Memorial Day — a time when our nation pauses to honor the men and women who fought in wars and even gave their lives so that others might enjoy freedom and peace. We owe them our deepest gratitude for their service and sacrifice.
We also recognize that there are many ways of working for peace. The Sisters of Charity sponsor the Barbara Ford Peacebuilding Center in Guatemala that helps people to heal from the trauma of violence and to learn ways of resolving conflicts nonviolently.
In the world religions she studied and taught, Sr. Eileen Storey (d. 2005) found a common yearning for peace and compassion, and invited others into her vision of oneness with all beings. Eileen visited Iraq several times, bringing supplies and spiritual strength, especially for children victimized by war.
Sr. Teresita Duque (d. 2019), with other Sisters and Associates of Charity, was for years an active member of Pax Christi Metro New York, a group that seeks to practice nonviolence and to witness that peace is possible.
Another peacemaker was Jean Vanier, philosopher, theologian, and humanist. Vanier, who died May 7, 2019, founded L’Arche, an international federation of communities for people with developmental disabilities and those who assist them. https://gratefulness.org/blog/farewell-to-jean-vanier/
Vanier wrote: “Community is not an ideal; it is people. It is you and I. In community we are called to love people just as they are with their wounds and their gifts, not as we would want them to be…We give dignity to each other by the way we listen to each other, in a spirit of trust and of dying to oneself so that the other may live, grow and give.”
In “real life,” communities (cities, countries, cultures, churches, families) don’t always live in a way that shows forth the unity and communion for which our Triune God longs. Today’s reading from Acts gives us a glimpse of the messiness of real life in the time of the early Christians. “There arose no little dissension and debate…” — there’s plenty to read between those lines!
Ultimately peace comes to us as a gift of the Risen Christ, who gave his life to bridge the divisions that we humans create, separating ourselves from one another and from God’s never-failing love. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.”
– Sr. Regina Bechtle
Sr. Regina, a writer, retreat leader, speaker, and spiritual director, serves as Charism Resource Director for the Sisters of Charity of New York.