Today’s guest post comes from Barb Mecker. Barb is my sister-in-law’s mother and a woman I respect tremendously for her love, faith, and passion for life. I hope you will enjoy her thoughts on making peace in this decidedly unpeaceful world.
When I hear the Beatitude, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they are the children of God,” I often flash back to my days as a peace activist in the late 60s and early 70s. I participated in anti-war marches, volunteered at the Syracuse Peace Council, and managed the local War Tax Resistance Fund. We certainly had “saints” to whom we looked for inspiration: Jesuit priest and poet Dan Berrigan and his brother Phil, Trappist monk Thomas Merton, Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, and especially for me, Loretto sisters Mary Luke Tobin, Cecily Jones, and many others. We had secular saints who inspired us as well: singers such as Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, and so many others; movie stars such as Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen and Paul Newman. These folks created lots of energy and enthusiasm for the peace movement, probably much like the energy and enthusiasm of children.
Over the years, I have participated at various levels in the anti-nuclear movement, the women’s movement, the protests against the Iraqi War, and the protests to close the School of the Americas (SOA). Mostly though, I had to figure out how to be peaceful in my own life, amidst the stresses of being a wife, mother, teacher, daughter, sister, etc. That to me seemed much more immediate and far more challenging! I really felt far less successful at establishing peace in these personal realms than I did at working for peace on a global level.
Thankfully, I am now retired, my children are grown, and I face far fewer personal challenges to living a somewhat peaceful life than I used to. When I look at issues of peace in the larger world, however, they seem more challenging than ever, both within our own country and within the world, and even within the universe. We don’t really seem to have the inspiring saints that we had during the Civil Rights movement, the anti-Vietnam war days, or even the days of the women’s movement. How do we work for peace in the current age?
Many of us in the Loretto Community have been reading a book by James O’Dea entitled Cultivating Peace: Becoming a 21st-Century Peace Ambassador. He believes that we must go beyond the traditional ways we have worked for peace—with protests, marches, demonstrations, and even conflict resolution. He is not disheartened by the apparent lack of charismatic leaders because he believes that at this time, each of us is capable of being a global leader. Like Jesus says in the Beatitudes, we must cultivate peace in our own lives first, but with advances in our understanding of culture, psychology, spirituality, mental and physical health, we perhaps have better tools with which to accomplish this. He is also convinced that our own interactions with ourselves and others have an influence on the rest of the world, much like the flapping of butterfly wings can affect the weather in a far off location. Although O’Dea’s work has a bit of a New Age sound to it, it seems to me that this is actually quite similar to our belief about prayer. It turns out that my struggles to figure out how to be peaceful amidst the daily stresses of life may have been more important than my direct work for peace! Certainly this makes it possible for each of us to help create a more peaceful world—and perhaps each of us has a chance to become a saint!
Barb Mecker and her husband Brian Hammond are co-members of the Loretto Community (Sisters of Loretto and co-members). Barb coordinated the Loretto Volunteer Program for eight years after retiring from a teaching career. She and Brian have four children and nine grandchildren.