Reading the news and keeping a close eye on world events is of great concern at the present time. The world seems to be drawing closer to a precipice, beyond which is catastrophe. Needless to say, this is of great concern to everyone, as the potential consequences of any war would affect the whole world. At this point in the history of the human race, peace seems like a fragile flower, blowing in a strong wind.
Pope St John Paul II astutely noted that ‘peace is not just the absence of war.. peace must be constructed patiently and with unshakeable faith’. He also noted the risk of complacency and gave us a stark warning –
“With the persistence of tensions and conflicts in various parts of the world, the international community must never forget what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as a warning and in incentive to develop truly effective and peaceful means of settling tensions and disputes. Fifty years after the Second World War, the leaders of nations cannot become complacent but rather should renew their commitment to disarmament and to the banishment of all nuclear weapons.”
And our present Holy Father, Pope Francis has commented often on the ‘piecemeal nature of war’, seeming to echo those words of the great Polish Pope.
Giving concrete form to his thinking, Pope Francis said this –
“We are living in a time of many wars. The call for peace must be shouted. Peace sometimes gives the impression of being quiet, but it is never quiet. Peace is always proactive and dynamic..
War is the suicide of humanity because it kills the heart and it kills love.. May the Lord give us the grace to say: ‘War is finished…War is finished in my heart; war is finished in my family; war is finished in my neighbourhood; war is finished in my workplace; war is finished in the world’. In this way shall the dove, rainbow, and Covenant be strengthened.”
At the World Day of Peace in 2006, Pope Benedict wrote that –
“Peace is an irrepressible yearning present in the heart of each person, regardless of his or her particular cultural identity. Consequently, everyone should feel committed to service of this great good.. All people are members of one and the same family.”
Moving on from the philosophical to the practical, in the same letter Pope Benedict wrote –
“In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims. The truth of peace requires that all —whether those governments which openly or secretly possess nuclear arms, or those planning to acquire them— agree to change their course by clear and firm decisions, and strive for a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament. The resources which would be saved could then be employed in projects of development capable of benefiting all their people, especially the poor.”
Knowing all of this, then, what precisely can we do to achieve and to maintain peace in the world?
Perhaps the first step is to realise that peace is a gift from God, rather than being something we achieve ourselves; ‘peace’ and ‘the absence of war’ are not the same. As a gift, peace is freely given – but it is something we must ask for, and ask for continually, with persistence and with faith that it will indeed be given to us by the Lord.
The second step is less easy, both at the intellectual and the affective levels. It is the realisation that sometimes, for reasons we may not know or understand, the Lord in His wisdom allows war to occur.
At Her third appearance, in July 1917, Our Lady of Fatima touched on this when She said –
“The war is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out in the pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that He is about to punish the world for it’s crimes, by means of war, famine and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.. If My requests are heeded, Russia will be converted and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church, The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated. In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph.”
And so in this sense, war is a temporal effect of sin. Brought about by the actions and the negligences of mankind, it is permitted by God. This takes war out of the purely human realm and into the spiritual realm.
This brings us onto the third step. War is conditional. We have the ability, by the grace of God, to affect the occurrence and the severity of war. How do we do this? By turning back to the Lord and listening to the advice of His Mother – echoing here at Fatima the same message She gives in the Gospel of Saint Luke – ‘Do whatever He tells you’. We have God-given free will and may exercise it as we choose – but we must understand that choices bring consequences; and war is an effect of humanity making the wrong choices, choices which lead away from the Lord rather than toward Him. This applies to individual persons, to families, to communities, to nations and to the whole world.
The fourth step takes a lot of practice and perseverance but bears great rewards. It is the path of humility, walked in prayer and sacrifice. The Rosary is the best way of walking this path, for it is the one asked for by the Blessed Virgin over and over again. In the prayer of the Rosary, prayed well, and with confidence and perseverance, we can obtain everything.
This fourth step will quickly lead to a fifth. That fifth step is the state of perfect TRUST in the Merciful Lord. Regardless of what the future brings, be it peace or war or anything else, we rest secure in the knowledge that all things are in the hands of the Lord, Who loves us with an infinite love, and Who desires our eternal salvation – the unending joy of being in His presence in Heaven. The world is fleeting; eternity is forever.
That does not mean, of course, that we simply sit around and wait, doing nothing in the meantime. Faith requires action, for it is lived out in deeds. At the national and global levels, we may feel powerless – but that is an illusion, for we can always pray even when we can do nothing else. And our prayer moves the Heart of the Lord and obtains His mercy and His grace and His peace – for individuals, for nations, and for the entire human family.
May Our Blessed Lady, the Queen of Peace, hear and answer our prayers and obtain for us from Her Divine Son, His own gift of peace.