Welcome to WINE’s Summer Book Club! We are reading and discussing Blessed Are You: Finding Inspiration From Our Sisters in Faith by Melanie Rigney. We’re so happy you are joining us! We pray this book club will bless you and give you tangible ways to live the Beatitudes in your daily lives. We look forward to hearing from you in the comments section, throughout our time together.
By Sarah Damm
In Chapter 7 of Blessed Are You, Melanie Rigney takes a look at the beatitude of peacemaking and gives us several perspectives from very unique saints. We meet Dorothy Day, Josephine Bakhita, Catherine of Siena, and Elizabeth of Portugal. Each woman exudes peacemaking in her own way—from peaceful protesting to peaceful diplomacy. But what their peacemaking efforts share in common is an amazing ability to find peace within their own hearts—despite painful or challenging situations—before bringing peace into their corner of the world. As the iconic song says, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”
As an only child in a family that was crumbling all around me, I longed for peace within my home. But as a young girl, there was very little I could do to keep adults from arguing and eventually divorcing.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
I have no miracle story of how I brought peace to a broken home. But perhaps even the longing for peace kept me under the wings of my Heavenly Father as His little girl.
You see, one of the hardest parts was the loneliness. There was no brother or sister to go through this devastation with me.
Decades later, I finally healed and was able to recognize that Jesus, my brother, remained a steady figure in my life, no matter what my reality. I was never alone during those tumultuous years; He was sitting with me, feeling my pain, offering His pain on the cross over and over again for me. This healing realization brought me peace, “which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
Now, as a wife and mother, I am in a better position to extend peace to my family. So often, I am the one my children turn to when their world is flipped upside down. I am the mediator between quarreling siblings, looking for resolution. I am the shoulder to cry on when a classmate is cruel. It takes a lot of mental energy, patience, and creativity to keep the peace. But as a mother, it comes with the territory.
The snag in my peacemaking efforts happens when my life is filled with busyness and distractions that leave me exhausted. I get caught up in good work even when it is not in line with God’s will for my life. Then, I am too tired to extend a gesture of peace to my children, and I dismiss them with a “can we talk about this tomorrow?” Almost immediately, I recognize the distorted way I am handling my vocation and the realization that I didn’t take much time that day to be present to God or my family.
It is the Lord’s way of reminding me of the times He sat with me during my childhood. “Remember how lonely you felt, Sarah? I was there for you. I am there for your children, too … but right here, right now, it is through you that they will encounter Me.”
St. Catherine of Siena was onto something when she built “a cell inside her mind.” She needed a place to retreat, even while she continued to live in the world. There, in the solitude of her mind and heart, she encountered Christ in profoundly personal ways. It was only when she maintained interior peace that she reentered the world and began to impact others.
We need a cell, too, my friends. We need a place to go—whether that is the Eucharistic Adoration chapel, the living room, or the front porch—where we can find solace with God. This space will allow us to discover peace from our past, clarity in the present moment, and confidence that the Lord is guiding us into the future.
Then, and only then, will we be instruments of peace in our corners of the world.
To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:
- Have I experienced unrest in my life—a divorce, family conflict, difficult work situation, illness? How can I take one step toward peace beginning to take root in my heart?
- How often do I strive to do good works in my family and community, only to come up against adversity because I have not first consulted God’s plan for my life?
- Do I have a regular prayer place—a “cell” in which to retreat when life seems hectic and crazy … and even when it’s not? How has consistent prayer time helped maintain my inner peace?
YOUR TURN: Below in the comments box, please share your thoughts, inspirations, and reflections on Chapter 7, and/or your responses to any of these questions.
Next week, we’ll cover Chapter 8: Persecution. For the complete reading schedule and information about our online book club, visit the Read Between the WINEs Summer Book Club page.
These are some wondeful and inspirational thoughts Sarah. And I thank you. I like your thought that reflected St. Catherine of Siena’s idea of having a “cell” in which to go to think, pray, ponder and connect with God. We are faced with difficulties every day and also with people who seem to work hard simply to destroy our peace our or connection with God. A moment of prayer and reflection pulls me through (if only a remember to do it!) Thank you again and God Bless.
Thank you, Heidi. I agree with how many difficulties we face and how easily our inner peace can be threatened. Prayer keeps us focused on the Lord, who is the giver of peace. God bless you, too! And thank you for chiming in.
Your reflection is so on track with daily life. Question 2 had me stop and think about remembering to ask God for his plan, for his will, to ask for wisdom and understanding as situations arise. To ask for the words that will encourage peace. When I find a few spare minutes throughout the day I am learning to use that time … and space…for a quick prayer. God’s peace.
Chris, Question 2 has been one I have been pondering for awhile … At times, I have felt like I was doing God’s work, but perhaps it wasn’t God’s will for me. When I realized there was a difference, it made me really discern what He is inviting me to do. Sometimes, we receive confirmation that yes, this is right where He wants us, and other times we need to make adjustments. Thankfully, he is patient with us 🙂
I enjoyed reading this chapter on peacemaking. It was like taking a supplement. So many times I find myself feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, finding it difficult to be the peace. But I am inspired by St. Catherine, to create a cell within my mind. And I will have peace always. My mother used to always tell me, “…even when you are in the restroom at work, stop and talk/pray with God”.
Your mother is wise! 🙂 Thank you for chiming in, Carla. When we practice the presence of God, even in the stressful moments, His peace overpowers whatever is trying to overwhelm us. Just remembering that the Lord is near and calling upon His help can restore our inner peace. The more we practice this, the less our peace will be disrupted. It sounds so easy, but it is difficult … and takes practice. Thankfully, we have these amazing saintly women to lean on and ask them to pray for us.
Sarah, that was one lovely reflection. Thank you!
Bakhita really speaks to me as far as peace. Her embracing of the concept of forgiving such vile people brings me up short when I am tempted to hold onto a petty hurt, or even a truly intentionally nasty encounter. She does for me what the Lord desires the communion of saints and saints in the making do for each other.
The “Cell” Outside began with climbing trees and settling in with a book and daydreaming. Long solitary walks conversing inside my head to clear out confusion always ended with positive resolution and a brighter outlook moving forward. The Holy Spirit was present with me in a mighty way, but I didn’t recognize Him…yet. Convinced that God guides through each life event, acceptance was without question even when decisions were made for wrong reasons.
Life got busy. Husband, children, career, filled up my days and nights, and Church involvement while learning more specifically about our Triune God and prayer kept me motivated positively. Solitary time was gone. No more long walks. Trusting Jesus became my solace. Life got ugly and I fell into a spinning black hole.
Praying the Psalms daily at length kept my spirit consoled while my physical body and mind spiraled out of control. Solitary bicycle riding became my solace, as good as those long walks in my youth. Jesus was so close to me that in my spirit I was soaring. I wanted to be in prayer with Jesus when I died, so that we would be talking and suddenly I would see His Face during our conversation. Trusting Jesus was my Life. Life was still ugly, but I rode my bike miles and miles as part of a local bicycle club, and gained strength mentally and physically as I lived each minute with Jesus.
Conversion into Catholicism and one annulment later, remarriage, Catholic teaching through directed Bible and Catechism studies, participation in Mass, a remarkable career upgrade with success due purely to reliance upon the Holy Spirit through Jesus for each and every moment, all clarified a goal of living this life as a prelude to eternal life with our precious Jesus. And then, a self chosen forced retirement based upon medical reasons turned life upside down in an instant.
Dark times were suffocating. While I couldn’t see, feel, or perceive His Presence, He never left me nor forsook me. The darkest hour was spent on the floor of the Adoration Chapel, and He told me, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,” Proverbs 3:5a. Choosing to understand that He is closer to us in dark times than we can ever know and that I had been given an extreme blessing in this apparently black opportunity, my efforts in prayer and study redoubled…outside in the yard, sitting in a lounge chair, even in winter.
My “cell”, discovered as a person under ten years of age, continues to be outside within God’s creation. A house is man’s creation even though it is a welcome gift of God for daily life, and I know my “cell” may eventually be found beside a window inside that house.
I agree that the outdoors can be a an awesome way to see God’s beauty and feel God’s love! Liz, It seems you have been through a lot. Thanks for sharing your story. I will pray for you…
Thank you so much for sharing your personal story and reflection on “peacemaking.” It is helpful to know others have similar struggles. I love peace. Peace in family, with friends, in the neighborhood, country and world. I also love that iconic song with the phrase. “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” Sometimes I intervene too much though. I think I can solve a problem within the family or among friends. I am finding that I need to rely on God more and put the issue into His hands. I need to trust Him more and pray more… This is a constant struggle for me.