is harmful to their relationships with others. “The modern soul which cannot live with itself cannot live with its fellow men. A man who is not at peace with himself will not be at peace with his brother.” These inner conflicts extend to neighborhoods, cities, and then to other countries, causing war.
Some people search for a feeling of peace through non-Christian methods such as mindfulness and yoga. But peace is not merely a feeling but a way of life that comes through faith, prayer, love of God and one’s neighbor. In His Last Supper Discourses, Jesus told His Apostles, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” (John 14:27). The world offers a false peace – – an idea of inner peace as feeling calm and relaxed and of societal peace as not being engaged in war. Jesus offers us much more. One way He gives us peace is through the Sacrament of Penance. If a person is in a state of mortal sin, he or she will not have peace. But, if the person receives forgiveness through the sacrament, his or her soul will be restored to peace. Another way is by participating in the Sacrifice of the Mass, which gives us peace with God, ourselves, the Church, and everyone in the world. Many of the prayers at Mass are prayers for peace. In the “Gloria” we wish “peace to people of good will,” reminding us of the words of the angels who appeared to the shepherds in Bethlehem.
The Eucharistic prayers include prayers for peace; in the Agnus Dei, we ask Jesus to “grant us peace”; the priest prays for peace after the Our Father and before the sign of peace; and two of the dismissal prayers are for us to “Go in peace.” The Mass is a powerful way of bringing about peace. A Mass offered for peace can do much more for the cause of peace than any human action.
When we have peace in our relationship with God, we are able to bring His peace to others in our interactions with them. Offering peace is an aspect of evangelization. When Jesus sent the disciples out on mission, He told them, “Into whatever house you enter, first say, peace to this household. If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; and if not, it will return to you.” (Luke 10:5 –7). St. Francis of Assisi greeted people in a similar way by saying, “May the Lord give you peace” – – a greeting he said God revealed to him.
One cause of discord in our society is sin. The Catechism states: “Injustice, excessive economic or social inequality, envy, distrust, and pride raging among men and nations constantly threaten peace and cause wars.” (2317). One great injustice that threatens peace is the sin of abortion. When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she said in her speech: “The greatest destroyer of peace today is the cry of the innocent unborn child. For if a mother can murder her own child in her womb, what is left for you and for me to kill each other?” The disregard for human life is shown in the high rate of murders and violent attacks against people. There is also a lack of kindness, respect, and courtesy in people’s interactions with one another. So much of the news media encourages animosity towards others, judgment, and detraction. The entertainment media produces violent movies, television shows, video and computer games which desensitize people to violence to make it seem a normal solution to problems.
Peace is related to truth. Some conflict is unavoidable. We cannot deny Jesus or His teachings in order to avoid conflict and get along with people. We must remain faithful Catholics even if our culture or people we know are opposed to the Church. However, we can respond to opposition in true peace by praying for people who oppose the Church and practicing agape-love for others. As Jesus told us, we must love our enemies and do good to them.
Some may falsely assume that peace can only be achieved by political means. But each individual has an important role to play in peacemaking. One of Jesus’ Beatitudes is “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9) Many saints were peacemakers including St. Gregory the Great, St. Genevieve, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. John Paul II. We are all called to work for peace; first, by praying for peace, then by living in peace with everyone we know and meet, offering forgiveness, never responding to conflict with violence, and by trying to improve situations that contribute to the lack of peace, such as working to end abortion and providing assistance to the poor. We can avoid media that promotes violence conflict. We can also evangelize, which can lead people to develop the peace that comes from God.
Mary is honored as the Queen of Peace and it is her role to be an instrument of peace. We can ask her intercession for peace for our country and world, as many Catholics are currently doing. The Rosary is a powerful prayer for peace. When the Blessed Mother appeared in Fatima, she asked the three children to pray the Rosary daily for world peace. In a later apparition to Sister Lucia of Fatima, Our Lady asked her to promote the First Saturday devotion for peace, which involves attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion on the first Saturday for five consecutive months, meditating for 15 minutes on the mysteries of the Rosary, praying five decades of the Rosary, and going to confession during the eight days before or after that Saturday, with the intention of reparation to the Blessed Mother.
It may seem almost too simple to some that our prayers will bring about peace. But nothing is more powerful than prayer. There can be no peace without God, and we can be thankful that He provides a way accessible to everyone to participate in the process of peace.