Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Everyday Grace: Weaving peace

by Mary Cronk Farrell

(From the April 10, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

Operation Iraqi Freedom rates as simply the latest and largest instance of violence in our times. Evidence of our culture of death is everywhere. Tens of thousands of children suffer malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa. Texas executes its 300th prisoner since re-instituting the death penalty. Gunfire erupts in schools across the nation and in Europe. A woman runs over her cheating husband with their SUV. Parents throw punches on the sidelines at their children’s soccer games. Teenagers burn themselves with cigarettes and make knife cuts in their own bodies.

Self-mutilation among teens is no longer shocking to people working with them on a regular basis. “We freak a lot less,” a counselor told me. “Handling it is part of the normal routine.”

Thinking even a short time about these issues overwhelms me. I’m tempted to just ignore them for fear of despair. Faith calls me away from those two extremes and offers a way of living that is aware of the reality of violence, yet not numb or acquiescing. This is the path of love.

Jesus taught us that love is the strongest of all forces. Even the mighty Roman Empire with its legions of soldiers could not match the power of love. Jesus preached forgiveness and loving one’s enemies. His message so threatened those in power that they hung him on a cross to die.

God gives us the grace to live love in our daily lives. Our acts of love, no matter how small, contribute to peace and defend against violence.

My friend Meghan indulges her curiosity about other cultures by experimenting in art. On a trip to the Middle East she bought colored skeins of wool that she’s weaving into a tapestry. As she works, verses of Sufi poetry in Arabic script take shape and she meditates on the wisdom of Poet Rabi’a al-Adawiyya (717-801CE), one of the major saints of Islam. One day she weaves the images of the city where Rabi’a lived. Not until the next morning does she know that as her fingers wove together the mud homes of Basra, the city itself was torn apart by military fire.

Coincidence? Threads of wool cannot withstand war, but the work of weaving together creates a strength that is able to rise up and thrive despite forces that tear down. This weaving can be as simple as lighting a candle and calling our children to prayer. It can be the decision to be first to apologize after a disagreement. Or maybe it’s recognizing how we like to wield power in our relationships. I know my tendency to want the last word.

Recently I reminded my nine-year-old, “It’s time to practice the piano.”

“No,” he answered, his chin thrust up, his eyes blazing.

I stared, taken aback by his defiance. I wanted to shout at him, “How dare you say ‘No’ to me. March right to that piano and start playing.” But as I looked into his face, I knew I would not win this argument. I took a deep breath.

“Okay, what’s your plan?” I asked.

“What do you mean, my plan?” he said. I could see his posture begin to relax.

“Your plan for practicing the piano.”

“I don’t have one,” he said, and I let it go.

Part of me argued that I was not upholding my God-given authority over this disobedient child. But I chose to practice peace, to try and work out our differences without resorting to power plays. He did not practice piano that day. But the next morning, right after breakfast he sat down at the piano before I could say a word. A thread had been strengthened in the relationship my son and I are weaving together.

Small acts of peace may seem insignificant, even foolish, in the face of the overwhelming violence of our world today. We must remember the power of love as practiced by Jesus. The cross, though foolishness to many, is the wisdom of God.

© 2003, Mary Cronk Farrell

(Mary Cronk Farrell is a Spokane free-lance journalist and children’s writer.)

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