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The Peace That Flourishes Amongst Thorns

It was in the 1990s that I encountered Greg Ryan, a stalwart of the WCCM, using 'Pax' as a conclusion to his emails.

At the time, with the departure of 'Yours sincerely',  I was fed up with the shortcomings of "Friendly", "Kind Regards", "Warm feelings" &  "Have a nice day". They all seemed...incomplete.

I liked it that, in Benedictine life, the PAX graphic always comes nestled within a crown of thorns: it is a dose of reality that speaks especially to our troubled times.


Photo Credit: Christin Hume

The Peace that Saint Benedict blesses us with is clear-eyed and unsentimental. It is surely powerful enough to give us consolation even where the thorns are thick, and have done us damage. Saint Benedict knew the importance of peace for human flourishing and spiritual growth.

Living through turbulent times, he discerned the damage caused by lack of peace. His desire to maintain peace is a thread running throughout the Rule. It reflects his concern for the community's physical and spiritual well-being; whether he is ensuring adequate clothing and food, or warning the community against the vice of grumbling, his aim is to create a peaceful environment where everyone can flourish.[1]   

It goes beyond the very abstract 'Love and Peace' of the 1960s that could mean everything, or very little, or even become a glossy cover for what turns into  great selfishness.

St John Chrysologus speaks truth across the centuries to us today on the importance and benefits of cultivating peace; it informs our very identity [2]:

Blessed are the peacemakers, the evangelist said, dearest brethren, for they shall be called sons of God. Truly Christian virtues grow in one who enjoys the unchangeable possession of Christian peace, nor does one come to the title of son of God except through that of peacemaker. 

Peace, dearest brethren, rescues us from servitude, providing us with the name of a free man, changes our identity before God together with our condition, from servant to  son, and from slave to free man.

Peace among brethren is the will of God, the joy of Christ, the completion of holiness, the rule of justice, the teacher of truth, the guardian of morals and a praiseworthy discipline in every regard.


This interior peace is nothing wispy or emphemeral. It is food, fuel and foundation for our Christian life:


Peace lends strength to our prayers; it is the way our petitions can reach God easily and be credited; it is the plenitude which fulfils our desires. Peace is the mother of love, the bond of concord and the manifest sign of a pure soul, one which seeks to please God, which seeks to be fulfilled and has its desire rewarded.


Chrysologus is clear that the absence of peace is a sign of the invasion of evil:


God’s is the planting of peace in the root, but the uprooting is from the enemy; for, just as brotherly love comes from God, so hatred comes from the devil; therefore, we must condemn our hatred of men, for it is written: 'He who hates his brother is a murderer.' 


A challenging admonition. In fact, peace is the key to effective love:


Now you see, dearest brethren, why we should love peace and cultivate harmony: because they beget and nurture love. But you know also from the apostle John that, Love comes from God, and that whoever is not with God does not possess love.


Let us therefore, my brethren, keep the commandments which are life for us; let us carry on together the obligations of our brotherhood in profound peace; let us bind one another with ties of salvific charity in this mutual love which covers a multitude of sins. We must keep peace before all other virtues, since God is always in peace.


 The peace in the LCSB Community Prayer that we seek "for ourselves and for all Your creation" is at the ground of our being, where we receive the love we are commissioned to share.


Mike Woodward


[1] I am indebted to the insights of Sr Judith of Turvey Abbey in a blog from 20.09.2023

[2] From a Sermon by St John Chyrsologus, c.380-433. Bishop of Ravenna, and saint of both the Eastern and Western churches.

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