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:
Beware of false peace

by Mary Cronk Farrell

(From the Nov. 11, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)

Mary Cronk Farrell As I mentioned several months ago in this column, Iíve been delving a bit into Benedictine spirituality. Learning that St. Benedict lived in a time in many ways similar to our own makes his wisdom relevant and has breathed renewed hope into my soul.

In fifth century Europe the Roman Empire, long the source of order, was disintegrating. Structures people counted on, just or not, were fractured and no one was safe, least of all the poor. One could have whatever one had the power to grab and hold.

One young man simply decided to live otherwise. Benedict of Nursia refused to accept the moral standards around him, gathered people into community, shared goods, offered refuge, outlawed slavery where he was, preserved learning, and made rules for valuing each person, and growing in relationship with each other and God. Thousands of others followed his example, and we now credit the monastic way of life with saving western civilization.

I find much in Benedictís Rule for monastic living to be relevant to family life. What has caught my attention most recently is something he calls false peace. Maybe youíve experienced this in your family from time to time. I know I have.

False peace is like those times when a child is upset, perhaps crying or sulking, and the parent snaps, ďIíve had it! Go to your room. I donít want to see you again until youíve got a smile on your face.Ē

The parent can now read the paper or whatever in quiet, but the underlying problem has not been resolved. The house may appear peaceful, but itís a false peace.

Another example Iíve experienced is when Iíve done or said something hurtful to my husband, or made him angry. ďIím sorry,Ē I say, and I want it to be over. I donít want to take the time to think very hard about what I did. I donít want to listen to how hurt he feels. Mostly, I donít want to look at my own motivations or actions because itís probably not a pretty picture. Iíd rather go on believing Iím a wonderful, loving person without any faults. If my husband accepts my quick and easy apology, his hurt and anger simmer below the surface. We may go about acting civil, maybe even loving, but itís a false peace.

The Benedictine way of being insists on transparency in relationships. Not simply being open and honest with others, but more importantly being hospitable to the truth about ourselves.

When I seek a peace that leaves me feeling safe, but never engages the roots of difference, itís a false peace. It prevents reconciliation. It stalls healing and spiritual growth.

Benedictís wisdom seems sorely needed in these current times of difficulty in our Church and nation. As the Church seeks resolution with victims of clergy sex abuse, are there space, time, and commitment to explore the roots of this wound? Are we willing to be present to the pain of the victims? Will we settle for the false peace available through courts of law?

As a nation, how will we move ahead from this yearís elections? Will we retreat into our opposing camps, intent on defending our positions at all costs? Will the divisions merely grow deeper, not even pretending to a false peace, and making healing and growth all but impossible?

Then there is our war in Iraq. Do we have the vision to work for more than a false peace there?

We are each responsible for nurturing the seeds of true peace and reconciliation. We learn this ability to be vulnerable in the company of those who love us. As parents we strive to create an atmosphere in our homes where itís safe to admit our faults and to explore differences. We carry these skills for reconciliation into the wider church and the world where they are needed desperately.

St. Benedict, pray for us.

© 2004, Mary Cronk Farrell

(Mary Cronk Farrell is a Spokane free-lance and childrenís writer. Her new children's novel, Fire in the Hole!, is available from Clarion Books.)

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