Peace? Prayer.

Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset. –St. Francis de Sales

If you have peace within, all things follow. St. Augustine defines peace as the “tranquility of order,” which for him is a life with priorities ordered around the Kingdom of God and its justice (cf Matt. 6:33). Around love of God, love of neighbor, and repenting of the dis-order in our lives contrary to those.

For a person of faith, the secret of peace is keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). And this by living firmly rooted in the present moment while accepting what is, trusting fully in the provident mercy of the One Who Is. Thus rooted in eternity, we can proceed confidently to do what is called for in each new moment, in peace with confidence. We can open all locked doors and be sent out by the Prince of Peace as a peacemaker. In the well-known words of the Russian saint, St. Seraphim of Sarov, “Acquire the Spirit of Peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved.”

I will never tire of saying to myself and all, prayer is the primary path to this peace. Know prayer, know peace. No prayer, no peace. Because prayer sinks our soul’s tap root into God and allows us to thrive whatever may come.

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
and it does not cease to bear fruit. — Jer. 17:7-8

While our family go-to for devotional prayer is usually the Holy Rosary, my primary personal prayer devotion that helps keep me centered is the Jesus Prayer, repeated over and over in slow meditative sequence synced with my breathing: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.” I bought a chotki, a Russian prayer rope, back in the late 1980’s that I still use. For the many times throughout the day I lose my center, a brief return to this rhythmic soaking in divine mercy brings me back.

Especially in these days when so many cannot encounter God through the Holy Eucharist, those of us who have been baptized should remember that right now, deep within us, as in a Sanctuary, dwells the thrice-holy God in all His glory. I like to say when I speak of the theology of the Eucharist, “Remember, Jesus gave us the Eucharist not primarily to be seen, but to be ingested. Take, eat. Take, drink. Because the real locus, the real end game of God-with-us is to abide in the abode of the human heart. In your human heart.”

Try to remain there with Him, and breathe free in prayer.

It was St. John of the Cross, who spent 9 months in prison without any access to the Eucharist or Confession, who really taught this to me in a forceful way. His magnificent mystical poem One Dark Night, composed in his mind and committed to memory while he was imprisoned in that dark cell, witnessed to an overwhelmingly vivid sense of God’s nearness deep within him, in the solitude of isolation, burning in the dark night of faith.

In fact, St. John’s poem makes vividly clear it was there, in the isolation of that solitary (and filthy) cell — deprived of human interaction, books, a change of clothes, with very little food — that his longing for God grew to such an intensity, he finally found himself able to surrender all and entered into union with Christ.

Abide with the God of peace there, deep within, and thousands around you will be saved…

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