Peace be with you
The pole had four sides, with each side displaying an inscription about peace. The expressions of peace moved from the general to the specific:
Peace on Earth
Peace for our Nation
Peace within our Church
Peace in our Hearts
As I contemplated that simple yet beautiful peace pole, I realized that peace is something we all long for, and yet can seem so unattainable. St. Augustine captured the unreachable nature of peace when he said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O Lord.” Even though peace may be elusive, we know the source of true peace. It is therefore with great faith and hope that we as a Church never stop seeking it through Mary, the Queen of Peace, and her son de ella, Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
As we begin 2023, we remember that St. Paul VI in 1967 established the World Day of Peace to be celebrated on January 1, which is also the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. In 1972, Pope Paul VI coined his famous phrase, "If you want peace, work for justice."
Popes since then have carried on this tradition of issuing messages of peace on this day, with their communications usually associated with the social doctrine of the Church. Hence, Popes have made declarations on January 1 regarding the United Nations, human rights, the right to life, economic development, international diplomacy, wars, peace in the Holy Land, globalization, terrorism, etc.
For 2023, Pope Francis writes about our current global condition, as we cope with the long-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the impact of the war in Ukraine. He stresses the need for an all-inclusive approach to peace: “We can no longer think exclusively of carving out space for our personal or national interests; instead, we must think in terms of the common good, recognizing that we belong to a greater community, and opening our minds and hearts to universal human fraternity. We cannot continue to focus simply on preserving ourselves; rather, the time has come for all of us to endeavour to heal our society and our planet, to lay the foundations for a more just and peaceful world, and to commit ourselves seriously to pursuing a good that is truly common.”
Peace is not just something that we should all work for; it is also something we should constantly be praying for. The next time you are at Mass, I invite you to listen to just how many times the word “peace” is used. Specifically in the Communion rite, immediately after the “Our Father,” the priest prays that the peace of Christ will fill our hearts, our families, our Church, our communities, and our world as we extend a sign of peace to those around us . These prayers explicitly follow Jesus' message throughout the Gospels, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don't let your hearts be troubled, and don't let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
As we begin this new year, I urge you to pray for peace every Sunday when you attend Mass, and to also try to do so daily. If we get into the habit of praying for peace each day, it becomes even more important to disconnect from the noise and busyness of our world and intentionally to find a “peaceful” place to reflect and contemplate.
During this initial year of the National Eucharistic Revival, I encourage you to take some time before the eucharistic Lord in adoration. It is a beautiful and powerful way to connect our minds, hearts and souls to the peace of Christ. Another possibility is to find a consistent, quiet spot in your home or a sacred space to sit, be still and pray. It is in these serene moments that the Holy Spirit may gently whisper into our ears the ways that God may want us to be an instrument of peace.
As a people of peace, let's begin this new year by praying for and working for peace on Earth, peace for our nation, peace within our Church, peace in our hearts and wherever it is needed most. For ultimately, at the very end of every Catholic Mass throughout the world, we are mandated to “go in peace.” And to that, we boldly affirm by responding, “Thanks be to God!”