As we prepare this editorial early in the week, we do not know in what situation the United States will find itself vis-a-vis Iran by the weekend. We pray for peace, as Pope Francis recommends us to do (as you can read his message for the World Day of Peace, beginning on page two of this edition).
The pope reminds us that war is not the answer. Even if we are not at war with Iran, our service men and women are still serving in war zones in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Somalia, as well as in precarious situations in South Korea and many other places around the world. We pray for them, we pray for the innocent civilians in those lands, and we pray for our enemies, because they are our brothers and sisters and Christ wants us to be reconciled to them through Him.
Over the Christmas season, which overlapped the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, there were several hateful incidents against members of our religions. People celebrating Hanukkah in a home outside of New York City were stabbed by a man who busted into the house and several other anti-Semitic attacks occurred around the country. Protestants in Texas were shot to death during a service. Eleven Christians were killed on Christmas day in Nigeria by ISIS in retaliation for the killing of ISIS’ head by the United States. Meanwhile in northern Kenya al-Shabaab has been killing Christians traveling by bus before and after Christmas.
How do we pray for peace in a world like this? Pope Francis recommended many things to do in his New Year’s message, including approaching the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). By entering into peace with Our Lord through that Sacrament, we can become more effective in bringing peace and reconciliation to our world.
We can lack peace in many ways. St. Raymond of Penyafort, whose feast we celebrated this Tuesday, said that we should not be apprehensive when facing this situation. He wrote, “May you never be numbered among those whose house is peaceful, quiet and free from care.” We might think, “well, that doesn’t sound like a nice blessing.” But he continued, saying that we should not be among “those who live out their days in prosperity, and in the twinkling of an eye will go down to hell.”
What St. Raymond meant is that when things seem to us to be going perfectly, we forget about Christ and live self-centered lives, lives that put us at risk of our eternal Salvation. He reminded us of the need to constantly grow Spiritually: “your purity of life must be made purer still, by frequent buffetings, until you attain perfect sincerity of heart.”
St. Raymond noted that the devil attacks us “in conflicts without, fears within.” Regarding the latter, he said that “the cunning spirit [Satan] troubles the depth of your heart with guile and enticements.” The people to whom the saint was writing must have been fairly holy, since he wrote, “You have learned enough already about these kinds of warfare, or you would not have been able to enjoy peace and interior tranquility in all its beauty.” We probably are not at the Spiritual level of these folks and we need to make more progress in dealing with our interior temptations.
About external attacks, St. Raymond did not have to look far afield. He wrote, “The sword falls with double or treble force externally when, without cause being given, there breaks out from within the Church persecution in Spiritual matters, where wounds are more serious, especially when inflicted by friends.”
What St. Raymond wrote here has unfortunately been true since the beginning of the Church — because the Church is made up of human beings (i.e., sinners) Satan can tempt us to attack each other. Even in the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles we can read about conflict amongst us Christians. Even when Jesus was living with His Apostles for three years the 12 would get into petty disputes with each other.
How are we to deal with these conflicts, within the Church, within our country and all over the world? Some say that we need someone like the Emperor Constantine or General Ulysses S. Grant or General George S. Patton. We can’t comment here about what would be best for the U.S. military, but we can suggest who would be the ideal leader for us Christians to imitate — Jesus.
St. Raymond, after listing saints who willingly took up their crosses, then wrote, “Look then to Jesus, the Author and Preserver of faith: in complete sinlessness He suffered, and at the hands of those who were His own, and was numbered among the wicked. As you drink the cup of the Lord Jesus (how glorious it is!), give thanks to the Lord, the giver of all blessings. May the God of love and peace set your hearts at rest and speed you on your journey; may He meanwhile shelter you from disturbance by others in the hidden recesses of His love, until He brings you at least into that place of complete plenitude where you will repose forever in the vision of peace, in the security of trust and in the restful enjoyment of His riches.”
There’s the answer — we don’t fight with the tools of the devil, but with the tools of Christ. With His peace in our hearts, we can face any foe, as He did — praying for God’s mercy upon them, praying that God would help us to love them.