An old Chinese proverb says if you want peace in the world, you must have peace in the nation. If you want peace in the nation you must have peace in the community. If you want peace in the community, you must have peace in the family. If you want peace in the family, you must have peace within yourself.
The late Cardinal Bernardin talks about his search for peace in the book he wrote before he died entitled, The Gift of Peace. In it is a gripping and moving account of his meeting with Steven Cook, the young man who had accused Cardinal Bernardin of sexual abuse. It is an event best forgotten except for the extraordinary way it concluded.
In 1993, the accusation became public. Cardinal Bernardin had to live with the curiosity of the public, the constant media attention and the deep pain of experiencing his credibility and integrity questioned by many people who assumed that an accusation is the equivalent of guilt.
Then, over time, Mr. Cook acknowledged that the charges were false, and he dropped the case. The Cardinal plunged back into his busy schedule but he kept thinking about Steven Cook, his accuser, now critically ill with AIDS, living alone.
So Cardinal Bernardin did a most remarkable thing. He found Mr. Cook and invited him to meet at a seminary outside Philadelphia. Cardinal Bernardin explained that his only reason for wanting to see him was to tell him that he, Cardinal Bernardin, harbored no ill feelings. He wanted to pray with Mr. Cook.
Steven Cook accepted that invitation and said that he wanted to apologize for the hurt and embarrassment he had caused. When the meeting happened, Mr. Cook told his story, including his alienation from the church. They talked for a while. The Cardinal said what he had come to say, and gave Mr. Cook an inscribed Bible and offered to celebrate Mass.
Mr. Cook hesitated at first. Cardinal Bernardin took a 100-year-old chalice out of his case and said, “Steven, this is a gift from a man I don't even know. He asked me to use it to say Mass for you some day.”
“Please,” Steven responded tearfully, “let's celebrate Mass now.”
Afterward, Steven Cook said, “A big burden has been lifted from me today. I feel healed and very much at peace.”
Cardinal Bernardin also reflected, “As we flew back to Chicago that evening, Father Donahue and I felt the lightness of spirit that an afternoon of grace brings to one's life.”
Cardinal Bernardin achieved that peace within himself. The first step to peace is to be at peace with ourselves. What we need to do to find that peace is to let go of past hurts and deal with areas of our lives that need to be healed.
Those closest to us are often the ones we take for granted. Sometimes we fail to be sensitive to the feelings of those around us. We often send negative messages and fail to give positive re-enforcement of our love.
Sometimes we say, “I need some peace and quiet.”
What we failed to say, “I'm glad you're my child.”
We might say, “Don't ever do that again.”
Yet we failed to say, “I love you.”
We need to celebrate our differences and ask God to help us be the people he wants us to be. If we are always loving, others will see this and want what we have. If we are loving, we can share that peace.
Scripture tells us that God is love, lover and Beloved. If we remove the last letter of Beloved, we have BE LOVE. Don't seek love or lover, simply BE LOVE. Be at peace with all that is, and know you are the Beloved.
Let us make 2017 a year of peace!
Posted on Fri, January 13, 2017
by The Lafourche Gazette