In 1981, the United Nations officially declared Sept. 21 as the International Day of Peace or Peace Day.
Twenty-nine years later at a meeting of representatives from our faith communities in Tompkins County, Sister Mary O’Brien, CSJ, proposed the idea that in 2009 they organize a regional Mass for Peace. Sister O’Brien’s idea caught on with the group and they developed their plan which included an invitation to me to preside and preach at that eucharistic liturgy.
I write on the day after that celebration at Immaculate Conception, Ithaca, with the warmest of memories of the experience and with sincere gratitude in my heart for Mary, her partners in the planning and to all who made the celebration as prayerful — and memorable — as it was.
The event gathered participants from All Saints, Lansing; Holy Cross, Freeville; St. Anthony, Groton; and from the Ithaca communities of Immaculate Conception, St. Catherine, Ithaca College and Cornell University.
It is a source of increasing pleasure and inspiration to me to be a part of such celebrations. They put me in touch with the deep desire which rests in the hearts of our people. In this case, of course, it was the desire for peace. But such gatherings also remind me of the faith of our people and their generous willingness to share their time, talent and treasure to help celebrate that faith and share it with others.
There were babes in arms in the church last night and a couple of people in their 90s. There were university students, widows, married couples, pastoral ministers, women and men religious, permanent deacons, activists, pacifists, and people who swim in a variety of political streams.
What drew us together and united us in prayer were two basic realities. One was a common realization that ultimately Christ is our source of peace. The other was that all of us yearn for greater peace for ourselves, for others and for the world.
In conversations I had with a variety of people both before and after the liturgy, they shared with me some areas in which they yearn for peace and reconciliation. One couple spoke of their pain over a lack of peace between their two sons. A university student spoke of his desire to give his life to help people prepare for and grow in and through strong marriages.
Several others — and, I think, all of us in one way or another — want to do what we can to help the human family settle our disputes without resorting to war.
I hope that all who participated felt as strengthened as I did by the company in which we found ourselves. Their faith, their search and their humble willingness to pray for the gift of peace encouraged me to place my own prayer for peace before the Lord with the consoling knowledge that my prayer was supported by theirs.
If you have read this, it is likely that you have become aware of ways in which you long for peace. If you are at all inclined to rest with the issues that arise in your heart and pray about them, I most certainly encourage you to do so. It is a practical way in which to invite the Lord, the source of our peace, to help us be peacemakers.
Peace to all.