Peace in Time of War
We are at war. We fight against the blatantly satanic culture, an eerily unpredictable virus, and criminally corrupt religious and political potentates. And now the various factions of Catholicism, like the various factions of American government—liberals, conservatives, and trads—are fighting each other. Not with bombs and bullets, but with words. How does one cope with an endless war of comments, memes, and clicks? Fact checkers and Facebook jail? Not to mention the ever-present specter of The Virus from Hell and attempts to eradicate it and/or profit from its eradication, which are almost as bad, if not worse, than the illness itself. Where is the Peace of Christ is all of this chaos?
The Benedictine Way
Personally I hate conflict, but I’ve always been something of a zealot. Perhaps that’s why I always wanted to become a Carmelite. Besides wanting to be like Teresa and Therese, the seal and motto of the Carmelite order greatly appealed to me: “With Zeal I Have Been Zealous for the Lord God of Hosts”; the arm of Elijah raised high, sword in hand, ready to chop off the heads of the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel.
God, however, as He often does, had other plans, and I found myself a Benedictine oblate. As such, I am duty-bound to “seek peace and pursue it,” in the words of St. Benedict, who got it straight from none other than St. Peter (1 Peter 3:11) and from Psalm 33. So we have an unbroken directive from God going back all the way to King David by way of the first pope.
Might be worth considering, even if you’re not a Benedictine.
Even the Medal of Saint Benedict—you know, the one justly famous for warding off demonic influences— has the word “PAX” in all caps at the top: “peace.” And not just any peace, but the peace that “surpasseth all understanding”, in the words of St. Paul: the Peace of Jesus Christ. It surpasses the understanding because who can be peaceful when everything is falling apart and you’re getting blamed for it, you judgmental trad, you? Who can be peaceful when very your way of life is under attack from leftists and liberals and COVID, oh my?
You can, dear fellow Catholic. That’s who.
Advice from a Priest
I had been thinking about writing an essay on the topic of peace for some time. Then on Tuesday, I received a group email from Father Paul N. Check, Rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Wisconsin, regarding Cardinal Burke’s serious medical condition. If you’re like me, the sad news of His Eminence’s being ill to the point of being on a respirator due to the infernal virus, especially coming so close on the heels of Traditionis Custodes, followed last week by the Haiti earthquake and now the fall of Kabul, God help us, was a real gut-punch.
Father Check eloquently and encouragingly describes the attitude that should be adopted by the faithful in this and other stressful situations in the Church and the world. Having confidence in God and frequenting the sacraments is a sure pathway to the peace of Christ, our only hope in times of trouble (and these are troubled times, as I am sure anyone would wholeheartedly agree.) I hope he won’t mind if I borrow from his letter:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (Jn 14:27)
“Nothing falls outside of God’s providence. Nothing falls outside the reach of His grace. These are spiritual truths we know and that the Cardinal has taught us by his own example of fidelity in trust and surrender to the Good God. Confidence in these truths opens us to the peace the world cannot give or take. Were he able to speak with us now, he would tell what he has always taught us: that Our Father in Heaven is good, merciful, just, provident and sovereign; that we are His beloved children and that He will never leave us orphans; that we should not be afraid of the Cross as the way to eternal life; that the Sacraments are the most direct channels of grace and that we do the soul the greatest good by receiving Holy Communion often and by going to Confession regularly; that we should say our daily prayers; and that we should love one another as Jesus Christ has loved us: generously, even to the point of heroic sacrifice.
“And one more thing so important and so dear to His Eminence: that we should pray the Rosary frequently and fervently, and so place ourselves under the mantle of Our Lady, confident in her maternal love and intercession.”
Father Check is one-hundred-percent correct.
God Wills It for Us
The Holy Mass offers prayers for peace numerous times. Someone has probably counted the exact number, although I do not know what that number is. Let’s just say it’s a prayer of priority, asking Our Lord to grant us His peace. Dona nobis pacem. After the Resurrection, when he appeared to His apostles, He stood in their midst and said, “Peace to you. It is I, fear not.” (Luke 24:36) Some may say that this was just the standard Jewish greeting, “Shalom,” like the Arab version, “Salaam.” But I don’t think so. I think Jesus wants His children to be peaceful and trusting, like gentle lambs, like docile sheep, not like the quarreling, head-butting goats we so often resemble.
God Grant Me the Serenity to Accept the Things I Cannot Change
I get it. Most of the things one reads or hears online anymore can inflame the passions to the point we start lashing out in mean tweets, sarcastic comments, and other non-Christian behavior. We feel it’s all outside our control, and we want to be heard. Or we turn the anger inward, and find ourselves sad, anxious, and depressed.
That’s when our unhealthy addictions kick in. Satan is more than happy to assist.
One more won’t hurt.
You need this to relax so you can get your rest.
You deserve a break.
And the worst one of all: No one will know.
This is deadly poison, not only for our own mental and physical health and that of our loved ones, but for our relationship with the Lord, who desires our trusting confidence and growth in holiness. If the blogs and the videos and the news reports make you crazy, maybe it’s time to turn them off, or greatly reduce the time spent on them. If you’ve tried and tried and are still struggling, consider contacting a counselor or other mental health professional. There are good Catholic counselors in many areas, and if there aren’t any where you live, look for those who are willing to see patients online or by telephone. If you can’t afford a counselor, you might have luck joining a 12-step group (are there 12-step groups for internet addiction, I wonder? If there aren’t, there should be.). Sometimes just knowing you aren’t the only one fighting an addiction works wonders. Don’t give up.
Seek Peace and Pursue It
For the rest of us, when it all gets to be too much, rather than indulge our irascible appetites, we must bite our tongues, turn off our phones, walk away from our blistering keyboards, tell the negative chattering demons in our heads to shut the hell up, and offer up our suffering. And as a very wise monk told me in Confession recently, when someone angers and annoys you, pray for the grace to see that person (and ourselves) as Our Lady does. I’m guessing she looks on us with love, even though we make her weep.
Love your enemies. Oh Lord, even that one? How many times must I forgive? Seven times? If we spent as much time praying for our erring brothers and sisters as we do vilifying them online, things could change. Speak softly and carry your Cross. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God (Matt 5:9).
In Verdant Pastures He Gives Me Repose
Then after you’ve unplugged the internet demons, do something that has been calming to you in the past. Make a holy hour. Take a shower, take a walk. Listen to some Gregorian chant, watch a silly old movie, call a friend. Pet your dog and hug your children. Tell your spouse you love him or her. (They might be stressed out, too.) Go easy on the caffeine. Be sure to keep the Sabbath day of REST. And remember to thank God for all the good things in your life. If you can’t think of anything, start with the basics. Are you breathing? That’s something to be thankful for.
The Holy Trinity is not going to dwell for long in a heart filled with anger and resentment. It behooves us, therefore, to pray diligently for the peace of Christ, for ourselves and for others, even when it’s hard—especially when it’s hard. Offer it up for the restoration of the Church and for the recovery of our beloved Cardinal Burke. And not only for him, but for all the other cardinals, bishops, priests, and religious who so desperately need our prayers and sacrifices—both the erring and the devout. A peaceful mind thinks more clearly and rationally, and a peaceful heart loves more readily. Then we will have the victory in this hellish war against Christ and His holy Church—a war that has already been won by the Prince of Peace.
“Pray ye for the things that are for the peace of Jerusalem: and abundance for them that love thee.
Let peace be in thy strength: and abundance in thy towers.
For the sake of my brethren, and of my neighbors, I spoke peace of thee.
Because of the house of the Lord our God, I have sought good things for thee.”– Psalm 121:6-9
Official updates on Cardinal Burke’s condition can be obtained here:
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If I have erred in any statement, whether directly or by implication, in any matter pertaining to faith or morals, I humbly invite fraternal correction.