Let Peace Be Your Quest and Aim

Fr. Adrian Burke, OSB
Thursday, April 28, 2022

"Let peace be your quest and aim." Rule of St. Benedict, Prol. 17

Many of us who entered religious life did so because, in a certain sense, we were seeking peace. Perhaps this is one reason some Benedictine communities inscribe the Latin words PAX INTRANTIBUS - peace to those entering - over the doors of their monasteries.

Most people surely want peace in their lives, but finding peace doesn't mean we won't encounter friction or trials. In his chapter on receiving new members, St. Benedict promises that there will be "hardships and difficulties" for all who engage the monastic way of life in earnest (RB 58.8). But, despite this, we all want a sense that we are on the "right road," that the life we have chosen for ourselves pleases God.

There is a certain healthy tension between pursuing a way of life that one believes will lead us to God, and our own responsibility for making it work! The tranquility we seek, the sense of peace, is not something that comes from outside us. Jesus says, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you... Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid" (Jn 14:27). The kind of peace Jesus has in mind is found in the heart. A "troubled heart" is a heart that lacks peace.

So if the heart is where peace is found, what is its cause? Just before this verse, Jesus tells his disciples He will send another Advocate - the Holy Spirit - who will teach us all we need to know. The ultimate source of our peace is God dwelling in our hearts, who promised to remain with us "until the end of the age" (Mt 28:20).

But again, there is tension between what is freely given by God, and what we must do to secure God's gift, to receive it with openness and trust. Remembering the Lord, who is always present, aids us in responding to the demands of charity (God's will) and thus establishing us in the peace that is Christ's "farewell gift" to his disciples.

In RB 4, the tools for good works, the monk is bidden to "make peace" whenever disputes break out, and to do it "before the sun goes down." (RB 4:73) To pursue peace is to "make" peace. Peace happens whenever we choose to act and speak in a way that imitates Christ. It is a choice to love and to serve - seeking reconciliation, building unity, and serving selflessly are what we do to establish peace.

When God's will and our will act together, we experience peace, even if the situation is difficult or challenging. So, no matter what you choose to do with your life as a lay person, a monk or nun, a priest or deacon, if chosen as a way to emulate Christ, and to exercise God's love with a trusting and discerning heart, you will surely find peace because wherever we find ourselves, we will find many opportunities to spend ourselves for the good of others. This is what charity is, and what Christ is all about!