Welcome to Every Day Catholic! Offer your reactions to our Scripture column, "God In Our Midst." Respond to Judith Dunlap's "Family Corner" column. Critique Frank Frost's film review in "Media Watch."


Read about our Gospel call to be peacemakers.
Discuss: How do you bring peaceful solutions to volatile situations?

Read about ways to broker peace at home.
Discuss: How you spell "peace" in your household?

Read a review of "Spider-Man."
Discuss: What values did you find in the film "Spider-Man"?

Called to Be Peacemakers
By Kathy Coffey

“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.

Splendid Balance

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 outbursts.

Step by Step

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.

Kathy Coffey is the author of many books, including Hidden Women of the Gospels, Experiencing God With Your Children and God in the Moment: Making Every Day a Prayer. A retreat and workshop leader, she lives with her husband and four children in Denver.

Next: Blessed Are the Persecuted

Questions for Reflection:

•What ways have you found effective in bringing a peaceful solution to volatile situations?

• How do you quiet yourself in times of great disturbance?

Discuss this month's Questions for Reflection from "God in Our Midst."

Brokering 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.

For Family Response:

Using each of the letters in the word "peace," think of something (a word or phrase) that might bring peace to the world.

Discuss this month's FAMILY CORNER.

Media Watch
By Frank Frost

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 from evil.

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 force.

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 loose.

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.

For Media Watch:

What values did you find in the film "Spider-Man"?

Discuss Frank Frost's film review
in this month's MEDIA WATCH.

By Judy Ball

St. Clare (1193-1253)

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 contributions.

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, Francis himself.

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 August 11.

Sister 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 inspired.

The following material is available at www.AmericanCatholic.org:

"Community of the Beatitudes," St. Anthony Messenger, March 2002
"The Forgotten Art of Blessing," St. Anthony Messenger, October 2000

The following products can be ordered from St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications (1-800-488-0488):

"Lessons from the School of Suffering: A Young Priest With Cancer Teaches Us How to Live" (book)
"Jesus' Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount" (book) "Breaking Open the Gospel of Matthew: The Sermon on the Mount" (book) "Sermon on the Mount" (audiocassette)
"The Beatitudes: Finding Where Your Treasure Is" (Catholic Update)


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