Two Saturdays ago,I was involved in a weekend retreat that was inspiring, uplifting, and filled with the hope that one day, we will all actually not only get along, but be engaged with each other, and engaging...
Fr. John ("A Persistent Peace") Dear is the controversial, peaceful priest who's been arrested dozens of times in his quest for accountability from our government and others, and in his vow to be active for Peace. His call is to "Follow the God of Non-Violence, and Peace, Jesus."
I was delighted by the eclectic mix of people attending. Most were members of the Roman Catholic faith, though several noted they no longer "practice [their] faith", even though they find much to love and celebrate in Pax Christi("Peace Christ", a Catholic-based Peace & Social Justice group). Many others were attending a peace retreat for the first time, including a dear friend of mine, Diane, who I invited along to experience what I have felt myself, the past five years through Pax Christi, and the dedicated disciples of Peace this group has created.
Fr. John spoke at length about his own path--his arrests at military bases(it's important to note he supports "the warrior, not the war"), his anxiety over what he sees as a reigniting of our military-prowess(military spending, specifically on nuclear weaponry, is up, currently, under President Obama--even more so than with the former President, George W.)and his sadness over the deaths of so many innocents(all victims of war--both "us" and "them").
He quoted from poet, Edna St.Vincent Millay:
"I shall die..." and from Auden, "Death with a capital D..."
Fr. John has been greatly influenced by Thomas Merton:
"Don't place your hope in results."
And greatly influenced by his dear friend, and former roomie in jail, Fr. Daniel Berrigan:
"You are not attached to the outcome, you are attached to God." and
"Be human, be non-violent."
Fr. John reminded us:
"Be detached from the result. We commit to non-violence, and peace, because it is the right thing to do."
In other words, even if we do not see peace immediately (or even in our lifetime), searching for, and working towards peace, is the way. It's the way of Christ.
It's the way of Gandhi, the famed, peaceful Hindu who said he read Jesus'
"The Sermon on the Mount" everyday, for the last 45 years of his life.Gandhi said it was "The greatest spiritual story."
Gandhi also said "Jesus is the most active example of non-violence in the history of the world. The only people who don't know Jesus is non-violent, are Christians."
Fr. John invoked Dr. Martin Luther King, too, saying that Dr. King realized "on the night before his murder by the U.S. government", this:
"The choice is no longer violence or non-violence, it is non-violence, or non-existence."
Prescient of Dr.King, indeed, yes?
Fr. Dear asked us to begin in our own hearts.
Isn't that where all truth begins, kids?In our conscience, in our own hearts?
In Catholicism, it states "Your conscience first, then your church."
I believe Fr. John is conscience, personified.
I gained tremendous insight into what I can do, every day, to make a difference, in Peace, in my own, (tiny) life.
I will be more loyal, more attuned to those around me.
I will continue to offer help to those in true need.(we all believe we are "in need", but look around--there are always others much needier than us).
I will hear, and respond.
I will "Cultivate an interior of non-violence", as Fr.John asked.
Fr. John reminded us to watch out for the "Three D's":
Those "Three D's " have, I believe, held us Americans, and maybe others in the "West", too, in a kind of thrall:
*It's "cool" to despair--to be "dark, and edge-y".
*It's considered intellectually "superior" to doubt everything(especially God). I know, because I was what I called a "Cheerful A-theist/Non-theist for nearly 18 years, and I was, frankly, rather smug about it.
*It's still a "might-makes-right"--a domination-- mentality for many, especially here in the "West".
Our good ol' USA has flexed muscles and grasped for power in brutal ways(Central America, Africa, the Middle East, I could go on and on),but we do have the power to change not merely the perception--but the reality.
I urge you to read Fr.John Dear. Whether you are a "believer" of God or not--your belief in a peaceful, kinder, more connected world will soar, as you realize it can become a reality. We have only to ask for--and reach for--it.
Special thanks to: Joe & Mary Jean Goode, and Sr.Sally White, co-founders of PCSJ, and all the Pax Christi St. Jude members who contributed time, talent, and treasure to this outstanding event. Big hugs to Fr. Bob Cushing, who was with us that weekend, visiting from southern Georgia's St. Theresa of Lisieux.