Roundtable: Peace

Peace on Earth, St. Francis, Catholic Workers

Becoming “Instruments of Peace” are what Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin and Catholic Social Teaching are all about. Some have tried very hard to equate the word peace with the naïve flower children of the 1960′s; to paint it as impractical, implausible, the stuff that fuzzyheaded intellectuals and radicals are made of. But Jesus built His entire Gospel message around peace, and nowhere in His words or deeds did He even hint that war is actually the way of achieving it. Indeed PEACE is the stuff of the four Gospels; a constant theme of the New Testament and the ultimate goal of two thousand years

of Christian toil, vision and witness.

It’s true that Christendom has a history of having too often manipulated the Gospel teaching of Jesus and thus going to war in His name. But war is clearly incompatible with His teaching as Dorothy Day so passionately and resoundingly spent her life demonstrating. Just as Dorothy embraced voluntary poverty and lived and worked among the poor, likewise she was a determined peacemaker who stood steadfastly against war even at times when it made her very unpopular. In the spirit of the Old Testament prophets Dorothy and Peter Maurin stood up not only to civil and religious authorities but to popular sentiment as well in condemning war of all stripes and invoking Christ’s unmistakable stand for peace.

We of Dorothy Day House Youngstown must ask ourselves how our hospitality for the neighbors we dine with will translate into action on their behalf, peace in their lives and ours? To quote a critic of Christianity, our hospitality is but: “the opiate of the people” (Karl Marx), if we fail to address the root causes and systemic evils that promote poverty, racism, war and the rest of the injustices that plague humanity. Over and over and over again we have heard the moral maxim that the end does not justify the means, but we don’t believe it. We have used war time and again to try to achieve peace over the last two hundred plus years and look where we stand today.

Peace is well received so long as it is a part of a prayer or relegated to a descriptive sentiment attached to St. Francis the garden statue. But peace as a strategic plan or peace as the most powerful social force the world has ever seen; the status quo will not hear of it – too many believe they have too much to lose. As Catholic Workers we are called to not only walk with our poor brothers and sisters, but to “love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us.” Jesus said: “the last will be first and the first last”, and then He said “as often as you do it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you do it to me.” But in our world people enslaved by poverty are expendable. The victims of poverty are far and away the primary victims of war; they are by far the overwhelming percentage of “collateral damage” in most wars and they are the ones pressed into service to execute war either by the force of dictators or desperation for economic stability.

As we endeavor to embrace the example of Dorothy Day who so steadfastly aspired to follow the teaching of Jesus, we are called to be real peacemakers. The Dorothy Day House Youngstown is an opportunity for us to become Instruments of Peace in our community. We need to get to know the other peacemakers in the Mahoning Valley, and to be leaders and partners in offering a vision of peace that actually includes: “peace and not war”, as the means of building peace between and among peoples. We have a huge responsibility to carry the mantle of peace locally and to lobby long and hard for it. As Catholic Workers and as Christians we are called upon to make peace our way of life. In a society that’s become used to war and at the same time insulated from its terrible consequences, we of Dorothy Day Youngstown face a moral mandate to rattle the consciences of our fellow citizens. Our next Roundtable peace is one of several pressing justice issues we should be addressing. (Thursday, January 28th, 6:00 p.m.)