In these tense times, with wars raging in many parts of the world, and the possibility of an American attack on Iran growing larger in the public consciousness every day, we all need to practice peace in as many ways and places as possible. Like actors on the stage, we need a prompter, someone to remind us when we forget our lines what it is we can do internally, locally, and globally. We can think of no better prompter than John Dear, a Jesuit priest who was for many years the Executive Director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. He is one of our esteemed Living Spiritual Teachers and a prolific writer and speaker and protester for peace.
In Living Peace: A Spirituality of Contemplation and Action, Dear calls us to become peacemakers "within our own broken hearts and broken families, in our bloody city streets and corrupt government offices, in the war zones and refugee camps." We've picked out twelve passages from this book that can be used as "peace prompts."
1. Breathe in the Spirit of Peace
"Every morning, I take time to sit in the silence of the present moment, in the peace of God. I breathe in the spirit of peace. I return to the deep inner peace which is the heart of the spiritual life. I imagine sitting beside God. I listen for God's word of peace, that invitation to share in a life of love.
"In that intimate, sacred peace, I rediscover myself. In that moment, I reclaim my identity as a child of God."
2. Make Peace with Yourself
"Peace begins within each of us. It is a process of repeatedly showing mercy to ourselves, forgiving ourselves, befriending ourselves, accepting ourselves, and loving ourselves. As we learn to appreciate ourselves and accept God's gift of peace, we begin to radiate peace and love to others."
3. Be Energized by Other Peacemakers
"In my office, large photos of these great witnesses adorn the walls. Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King, Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton keep vigilant watch over me, urging me to persevere in the life of peace. They surround me like the communion of saints made visible.
"Sitting in the present moment, breathing in the spirit of peace, looking at these messengers, I take up again the mission of peace and nonviolence in a world of war and violence. I feel ready to radiate the spirit of peace everywhere."
4. Enter the Healing Peace of Silence
"As an act of prayer and an act of peace, I recommend that each day we step into silence. That means concretely that we shut the door to our rooms, turn off the TV and the radio and the noise around us, and feel this new quiet. In this silent solitude, we can begin to settle down and quiet the interior sounds and voices that race through our minds. As we slow down interiorly, and become quiet like our surroundings, we enter a healing peace. We close our eyes, concentrate on our gentle breathing, dwell in the spirit of peace, imagine ourselves set in the fullness of peace, and begin to incarnate that vision."
5. Listen for God's Words of Peace
"If we want to pursue that journey to peace, we need to take a few minutes each day, beginning right this very moment, entering into the silent presence of God and listening for God's gentle, loving voice.
"Close your eyes, relax, notice your breathing, center yourself, quiet your mind, feel the silence around you, let it come within you, and start listening attentively. Maybe you hear the birds outside or the breeze in the trees. Maybe you hear the rain falling on the roof. Maybe you hear your own breath. But as you listen attentively and spend quality time listening deeply, you will over time hear God speak personally to your heart. You will hear the words of peace."
6. Let Go of Your Cumbersome Baggage
"To settle in to the house of peace, we need to let go of the baggage we carry with us. The God of peace welcomes us at the door, embraces us and invites us inside where we unpack and start a whole new life. Just as solitude, silence, and listening lay the groundwork for the prayer of peace, so letting go of what we cling to enables us to enter God's house and embrace the God of peace."
7. Never Condone Violence
"We humbly go forward to do the works of peace, to not only stop our complicity in the suffering of humanity but to contribute to the world's nonviolent transformation. Despite the culture's blindness and its insistence that human life can be taken, we will never again condone violence. From now on, we will choose the life of peace."
8. Stand Up Publicly for Peace
"A life of peace includes not only the private, inner journey to peace of heart, but a lifelong, public journey to peace for all of humanity. Once we drink from the spiritual source within us, we want to share that gift with everyone. We feel compelled to spend our days offering gifts of peace to all we meet.
Peacemaking is not political like electoral campaigns or self-centered ambitions for power, but if does require that we stand up publicly."
9. Exclude No One
"As we choose to exclude others and support a culture of exclusion, we tear down the web of our common humanity, erect dividing walls and sow the seeds of war and destruction. People who embrace true peace welcome everyone."
10. Reach Out to Your Enemies
"To make peace in our world, we need to reach out to our country's enemies, see them as the sisters and brothers they are, and love and protect them as our own."
"Forgiveness is an act of faith in God, an act of hope in the future, and an act of love for our neighbors. If we dare forgive, we can trust that God will deepen within and among us the gift of peace."
12. Be Part of a Global Community of Peace
"The whole world benefits from the peace created in community. Communities touch communities that touch other communities around the world, creating a global community of peace."