By Barb Arland-Fye
Members of our family have discovered that peace begins a step at a time, during a walk along the Mississippi River in LeClaire. Not a “one and done” kind of walk, but leisurely strolls with one or two other family members at our side, sometimes speaking and sometimes silent.
Last weekend, for example, my older son Colin and I took a walk after Saturday night Mass. I was angry with him for something he said as we left church. Both of us knew we needed to walk, together, to sort things out. We walked mostly in silence, lost in our own thoughts. Over the years, I have discovered that Colin, as a person with autism, needs to expend physical energy coupled with quiet time to relieve his anxiety and to process his interactions with others.
During our walk, my thoughts kept returning to the many times we ask for mercy during the Mass, particularly, the introductory rites and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. I thought about Pope Francis, who has spoken many times on giving and receiving mercy and even designated a Year of Mercy.
In a book of daily reflections from “A Year of Mercy with Pope Francis,” I discovered a reflection titled “I Am Angry With This Person” taken from the Holy Father’s encyclical, “Evangelii Gaudium.” The pope advises us to “At least say to the Lord: ‘Lord, I am angry with this person, with that person. I pray to you for him and for her.’ To pray for a person with whom I am irritated is a beautiful step forward in love, and an act of evangelization.” Good advice on the road to peace, beginning with family.
At the end of our walk, Colin said to me, “Mom, I needed that walk.” I told him I needed that walk, too. Later when I asked him about it, he responded, “It was pretty awesome. It helped me calm down.”The next evening, I went for a walk along the same stretch of the Great River Road with my younger son, Patrick, who loves to talk while he walks. Walking provides an outlet to process his thoughts about work, living on his own, friendships and the Catholic Church. “You should write about peace,” he advised me on our walk, because of his concern about protests that had become violent and in which people had died.
We talked about the chant often heard at protests: “No justice, no peace!” Patrick thought that peace brings about justice. He was not familiar with a message that St. Paul VI wrote for the celebration of World Day for Peace in 1972 with the title “If You Want Peace, Work for Justice.” In that message, the Holy Father said, “A peace that is not the result of true respect for man is not true Peace. And what do we call this sincere feeling for man? We call it Justice.”
True respect for humankind begins at the most basic level, how we treat the members of our own family. I told Patrick I would write about peace, but from the viewpoint that it begins one step at a time, during a walk with a family member. “I like that approach,” he said (maybe because I’m his mother!).
“The world asks us to bring peace and to be a sign of peace!” Pope Francis says in another daily reflection from “A Year of Mercy with Pope Francis.” For our family, the sign of peace begins a step at a time, on walk.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at firstname.lastname@example.org)