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Peace…it’s a funny thing how this lovely fruit of the Holy Spirit seems so close yet so far at times. It seems just out of our grasp most days and right when we think it’s within our reach, it slips through our fingers. It appears that the harder we try the further we are from the most highly coveted gift – the Lord’s Peace. After all, that’s why we stressed about educating ourselves as young adults and finding the highest paying job we could get without experience. That’s why we endured a job we hated for so many years so we could move up the ladder of success and finally be at Peace. That’s why we married him – to share our misery with someone and find healing and finally be at Peace. Or we married him so we could raise the family we only dreamed of and take trips and make memories and finally be at Peace. Once we were married, we worked ourselves to death inside or outside the home to make sure our family had everything they needed and finally be at Peace. We volunteer at our parishes, tithe at Mass, give to the homeless to alleviate the gnawing dis-ease in our hearts and satisfy our desire to give-back to finally be at Peace.
But somehow, Peace seems to escape us. There’s always a loved one who makes that wrong choices, a job that gives us no security, one health condition after another, and there’s always something breaking down at home, or a car that needs repair. There’s never enough money, never enough patience, never enough Peace!
Please keep in mind that, when I speak about being anxious or sad, I’m not talking about clinical depression and anxiety. When I encourage you to have peace in all circumstances, I’m not asking that we be content with extreme cases of abuse or catastrophic events. I’m referring to the everyday life situations we find ourselves in as friends, moms, daughters, sisters, aunts, and grandmothers.
How do we find the Lord’s Peace? We know prayer is the answer. It’s absolutely the answer but often a short-lived answer that lasts up until we lose our wallet, a family member’s in an accident, we get rejected by someone we love, or we get laid-off. Then no amount of prayer can settle the dis-ease in our hearts. Our prayers turn into pleading for relief from the pain and suffering. “Dear Lord, please take this cup from me!”
How many times do we get trapped in the if-only’s. If only I earned more money, I wouldn’t have to work so much. If only I could afford a housekeeper or a cook, I could spend more time with the kids, grandkids, and my husband. If only I had more time, I’d spend more time in prayer. If only that difficult person saw things from my point-of-view, we’d get along better. Instead of embracing the Will of God, the world tells us that only WE can decide what’s best for us. That somehow, we, with our little minds and limited foresight can decide what brings us to the ultimate peace and happiness. It’s in our human nature to want to design our life and fill it with worldly things only to find that we’re chasing the wind and building houses out of sand.
In any case, the fallacy of “balance” stems from our belief that Peace can be acquired from something outside ourselves. The world tells us that balance means taking time to indulge ourselves in a massage, time alone to read a good book, treat ourselves to something we love, or spend more time with the kids. These things are definitely good and necessary, but they are not the answer to attaining balance and ultimately, the Lord’s Peace.
We can’t make Peace happen. Peace is a gift from the Prince of Peace himself, our Lord Jesus Christ. All we can DO is prepare our interior dispositions to receive this beautiful grace. We are made for God.
My sisters-in-Christ, the core of every evil we will ever face starts in the same place for all of us – our tireless and relentless thoughts. The enemy starts with the same weapon – placing doubt in our hearts of God’s love and good Will for us. When we lose our Peace, it is a sign that our Faith is being attacked.
In the book, Searching For and Maintaining Peace, by Fr. Jacques Phillipe, he says that only by acquiring the Lord’s peace of heart and mind is God able to perform good works. He illustrates it this way. “Consider the surface of the lake, above which the sun is shining. If the surface of the lake is peaceful and tranquil, the sun will be reflected in the lake; and the more peaceful the lake, the more perfectly will it be reflected. If, on the contrary, the surface of the lake is agitated, undulating, then the image of the sun cannot be reflected in it.”
- Does this mean God asks us to do nothing to change our situation? Does this mean we should take on a passive role and simply not take responsibility for our lives?
Fr. Jacques Phillipe says that we should take action and do everything to resolve the conflicts in our lives, BUT only with the gentle and peaceful disposition of the Holy Spirit. Not with discouragement, dis-ease, agitation, or excessive rushing.
- Does this mean we need to become self-centered, insensitive, or indifferent to our own needs or the needs of others?
On the contrary, having true peace and total dependence on God frees us to love and be of greater service to others. This was one of Saint Teresa of Calcutta’s secret of life-long service.
So we’ve come to the questions.
- What is the necessary disposition of heart in order to attain the Lord’s peace? If peace is not inaction and laziness, then what must I DO? How do we get there?
My husband and I were late bloomers. We met in our mid-thirties, got married, had our first child when I was 36 and the other 3 in our 40’s. Having lived the single life for so long, I had a lot of time to think about the kind of man I wanted to marry, the house I wanted, the car I wanted, the trips I wanted to take, the number of children I wanted to have naturally with no anesthesia, the kind of stay-at-home mom I wanted to be, you name it, I visualized it. Of course, because I spent my younger years absorbing what the world teaches…you can be what you want to be, you can have what you want to have, and no one knows what makes you happy better than you. I clearly remember asking God to send me a man with a strong Catholic faith and prayer life. That was the most important thing to me. Having been raised in a dysfunctional home with an absent father, I knew in my heart that my path to healing had to come from God and I wanted a man who would lead our family to Jesus through prayer. But I think God looked at my list of things I wanted in life and laughed. He was like nope, nope, nope, nope, strong Catholic man – ok, nope, and nope. One thing I’ve learned is that when God says “yes” to something, He gives it abundantly. He blessed me with a man who has 4 uncles who are Catholic priests and a sister whose a nun. My husband makes it a point that we pray as a family daily and a weekly family Rosary. When we met I was whoa, Lord, I’m not that Catholic yet but I’m so grateful. I will honor and cherish this man for the rest of my life. But nothing else on my little list came to fruition and it drove me crazy. The world says I deserve what I want so why don’t I have it? As a real go-getter, I was all for going after what you want and working relentlessly to get it. To ask God what He wanted wasn’t even an option.
My brothers and sisters, one of the biggest sources of pain we experience is learning to let-go of our ideas of what life should be and embrace what God knows is best for us. Not because He doesn’t want us to experience the beauty of His Creation in this life, but because he wants us to experience the beauty of Heaven in the life hereafter. True love, true beauty, true Peace.
Sometimes we overthink and worry so much that we remove ourselves from the only place we’re ever going to find Peace – the dwelling place of the Lord called “the present moment.”
Father J.P. de Cassaude wrote in his book Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence that,
“The present moment is the manifestation of the Name of God and the coming of His Kingdom. The present moment is always the ambassador who declares the order of God. The heart always pronounces its fiat. The soul pours itself forth by all these means into its center and goal; it never stops, it travels by all winds; all routes and methods advance it equally on its journey to the high sea of the Infinite. Everything is a means and an instrument of holiness; everything without any exception. The ‘one thing necessary’ is always to be found by the soul in the present moment. There is no need to choose between prayer and silence, privacy or conversation, reading or writing, reflection or the abandonment of thought, the frequentation or avoidance of spiritual people, abundance or famine, illness or health, life or death; the ‘one-thing necessary’ is what each moment produces by God’s design. In this consists the stripping, the self-abnegation, the renunciation of the creature in order to be nothing by or for oneself, in order to remain as regards everything in God’s order at His pleasure, finding one’s only contentment in bearing the present moment, as if there were nothing else in the world to expect.”
Here are 4 ways we can prepare our hearts to receive the gift of Peace…
1 – Bring to light the subtle ways the enemy agitates you by journaling all your worries and fears in a notebook then turning them into a prayer of abandonment to Divine Providence.
I find journaling to be a tremendous tool for healing and spiritual growth and all you need is a 50 cent spiral notebook and a pen. This is what I did to help me heal from a horrifying event that caused me serious spiritual, mental and emotional trauma. Back in 2010, my husband and I were living in a Mexican border town, when 3 armed me home invaded us. I had lost my peace for a very long time but journaling helped me return my heart to God and gain a little bit of the Lord’s peace, that of which I had never known before the incident. Father Jacques Phillipe says that God doesn’t expect us to be perfectly peaceful in times of turmoil. Our efforts to trust Him more and more each time will be rewarded with the grace of His Peace. It is not necessary to resolve every problem, what’s necessary is that we open our hearts bit by bit to trust Him more and more and remain still.
Let us ask the Lord for His peace and increased trust in God because only this way can we make right decisions and see things clearly. St Ignatius of Loyola says that in the spiritual life, there are moments of peace and consolation and there are moments of struggle and desolation. We won’t always feel the Lord near us but it’s small acts of Faith, in spite of how we feel, that help us earn the grace of Peace.
2 – Establish a daily practice of mental prayer.
Saint Teresa of Ávila says:
“Mental prayer, in my opinion, is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.”
Connie Rossini, author of The QA Guide to Mental Prayer, says that, “Teresa sees two aspects to mental prayer: sharing with a friend (remembering that this Friend is far above you, but nevertheless calls you into an intimate relationship with himself); and time set aside specifically to be alone with God. The word mental signifies that this prayer comes from your own mind, rather than being written down by some-one else, as in vocal prayer. It is usually a silent prayer,but does not always have to be. When you spend time with a friend, you do not usually recite to him or her someone else’s words about friendship. When you spend time with a spouse, you don’t usually read Shakespeare’s sonnets to that person. Instead, you speak from the heart. You know you can share your deepest self with your companion, because you love one another and will not reject each other. The time you spend together draws you even closer.”
3 – Embrace little acts of mortification to slowly detach yourself from your own Will.
Father John Bartunek says in an article on SpiritualDirection.com that, “The root word for “mortification” comes from the Latin, mors and mortis, and it translates as “death.” In the spiritual life, therefore, mortification refers to voluntary actions by which we gradually “put to death” all of our vices, sinful habits, and the self-centered tendencies that lurk beneath them. Spiritual writers use terms like abnegation, sacrifice, self-sacrifice, and self-denial to refer to the same thing.
CCC #2015 says, “The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes: He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows.”
St. John of the Cross says that we must aim to have perfect detachment from created things in order to be perfectly attached to God and go to Heaven. In heaven, souls have perfect detachment, where as in hell, we have constant attachments… no exceptions, no middle ground.
4 – Practice self-abandonment to God’s Will through conscious acts of Faith.
CCC #305 Jesus asks for childlike abandonment to the providence of our
heavenly Father who takes care of his children’s smallest needs:
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What
shall we drink?”. . . Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things
shall be yours as well.”
In Father JP de Caussade’s book, Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, he says, “The will of God gives to all things a supernatural and divine value for the soul submitting to it. The duties it imposes, and those it contains, with all the matters over which it is diffused, become holy and perfect, because, being unlimited in power, everything it touches shares its divine character. But in order not to stray either to the right or to the left the soul should only attend to those inspirations which it believes it has received from God, by the fact that these inspirations do not withdraw it from the duties of its state. Those duties are the most clear manifestation of the will of God, and nothing should take their place; in them there is nothing to fear, nothing to exclude, nor anything to be chosen. The time occupied in the fulfilment of these duties is very precious and very salutary for the soul by the indubitable fact that it is spent in accomplishing this holy will. The entire virtue of all that is called holy is in its approximation to this order established by God; therefore nothing should be rejected, nothing sought after, but everything accepted that is ordained and nothing attempted contrary to the will of God.”
This is very good news but what does this mean? It means that as long we strive to fulfill our duties according to our state in life, we are living in accordance to the Will of God. This is self-abandonment to the Will of God. It is simple. We as humans, complicate things by interjecting our own wills and ideas of what we think life should be. Living in the present moment and devoting every little and seemingly insignificant action to glorify God is all that’s needed to abandon ourselves to Divine Providence. This sanctifies everything we do if we make our desire to do God’s Will first in our lives. Therefore, mopping the floor, if done for the glory of God, is just as sanctifying as going overseas as a missionary. Cooking your family meals or playing with your children is just as sanctifying as serving the poor in a half-way house.
St. Therese of Lisieux, who wanted more than anything to work as a missionary, never had the opportunity to do so, but her laying in bed, suffering for the love of Christ, writing Story of a Soul, and devoting her days and nights to prayer, sanctified her earthly life which evidently lead her Heaven. She says, “I understood that all we accomplish, however brilliant, is worth nothing without love.” And Saint Therese revealed the secret to attaining the Lord’s Peace in this life when she said, “Jesus has chosen to show me the only way which leads to the Divine Furnace of love; it is the way of childlike self-surrender, the way of a child who sleeps, afraid of nothing, in his father’s arms.”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, let us take comfort in John 16:33 “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”
Live in the present moment. “Do not be anxious about tomorrow.” Trust in God with all your heart. Don’t be tormented, God will give you what you need at the right time.
Let’s pray together as the Lord taught us…
In the name of the Father…
Our Father, who art in Heaven…
You’ll find the transcript to this episode at TheCatholicServant.com/peace and please share it with someone who may need today’s message. And, also continue to send me your prayer requests to Alexandra@TheCatholicServant.com so we can lift you up in prayer during our next family Rosary.
May you have a blessed and prayerful week.