When I’m overwhelmed by the violence and war in the world my first reaction is probably that of many people, which is to ask, “What can one person do?” My answer, also a likely universal one, is “Pray for peace.” I do that and encourage others to do the same. This morning, however, I am reminded of all the efforts for peace – in addition to personal prayer – that are going on in the world. I just read an announcement from the Vatican that “Pope Francis will join dozens of religious leaders…and hundreds of their faithful in Assisi September 20th to pray for peace. This meeting, entitled ‘Thirst for Peace: Faiths and Cultures in Dialogue,’ marks the 30th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s Assisi interfaith peace gathering in 1986. In addition to Eastern Orthodox patriarchs and other Christian denominational leaders, Pope Francis will welcome leaders of Muslim, Jewish and Tendai Buddhist communities…Members of different religions will go to different locations around Assisi to offer prayers for peace in their own traditions. Pope Francis will participate in the Christian ecumenical service at the burial place of St. Francis. At the conclusion of the prayer services all the leaders will meet in the square outside the basilica to listen to testimony of a victim of war, to share their thoughts about peacemaking and to sign a common appeal.” (source: http://www.americancatholic.org)
After reading this announcement I was wishing I could be in Assisi to participate in such a meaningful event. That momentary flight of fancy was quickly followed, however, by remembrance of an e-mail I got on Thursday (and receive every month) of the many local efforts toward peace and justice that happen in my own local community – yes, “small town America” – Binghamton, New York, coordinated by a tireless, amazing woman (which she would dispute) named Amy Fleming. Amy has worked for Catholic Charities for as long as I can remember but her reach is into the lives of what has become an incredibly diverse population over the last 20 to 30 years. Efforts of the many committees and projects led by committed volunteers working against violence and war are partnered with programs seeking justice for every group or individual underserved in our locality, our state and our country. My prayer is often in gratitude for these people, some of whom I know and many of whom I have yet to meet – real flesh and blood people in my neighborhood – who are as committed as Pope Francis to the peace and justice agenda.
I am certain today that Binghamton is not the only city thus gifted. If you are a person whose main effort toward peace is prayer (a noble practice) I would encourage you to thank those doing “peace action” work on your behalf. Together, in lifting up both the active and contemplative arms of the Body of Christ, I cherish the hope that peace will be achieved in our world.