In the Season of Advent we prepare for the coming of Christ, not only as the infant to be born, but the second coming of Christ, the Prince of Peace. Let us then consider the topic of building peace and avoiding war.
O God, who have revealed
that peacemakers are to be called your children,
grant, we pray,
that we may work without ceasing to establish that justice
which alone ensures true and lasting peace.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
As Catholics, we understand that war is always a failure of peace. Pope Saint John Paul II said this in 2000 on the World Day of Peace:
“War is a defeat for humanity. Only in peace and through peace can respect for human dignity and its inalienable rights be guaranteed.”
And Pope Francis repeats such a challenge in the following video:
The Church therefore teaches that our first and primary goal should always to seek peace and that war always results in loss for everyone. But what if we fail at peace and an unjust aggressor continues to engage in violence?
Is war ever permitted? Can Catholics engage in war or are we prohibited from participating in war, even wars of self-defense?
To that question we turn to the Catechism and the “Just War Theory” which outlines the parameters and requirements for those who would engage in war to do so with justice.
Catechesis video questions
a. Have you ever taken a non-violent stand for something you believe in? What were the results? How did you feel?
b. Do you believe violence should ever be a permissible solution?
a. What types of wars are being fought in our own communities? What can we do to take a non-violent stand against racism, discrimination, bullying and other forms of war?
b. How might we work together to discourage disputes by encouraging communication?
a. Who must be protected, at all cost, against the injustices occurring within your parish community?
b. How might your parish strive to protect the rights and safety of your faith community and the global community?
Pope Saint John Paul II, a saint who lived through Nazi occupation in World War II and Soviet Control of Poland gave us an example of how to respond to the violence of unjust aggressors.
Witness video questions
a. How Did Pope St. John Paul II respond to the violence and oppression around him?
b. Have you ever considered this response as a viable option instead of violence?
a. Pope St. John Paul II lived through violent oppression throughout his youth and adult life before becoming Pope, what strikes you most about his response to this oppression?
b. What situations are similar in our world today and how might we apply JPII’s response?
a. Pope St. John Paul II advocated against war and fought for peace by organizing the faith community, in what ways can our own parish reflect this strategy in our community, nation, world?
b. How might we help develop methods of building peace similar to John Paul II?
Action steps towards world peace and end to war
a. Develop non-violent responses to challenges within your own classroom or school
b. Participate in a discussion with an elected representative advocating for alternatives to use of force and military intervention in the world
a. Practice non-violent responses to conflicts within your own life – workplace, school, social gatherings, family, etc.
b. Contact your representatives and advocate for peaceful and diplomatic solutions to conflict in our nation and around the world.
a. Develop a plan for the parish to work with individuals who may disrupt services, gatherings, or office hours because of personal challenges they are facing that respond with non-violent responses. Ex. A man with mental illness comes to services and starts yelling. What do you do?
b. As a parish collectively advocate for peace to elected officials by formulating a message on a particular issue on behalf of the parish to be presented to public officials. This could mean peace initiatives in your neighborhood, city, state, or regarding larger world conflicts.
Before we close for whom should we be praying this day/night related to peace and an end to war?
“Christ embraces all of humanity and wishes no one to be lost. “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:17). He does it without oppressing or constraining anyone to open to him the doors of heart and mind. “Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves” – Jesus Christ says – “I am among you as one who serves” (Lk 22:26-27). Every activity therefore must be distinguished by an attitude of service to persons, especially those furthest away and less known. Service is the soul of that fraternity that builds up peace.
May Mary, the Mother of Jesus, help us to understand and live every day the fraternity that springs up from the heart of her Son, so as to bring peace to each person on this our beloved earth. Amen”
(excerpt from Pope Francis’ Message for the World Day of Peace, 2014)