Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called
children of God— (Matthew 5:9).
Forging peace is an arduous job that can take a long time.
As we know from family squabbles, genuine peacemaking doesn—t
simply gloss over legitimate differences. If those are not
addressed, they will surface again as surely as dandelions
in the lawn. Instead, peacemaking explores areas of disagreement
and seeks common ground.
We who like a —quick fix— may discover that creating genuine
peace is a process so slow that some compare it to the building
of the medieval cathedrals. Chartres or Notre Dame took approximately
400 years, 16 generations in medieval life spans. Those who
laid the foundations never expected to see the final arches.
Yet they knew their children and grandchildren would continue
their work. In the same way, peacemakers know they may never
see the outcome, but encourage the next generation to seize
the baton they pass on.
So we look back over the centuries to Jesus our model. He
came into a country ruled brutally by Caesar, a world that
worshiped the power of the sword. Boldly, he offered two radically
different kinds of power. He told the oppressed they are God—s
children who will inherit the Kingdom. To those who can effect
change, he proposed a way of living that would make them happier
than privilege ever had.
He asked them to do what they could for overpowering need,
as he did—not run away, as we might be tempted to do. He suggested
they spend time figuring out what was bothering the difficult
child—not just ignore him. He wanted them to listen through
the family conflict—not turn away because it—s draining and
we—re busy. He told them to look at unrest and try to find
the neglect or injustice that underlies it.
But Jesus didn—t just talk about peacemaking; he lived it.
What he did in his own life is what we must do in ours. He
began by making peace within himself. Jesus had the same internal
tensions we all do. When he wanted to preach, people demanded
healing. When he wanted solitude, Peter and his companions
interrupted. When he sought time apart with his disciples,
the crowds got there before him.
Yet he never exploded in rage or self-justification. Despite
the turmoil that surged around him, he left as his legacy
a peace that the world cannot give. Jesus forged within himself
a splendid balance between meeting his own needs and relativizing
them for the sake of God—s work. He regularly took time for
prayer. But he could also be so moved by compassion for the
crowds that he set aside his original intent in order to teach
and feed them. While he roundly criticized the Pharisees,
he also guided Nicodemus, an individual member of the group.
Jesus teaches us: If you want peace in the world, begin with
yourself. We resist people who attempt leadership but carry
loaded guns in their hearts. We respect people (often, embarrassingly
like our children) who name their grievance, then forget it.
If we—re honest, we admit we could quit lugging around angry
burdens we should have left behind in high school. We also
know that the more time we spend centering and quieting ourselves
in prayer, the less we—re inclined to road rage and furious
One step towards making peace might be to find examples of
this activity that we can admire: skipping the perfect opportunity
for a put-down; struggling to understand another person—s
culture or value system; finding ways to resolve conflict
without guns; becoming more educated about those we might
initially label —enemies—; voting for candidates who seek
alternatives to military solutions.
The way Jesus proposes to us is no easier than it was in the
Roman world. Power and prestige are still enshrined; might
is revered now as it was then. We trumpet the latest missiles
and spend billions on weapons of destruction. Yet Jesus offers
an alternative: a way of living that will make us happy now
and ultimately. Beneath the sometimes-weary exterior of the
peacemaker, he points to the gleam of God—s child.
What ways have you found effective in bringing
a peaceful solution to volatile situations?
How do you quiet yourself in times of great
this month's Questions for Reflection
from "God in Our Midst."
Peace at Home
By Judith Dunlap
Being a peacemaker is just part of the job description for
parents. Squabbles over who gets the last cookie, who pushed
whom first and whose turn it is on the computer are normal
household occurrences. The secret to peace on the home front
is finding solutions that strengthen relationships.
Peace is not the opposite of conflict. It is a way of solving
disagreements without hurting each other physically or emotionally—and
certainly without resorting to violence. In their book,
Parenting for Peace and Justice, Jim and Kathy McGinnis
offer a four-step approach to bringing about peaceful solutions
in volatile situations.
They tell us that unless children are threatening or engaging
in abusive actions, stay out of the argument. Children need
to learn how to broker their own disagreements. When someone
is being hurt or threatened, however, you need to step in
and separate the youngsters. Send them to different spots
to cool down and think over the situation. After a little
time, go to each child and listen (without comment) to his
or her story. Bring the children together with the understanding
that they will have a certain amount of time to solve the
problem by themselves before you impose your own solution.
The McGinnises report that because their solutions were
almost always less tolerable than their children—s, mutual
solutions were usually found.
Learning to deal with conflict in a peaceful way is a valuable,
lifetime skill—certainly one the world is much in need of.
And by teaching our youngsters to be peacemakers we are
helping them realize their call to be children of God.
Using each of the letters in the word "peace," think
of something (a word or phrase) that might bring peace
to the world.
this month's FAMILY CORNER.
My mother would not let me read comic books as a child,
fearing they would corrupt my morals. I don—t think she
would have had a problem with Spider-Man, the Marvel
comic now on the big screen.
From the beginning Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) yearns for
the love of the beautiful and unattainable girl next door,
Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst). But when Peter the science nerd
is transformed into Spider-Man and finally wins Mary Jane—s
love, he chooses the more perfect pursuit: saving the world
With Spider-Man, computer-generated graphics merge
seamlessly with human acting to create spectacular freedom
of movement in space, allowing impossible angles and the
wonderful overstatement that we expect of comic superheroes.
In a nice modern twist, teenager Tobey Maguire is bitten
by a genetically modified spider. He wakes to experience
new physical powers ranging from superhuman strength to
incredible agility. He first uses his newfound talents to
defeat the bully who torments him at school. This is before
he discovers the spider—s talent for ejecting web filaments
that allow him to attach himself to any surface and swing
through the air.
Spider-Man—s talents mature quickly when he chases down
a burglar who has killed the uncle (Cliff Robertson) who
raised him. Peter remembers his uncle—s last words: —With
great power also comes great responsibility.— He sets out
to fight crime and right wrongs. He electrifies the press
with his rescues, but is not always seen as a benevolent
In the meantime, another biogenetic accident, with a nod
toward Frankenstein, has created a different monster. An
extremely ambitious but generally upright CEO of a military
contracting company is transformed into the Green Goblin
(Willem Dafoe). A technologically unstoppable fiend with
a one-man, fully-armed flying machine, the Green Goblin
realizes that the only challenge to his power can be Spider-Man.
He must win him to the side of evil or destroy him.
In the conflict that follows both men must make choices.
Spider-Man, discouraged by negative perceptions of him in
the press, is briefly tempted, but mostly the battle is
set for the requisite ultimate and explosive battle between
good and evil.
The Green Goblin decides that the way to defeat Spider-Man
is by attacking his heart—through the people he loves. He
seizes Mary Jane and taunts Spider-Man with a choice between
saving her or a gondola full of children he has just cut
We Americans have always loved movies that champion the
victory of good over evil, and comic book superheroes satisfy
this without the sticky gray areas of reality. In this world
there is no greater love than Spider-Man—s.
AND HEROES AMONG US
By Judy Ball
Headstrong: That—s only one way to describe the young woman
from a wealthy family in Assisi who, at age 18, quietly
stole away from the home of her parents one evening in favor
of a life of prayer and poverty. They had hoped she would
marry, but the sermons Clare had heard Francis of Assisi
preach convinced her that she, like him, was called to follow
the gospel in a radical way.
Making her way to a small chapel where Francis and others
were waiting for her, Clare cast the world aside. She exchanged
her fine clothes and jewels for a simple woolen habit. She
welcomed the sound of the scissors Francis used on her long,
golden hair. She prepared to spend the night in a nearby
convent. And when, shortly thereafter, her family and friends
found her and demanded she return home, Clare held firm.
She had chosen to embrace a new life that, in time, God
would make known to her.
Many others joined Clare in that new life—including two
of her sisters and, ultimately, her widowed mother. They
became known as the Poor Clares, women who lived lives of
poverty, prayer and austerity and in complete seclusion
from the world. Most striking, perhaps, was their emphasis
on poverty. They owned no property and relied solely on
From age 21 onward, Clare served as abbess at the convent
of San Damiano in Assisi. Though she never left its walls,
people sought her wisdom and counsel, including popes, bishops,
For the last 27 years of her life, Clare suffered many illnesses,
perhaps brought on by her many penances. She was canonized
in 1255, only two years after her death. Her feast day is
Margaret Carney, O.S.F.
Francis and Clare: In the popular mind, in written accounts
of their lives, even in movies, the two are inevitably linked—always
with Francis in the lead.
Yes, but, says Franciscan Sister Margaret Carney, 61.
—Indeed, their destinies were linked, but Clare had tremendous
personal strength and authority on her own,— Sister Margaret
told Every Day Catholic. Clare lived almost 30 years
after Francis and, in that time, —took stands to defend
the original vision she and Francis had embraced,— says
the Franciscan sister and author of Clare: The First
Franciscan Woman. For the past three years Sister Margaret
has served as director of the Franciscan Institute, based
at St. Bonaventure University.
Her interest in Clare grew slowly over the years. But as
she pursued doctoral studies on Clare and unearthed more
and more about the saint so often in the shadow of Francis,
she saw —an autonomous woman of fortitude and sanctity—
come to life. She cites Clare—s insistence that she and
her sisters live in real poverty despite pressure from two
popes to adopt the more comfortable lifestyle common in
convents of the day. Clare spelled out her Franciscan principles
in the Rule of life she wrote.
People who have read Sister Margaret—s book on Clare see
it as filling in the missing pieces about the origins of
the Franciscan family. It—s a family to which Sister Margaret,
a native of Pittsburgh, has belonged for 40 years. At the
Franciscan Institute she continues to fill in the gaps as
teacher and administrator. She also welcomes the —new voices—
of Franciscan scholars unearthing fresh insights into —the
most important woman— to emerge from the movement Francis
The following material
is available at www.AmericanCatholic.org:
of the Beatitudes," St. Anthony Messenger, March 2002
Forgotten Art of Blessing," St. Anthony Messenger, October
products can be ordered from St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan
from the School of Suffering: A Young Priest With Cancer
Teaches Us How to Live" (book)
Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount" (book) "Breaking
Open the Gospel of Matthew: The Sermon on the Mount" (book)
on the Mount" (audiocassette)
Beatitudes: Finding Where Your Treasure Is" (Catholic Update)