July 29, 2005

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Peace revisited: pieces of the peace puzzle

A friend once noted how the subject of peace made its way so often into my writing. She hoped that at some point I would find that elusive peace. This took me aback! Could my friend be right? Had I not found peace?

Actually, I think I was born to be a pacifist, but I only see that now through hindsight. While rearing three daughters, whenever they asked what I wanted for special gift occasions, my answer was the predictable “peace.” “Oh, Mom!” they would say in exasperated tones.

I reminisced about such moments after Sunday Mass in our parish over the Fourth of July weekend because Father Thomas Murphy’s homily was about peace. What I most remember is his statement that peace is not necessarily the absence of stress; but if we harbor peace within us, we can better deal with stress.

While speaking, he and the congregation were put to a test. Small children in various areas of the church cried or acted out loudly—so much so that we all lost concentration. However, he handled this with his usual good-natured patience and humor, also noting there are no babies in the seminaries where new priests are trained. Perhaps there should be.

Father was so gracious that surely even the parents of the disruptive children could take no offense! However, what struck me most was how unruffled—how much at peace—Father Murphy was during this brief interlude in the homily. I also noticed how the peace and unity of the Mass was not disturbed one iota. As he said, peace is not the absence of stress. It is the ability to remain peaceful despite stress.

I realized this best in the early 1980s. During a time of challenging personal turmoil, I began attending Quaker worship-meetings in addition to practicing my Catholic faith. I felt strongly led by the Holy Spirit to do this. In fact, I became a better, stronger Catholic because of my Quaker experiences.

The first time I attended an evening of unprogrammed Quaker worship—an hour of silent prayer and meditation—everything felt so right. At one point, however, I noticed through windows that the sun was setting. I had to leave, but knew that doing so would disturb others. Finally, I stood and quietly said to the seated circle of worshipers: “May the peace of the Lord be with you all.” To my surprise, everyone stirred and rose too. I apologized for disrupting their prayer. Actually, the hour was over: God’s timing was perfect.

Achieving peace need not be puzzling. Through God’s grace, peace is what we carry within our souls no matter what we do or where we go. We are pieces of the peace puzzle.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


Local site Links: