by Rev. Louis J Cameli
People living in the Chicago metro area know about violence on a daily basis. They may be victims of violence or live in fear of violence or watch it in the news and feel helpless to do anything about this seemingly pervasive reality. Homicides, shootings, drug dealing, and gangs constitute the most dramatic and evident manifestations of violence. And news reports focus on that, but there is much more to violence than what we find in newspapers and on TV. Violence can be real and destructive, but it can also be hidden in domestic violence. Violence can steal the innocence of children and young people through playground or cyber bullying and forms of physical and sexual abuse.
The violence of road rage can kill and maim. The violence of abortion affects a woman’s body and takes her child’s life. Wars and civil unrest, often provoked by religious differences, have engulfed millions of people with deadly consequences throughout the world.
When Pope Francis summons us to be a Church of mercy and to live in the mercy of God, he seems to be directly addressing all of us who live in a world of anxiety and violence. For so many of our brothers and sisters, there seems to be no mercy and no compassion. Their lives and perhaps ours as well are lived in a perpetual shadow of violence or its threat.
So, we live in a violent world. Is there anything that I can do? Most of us feel stymied, but there are things that are within our reach, things that can make a difference and even began to bring a change for peace. What can I do? Consider some of these possibilities.
As a citizen… I can inform myself about the problem of violence. I can also inform myself about the justice system, about perpetrators, and about victims. I can inform myself about social and political options that thoughtful people are suggesting. I can expand my concern beyond my neighborhood, beyond my immediate world. I can embrace the people I don’t see but who suffer the scourge of violence. I can embrace them as brothers and sisters, because they are brothers and sisters. I can call on local, state, and national leaders to take responsibility for addressing violence and its roots. I can make them accountable. I have that power as a citizen.
I can encourage constructive conversations about violence and peace whenever I have the opportunity. I can short-circuit lamenting and hand-wringing by calling others to imagine alternatives.
As a parent…
I can talk with my children and grandchildren about violence and peace-making, and so begin to construct a future civilization of life and love. I can make a start in my own family, in the way that family members live together and relate to each other. I can teach my children about conflict resolution, about the futility of cycles of retribution, and about alternatives to the messages that bombard their lives on a daily basis. I can insist on upholding the dignity and worth of each human being created in the image and likeness of God.
As a parent…
I can talk with my children and grandchildren about violence and peace-making, and so begin to construct a future civilization of life and love. I can make a start in my own family, in the way that family members live together and relate to each other. I can teach my children about conflict resolution, about the futility of cycles of retribution, and about alternatives to the messages that bombard their lives on a daily basis. I can insist on upholding the dignity and worth of each human being created in the image and likeness of God. 2 I can pray with my children for the gift of peace in our own hearts, in our family, in our community, in our nation, and in our world.
As a believer,,,
I can pray the prayer of Saint Francis “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace” and really mean it. I can beg God to become a vehicle of God’s peace and healing in this world. And to be that instrument and vehicle of God’s peace, I pray for my own peace of heart. I can purify my own heart of the seeds of violence: anger, resentment, and prejudices. I can purify my heart by approaching the Sacrament of Penance and seeking forgiveness. I can offer prayers of intercession for the gift of peace in the world. I can invoke Christ who is our peace. I can pray through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, especially with the rosary. I can make deliberate efforts and take intentional steps to build bridges among people and to encourage the resolution of conflict and old hatreds.
As a parishioner,.,
I can support and participate in parish-based efforts to foster peace and address violence. I can organize and participate in prayer services and vigils to grieve the victims of violence and to pray with others for the gift of peace. I can keep peace-making on the agenda of my parish council, programs of adult faith formation, the parish school and religious education program, and other places where parishioners come together. I can network with other parishes, especially those that are struggling in serious ways with the problems of violence.
© 2015 by Louis J Cameli