TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Peace and Non-violence

Once again, I come to the end and beginning of a week, realising that it is November and that this message will go out on Tuesday 1 November, All Saints Day which will be followed by the Feast of All Souls.

Over the weekend I was on retreat with people who are interested in ministering with young people in our diocese. This retreat was led by Christian Brother, Damien Price. It was a great experience with the small number who gathered delving into what it might look like to connect with young people. This is what Damien has committed his life’s work to, and his natural ability to tell stories and to connect those stories with his own authenticity and our scripture and tradition is awesome. We have been left with much to ponder and create.

On this feast of All Saints, I invite you to take some time out to contemplate the saints who have surrounded you and formed you, along your long or short life. This is what we are graced to do each day, to be saints for and to each other. God comes to us as people dressed up in the ordinariness of our lives. One of the key themes from Br Damien was ‘to come as guest’, to those we encounter. He spoke about the big ‘E’ of Eucharist and all the little ‘e’s’ that are a consequence of the big ‘E’. There is a mutuality between both the big and little ‘e’s’. Through this special month of November, I invite you to consider who is guest for you and who are you guest for.

Another learning for me was that Jesus went to both Temple and Torah before moving to the margins, to then return to Temple and Torah. I believe we are called to community and Eucharist, to be nourished for the busyness of our week. We are sent out with the words:

Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.


Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.

Amazingly, in all of this I was struck by a dream I had over the weekend, and my continual call, since I was very young, to be a person of nonviolence and peace. Interestingly, this is what Fr Richard Rohr was reflecting upon in his Daily Meditations for the past week.

On Saturday 29 October he wrote:

Franciscan peacemakers Rosemary Lynch and Alain Richard have identified ten “commandments” for those seeking to live a spiritual life of nonviolence. They call it “The Decalogue for a Spirituality of Nonviolence”[1]:

Active nonviolence calls us:

  1. To learn to recognise and respect “the sacred” in every person, including in ourselves, and in every piece of Creation.
  2. To accept oneself deeply, “who I am”, with all my gifts and richness, with all my limitations, errors, failings and weaknesses, and to realise that I am accepted by God.
  3. To recognise that what I resent, and perhaps even detest, in another, comes from my difficulty in admitting that this same reality lives also in me.
  4. To renounce dualism, the “we-they” mentality (Manicheism). This divides us into “good people/bad people” and allows us to demonise the adversary. It is the root of authoritarian and exclusivist behaviour. It generates racism and makes possible conflicts and wars.
  5. To face fear and to deal with it not mainly with courage but with love.
  6. To understand and accept that the New Creation, the building up of the Beloved Community is always carried forward with others. It is never a “solo act.”
  7. To see ourselves as a part of the whole creation to which we foster a relationship of love, not of mastery, remembering that the destruction of our planet is a profoundly spiritual problem, not simply a scientific or technological one. We are one.
  8. To be ready to suffer, perhaps even with joy, if we believe this will help liberate the Divine in others. This includes the acceptance of our place and moment in history with its trauma, with its ambiguities.
  9. To be capable of celebration, of joy, when the presence of God has been accepted, and when it has not been, to help discover and recognise this fact.
  10. To slow down, to be patient, planting the seeds of love and forgiveness in our own hearts and in the hearts of those around us. Slowly we will grow in love, compassion and the capacity to forgive.

I share with you one of Martin Luther King’s principles of nonviolence:

There is a moral power in voluntarily suffering for others. We call it the “myth of redemptive suffering,” whereas almost all of history is based on the opposite, the “myth of redemptive violence.” The lie that almost everybody believes is that suffering can be stopped by increasing the opponent’s suffering. It works only in the short run. In the long run, that suffering is still out there and will somehow have to work its way out in the next generation or through the lives of the victims. A willingness to bear the pain has the power to transform and absorb the evil in the opponent, the nonviolent resister, and even the spectator. This is precisely what Jesus was doing on the cross. It changes all involved, and at least forces the powers that be to “show their true colours” publicly. And yes, the nonviolent resister is also changed through the action. It is called resurrection or enlightenment.

Nonviolence can only start from within ourselves. It is about love of ourselves, of others and of the cosmos. We are created in the image and likeness of a good and gracious God who only wants what is best for us and for the beautiful world in which we have been placed. Violence, either in thought, word or deed, damages that creative energy for good.

I hope that during this month of November you are drawn to connect with your ancestors, who formed you into being.

[1] Rosemary Lynch and Alain Richard, “The Decalogue for a Spirituality of Nonviolence,” in From Violence to Wholeness: A Ten Part Program in the Spirituality and Practice of Active Nonviolence, Ken Butigan with Patricia Bruno (Las Vegas, NV: Pace e Bene Franciscan Nonviolence Center, 1999), 18.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.