By Carol Burns, Leeds Diocese Pax Christi group
We made a decision for our Autumn Day of Shared Reflection (held on 28 October 2023) that we would focus on personal reflection. The decision to focus on nonviolence was all the more significant because of the unfolding conflict in Israel Palestine.
As Thomas Merton, the American Trappist monk and peace activist has put it:
“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life era form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes the work fruitful”.
The day was led by Sister Bernie Roche, from the Sisters of Mercy and the venue at the Good Shepherd parish in Mytholmroyd was a wonderful setting for our day.
A short introduction about what we mean by nonviolence was followed by personal reflection and sharing in groups. Our sharing focused on Ephesians 3v 16-19:
“Out of his infinite glory, may he give you the power through his Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, you will with all the saints have the strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; until, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God.”
For such a short reading, it evoked a surprising number of different reactions. A whole range of resources supported our reflections, including poetry, scripture readings and images. Two of these images are shown below
Our day ended with prayers based on our experiences and this Franciscan prayer – which summed up our hopes for the Day:-
May God bless you with discomfort,
at easy answers, half-truths,
and superficial relationships
so that you may live
deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger
at injustice, oppression,
and exploitation of people and animals,
so that you may work for
justice, freedom and peace.
And may God bless you
with enough foolishness
to believe that you can
make a difference in the world,
so that you can do
what others claim cannot be done
to bring justice and kindness
to all our children, God’s creatures and the poor.