The late Cardinal Bernardin talked 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 and 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. Many people assumed that an accusation was the equivalent to being guilty.
Eventfully, Mr. Cook acknowledged that the charges were false, and the courts 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 Mr. Cook was to tell him that he, Cardinal Bernardin, harbored no ill feelings. He wanted to pray with him.
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 he 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 reflected, “As I flew back to Chicago that evening, I felt the lightness of spirit that an afternoon of grace brings to one’s life.”
Cardinal Bernadin achieved that peace within himself. The first step to peace is to be at peace within our hearts. 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 healing.
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.
We need the same openness to others in our community and nation and world. 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 break “Beloved” in two, we get: Be loved by the spirit, be loved by yourself, be loved by others. 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. Know you are the Beloved.
If everyone realized this, we would have peace in our world. An after Christmas message by Howard Thurman sums up what we should be all about.
“When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and the princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost
to heal the broken
to feed the hungry
to release the prisoner
to rebuild the nations
to bring peace among the people
to make music in the heart.”
Let us make 2020 a year of peace!
Posted on Tue, January 14, 2020
by The Lafourche Gazette