Finding real peace in the face of conflict Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Thursday, Sep. 12, 2013 -- 12:00 AM

This column is the bishop's communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Dear Friends,

This past Saturday, along with so many of you I’m sure, I took up Pope Francis’ worldwide call to offer a day of prayer and of fasting for peace -- especially for peace in Syria. As I write this column, the gears are turning, and we shall see what comes in terms of action in Syria, and all of the Middle East.

There is already suffering, no doubt! The situation in Syria and all around that part of the world is terrible. But the need for peace extends far beyond the Middle East, and peace is needed at a much deeper level for all of us.

Regardless the outcome of the current deliberations with regard to Syria, our work for peace should continue. If we desire peace, we must make an examination of conscience and work for peace within our own lives first, to seek a peace that cannot be disturbed. There is more on that below.

Remembering 9/11

I cannot fail to mention that this week we come upon the anniversary of September 11, 2001, when so many Americans came to know the Prince of Peace and, we continue to pray, to reside with Him.

Of course, the violence of terrorism is intended as a direct attempt to rob a large number of people of their peace -- not only those immediately affected, but those who continue to live in fear, in terror. May the Lord continue to remove fear from our lives, replacing it with hope -- the hope that only He can bring.

Reflection on peace

Here below is the text of the reflection I offered during my Holy Hour for Peace, celebrated at St. Patrick Church (Cathedral Parish), Madison:

It’s a wonderful moment when on very short notice our Holy Father Pope Francis can marshal the world (for prayer). And even as we pray here, there are 100,000 people praying with Pope Francis, in St. Peter’s Square, for peace.

Not surprisingly, today, I am struck by three points about peace.

Understanding peace

First of all, and we all know this, peace is never simply the absence of war. The best way to understand peace is to think about Shalom, that biblical concept that we have from Jesus, with its roots in the faith of the Jewish people. Shalom — that final resting-in-the-Lord that is appropriate to the great Sabbath to be observed in heaven.

Shalom — the deepest kind of peace. It means health; it means joy; it means hope; it means charity; it means everything which is for the well-being of the human person, as God created him and her. Shalom is the highest state that any human being can ever hope to reach, and it comes to its fullness only in the great Sabbath rest of Heaven. But, we are called to do our best here to strive for Shalom.

And Shalom really means, minimally, the absence of war. That’s the very beginning. That’s a very low-grade kind of Shalom . . . and clearly we can’t even get there. How much more do we need to be open to the Lord’s grace!

People who seek to solve their disagreements by violence and war are not able to receive even the minimum of Shalom. Pope Francis said (Saturday) evening that, “violence and war are the language of death.” That’s so well put. They’re the language of death with which a culture of death here in the United States becomes very comfortable. We have become a people comfortable speaking the language of death, starting with abortion, moving up through euthanasia, physician assisted suicide. We are a nation very comfortable with using death to solve problems.

Unplanned pregnancy? Solve it through death. The elderly suffering in pain and considered, by very self-centered people, a burden? The solution is death. Political disagreements, cultural disagreements, religious disagreements? The solution is violence and war, which truly are the language of death.

Death takes us away from peace

And that’s the second point. How far violence and war, the language of death, take us from Shalom! We can’t even get to the threshold of the Shalom that the Lord wants us to have at the deepest level, so that there might be joy and solidarity in the world.

It is interesting -- and Pope Francis also made this point -- that once Adam and Eve turned against God by disobedience, the very next sin was murder, the murder of Abel by Cain. And Pope Francis said, every time we look to war and violence as solutions to problems, Cain, the killer, is born again in each one of us.

A position for holiness

And so, last point, no one gives what he doesn’t have. That’s why there is no Shalom. Nobody here is in a position to negotiate a peaceful and just end to the conflict in Syria. Nobody here is going to be in that position, but we are in the position to grow in holiness, to grow in that deepest kind of Shalom, the peace of Christ for which God made us.

Just imagine, at the beginning of Mass, the bishop is called to greet you by saying, “Shalom,” “Peace be with you!” People want to enter fully, fruitfully, and actively into the liturgy; well, the presumption is that we bring our Shalom with us when we come there. That’s the presumption. But there is no Shalom.

And it’s no wonder that the full, active, and fruitful participation in the liturgy, for which Vatican II called, has been misunderstood to be some kind of liturgical activism, sometimes bordering on a circus. It’s no wonder.

So, no one of any repute is claiming that our involvement in the war of Syria would be a just war. No one has made that claim. I couldn’t make that claim. That claim would include the truth that our involvement in Syria would be a last resort, caused by imminent danger and threat to our nation.

It’s not true that Syria constitutes an imminent, perhaps lethal threat to our nation. No one thinks that. The criterion of war as last resort is not available so that someone could justify our involvement as a just war.

But, on this day of fasting and prayer, we can all do penance. (And we can continue with this). I don’t know how widely it is known, but in fact (on Saturday) as Pope Francis led the vigil at St. Peter’s, there were a multitude of priests stationed in various places, available to hear confession. The beginning of Shalom is the Sacrament of Penance -- a step toward harmony within our life of grace.

So, when we approach the Sacrament of Penance, as Pope Francis clearly was asking people to do by offering a multitude of confessors, then we are really being true to that beautiful prayer of St. Francis, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with my own Shalom.” Shalom in my life begins under the beautiful and loving umbrella of Sacramental Confession and Absolution.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. May God bless each one of you! Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us! Praised Be Jesus Christ!