There’s been a lot of content here on the Konza Catholic Blog lately about searching out and finding peace. There’s a good reason for this! In times like ours, with the Coronavirus disrupting our lives and political, social, and economic injustice being brought to our feet every time we check our phones, the question of peace is on our minds, and we have to assume it is on your mind as well. The question that comes to mind for so many of us is natural: “how can I find peace?”
There is another question, though, which we as Catholics ought to be ready to ask and answer: What is peace?
For many people, this is a fairly easy question. Peace, in the popular usage, means simply the absence of conflict. It means that I am not currently having to fight battles, whether they be against physical, mental, or spiritual issues. Peace becomes a synonym of serenity, unbothered-ness.
Catholics, though, should be used to the idea that we don’t really trade in negative concepts. We do not, for example, accept the quintessentially American idea of freedom being the absence of obligations or rules imposed on our lives. Nor do we buy that love is simply the absence of hate. No, we know freedom to be freedom for, the person who is free is able to achieve what they are made for: glorifying God with all of their heart, mind, and soul. Likewise, the person who loves goes far beyond mere apathetic non-hate, they give themselves over to the people they love entirely, submitting even to death for them.
Given this principle, how can we understand peace, much less begin working toward achieving it? Let’s start with a definition.
Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is everything being put right and in harmony. It cannot be the mere absence of conflict, or it could be accomplished by the crushing of one’s enemies. To quote the great Salvadorean Saint, Archbishop Oscar Romero:
“Peace is not the product of terror or fear.
Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.
Peace is not the silent result of violent repression.
Peace is the generous,
tranquil contribution of all
to the good of all.
Peace is dynamism.
Peace is generosity.
It is right and it is duty.”
Peace, just like anything else in the Christian life, is much less a state of being than it is a demand. Thankfully, the definition provided by St. Romero provides us with action steps in the form of its qualities. Let’s take them one at a time.
First, Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all, to the good of all. This echoes the perennial teaching of the church, that what we have is not our own, it belongs to those who need it. If we hope to find peace, we must first find it in seeking it out for others. Nor can we do this simply out of obligation and be at peace. Obviously, it is better to support the poor and needy out of obligation than not at all, but even better, and where we will find true peace, is in offering our all in love, as Christ did on the cross. This goes beyond mere material generosity, though that is, of course, important. It also demands that we give our time, our talents, and our empathy to those who need it.
Second, Peace is dynamic, and it is right and duty. These two are intertwined, because people’s rights and duties can change moment to moment. Obviously, certain things never change, like a person’s right to life or care, and their duty to God, but there are many which experience the dynamism Romero mentions. For example, the rights of an infant change at their birth, in that they are now entitled to be fed in one way or another by their parents. Similarly, the duties of the parents change, as they are now obliged to feed, burp, and change the diapers of their child. This is a basic example, but it is very easy to come up with dozens of similar situations.
What does this mean, then, for those of us who wish to find true peace? First, it means work. We have to seek out God and His peace in and for others first. One of the priests here, Fr. Drew, loves to talk about the “Law of the Gift”: that our lives only make sense when they are given away, and that whatever we give away we will receive in abundance. How do we find peace? We bring it to others. That’s what God made us to do, and the peace he made us for. We can accept no substitutes.
Andy Brandt is a Senior at Kansas State. You can find him writing about Catholicism, Politics, and Justice at https://medium.com/@