Carmelite Ponderings: Thérèse and Peace
Sr. Rosmarie Cameron, O.C.D.
Since this issue of the Apostolate of the Little Flower is taking a special glance at how St. Thérèse influences not just Carmelites, but a great variety of people, I wanted to explore how she views and experiences something we all are thinking about right now: peace. When I searched for a definition for the word "peace" I could only find it to be a matter of keeping laws, the state of not being at war, being silent, still, and calm. While all of this is true, experience seems to give much more to this definition. Our sister, St. Thérèse, found it to be so.
Quickly scanning through her autobiography, I saw that struggle, sorrow, tested patience, and tears were usually what preceded Thérèse's awareness, of peace. It was not in the absence of difficulty and pain but in the midst of conflict that she nurtured peace within her. It was not that heartache, pain, disappointment, and loneliness were the source of her peace, but that through it all her peace was tried and strengthened. How did that happen? She says she found it in God's Will. Whatever touched her life was there because God allowed it to be there. Though God was not the cause of the problems in her life, He allowed them for a reason. She saw this as His Will, knowing that God's Will is inseparable from His Love. Accepting and co-operating with the Divine Will was her source of peace and an experience of Divine Love. Even though the pain remained, she found stability, hope, and comfort. God held her. Thérèse certainly also found peace in joyful moments. She even mentions that her deepest joys were usually not experienced with exuberance, but with deep peace. When the focal point of her attention was "God at work in her life," then every circumstance could be reconciled in peace.
How does this apply to our world's situation at present? It is hard to make any sense out of all the pros and cons of international debate. World leaders need the light of the Holy Spirit and the confidence to trust He will guide and protect them. He will lead them to the proper solutions. They need our prayers to accompany them. They need us to offer our dependence, trust and hope to God on their behalf. Here is where we are all given a task to fulfill in making peace a central part of our world. Pope John Paul II, in his Angelus message on Ash Wednesday this year, said: "peace is not possible without conversion." Conversion happens within each person first, and then it spreads to the world. This is an active striving to do what God asks of us rather than having one's own personal agenda the center of one"s striving. Perhaps we could make an inventory of our inner closets. Is not our deepest sense of peace found and lived most when we do what we are asked? It is a generous heart that can accept what is and let go of personal advantage. Conflict comes when we search for a way to get our own way and when we fight others, trying to be in control, angry that we feel controlled. God's law and love require our defense of truth, freedom, and human dignity, but in doing so we must never forget that others deserve the same as we personally do. As wrong as it is to be abused, it is just as wrong to abuse, no matter how angry or stressed we find ourselves. This does not mean a complete non-confrontation with what we know to be wrong. It means facing and dealing with the wrong, as did Jesus, to the point of giving our lives that others may live. Peace flows when, gazing at the God of all peace, one can bend the inner will and heart to accept personal responsibilities, and the realities that surround life. St. Thérèse, pray for us all, and stand beside us. May God be peace for all, and lead all into that peace which is Himself in every circumstance of life. If we begin with Him within our own hearts, there is hope it may spread into the heart of our world.