Sep 232009

By Barb Arland-Fye

In observance of the International Day of Peace I intended to spend time in prayer Sept. 21 at The Canticle in Clinton, motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Francis.

They were hosting a 24-hour public vigil in their chapel, as they have each year since 2002 to commemorate the Day of Peace. I lived in Clinton some years ago and enjoy visiting the area when an opportunity arises. What better opportunity than time for prayer?

But the visit didn’t happen, ironically, because of another peace-related commitment that came up unexpectedly. I had the opportunity that day to obtain a copy of the inspiring speech Hildegard Goss-Mayr gave Sept. 20 at the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award ceremony.

Audience members had asked me after the ceremony if The Catholic Messenger would be reprinting the speech by the award’s 39th recipient. They had been impressed by her message of peace through nonviolent means and that she is a living example of that message.

Hildegard had marked up her copy of the speech, so it wasn’t available after the ceremony. But she promised to get me a copy the following day. With a deadline looming, getting the speech became a priority.

With the four-page speech in hand , I raced back to the office to type it up, proofread it and use excerpts of it for the article that appears on Page 1 in this week’s edition. The full text of the speech she gave appears on The Catholic Messenger Web site at The speech is well worth reading; it offers valuable advice about the peace-making process and the faith, prayer and patience required to achieve peace.

Prayer is a vital component of Hildegard’s approach to peacemaking. During a news conference Sept. 19 at the Benet House in Rock Island, Ill., where she was staying as a guest of the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Mary Monastery, Hildegard talked about how she and her late husband, Jean, turned to prayer during some of the difficult situations in which they found themselves in their peace-making efforts.

She said they had asked a contemplative order to pray for the commitment of those who struggled for human rights. She observed that some people served in this effort through their spiritual works — prayer — while others engaged in action. “We need each other,” she said.

Absorbed in my own work Sept. 21 to get her story and others into the paper by deadline, I let the day slip away.

As I drove home from work, I reflected on the missed opportunity for prayer for peace with the Sisters of St. Francis. I may not have been with them physically, but I felt like my heart was in the right place.

Two other religious communities I have the privilege of interacting with in our diocese — the Congregation of the Humility of Mary and the Discalced Carmelite Nuns — also do much in their own right to bring about peace — through prayer and good works. They, too, live out the message that Hildegard hopes all of us will adopt in our daily lives.

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