Category Archives: peace

Holy Spirit bringing Peace

Dear Folks,

This is Pentecost! Along with Easter and Christmas, it is one of the three biggest days of the year, but is often neglected. It is the great feast of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the Catholic

Church. If Pentecost was in A.D. 33, as many scholars believe it is, then this is the 1990th birthday of the Church (we should be planning for a really big monster of a party in ten years, when it turns 2000. I’ve suggested to some of our school kids that an interesting math problem would be: how much cake do you need to hold all those candles?).

We start with Genesis 11:1-11, the story of the Tower of Babel. It is a story of sin dividing people with confused language as they try to attain heaven on their terms rather than receiving the gifts that God wants to give them. Acts 2:1-11 is the story of Pentecost, which is God undoing the effects of Babel, enabling people of different languages to understand each other.

The Holy Spirit communicates the fruit of the Pascal Mystery that undoes the power of sin. He also formed the disciples into the Church. Without losing our individuality, we become parts of

one another, as parts of a body (1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12) and become more fully alive, as we have no trouble seeing ourselves as a higher form of life than amebae (and see John


In the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks of living water (John 4:4-16 and 7:37-39), and it is explained that this refers to the gift of the Holy Spirit, who would only be sent after Jesus was glorified.

This image is brought to fullness in Revelation 21:1-2, in which we see the Trinity together: God (the Father) and the Lamb (Jesus) are on the throne, and from the throne flows life-giving water

(the Holy Spirit).

The Holy Spirit saves us from “the works of the flesh.” “In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-

23a, but it’s worthwhile reading vv. 16-26). Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know them (Matt 7:16).” I don’t know about farming, but I figure the measure of success for a farmer is less

about how much he sweats, and more about what crops are produced. If we want some sense if we are growing as disciples, are we growing in these qualities? What signs are there in our

behavior that we are showing fruit? Many judge a worship service by how the “experience” made them “feel.” Better questions might be, “Did it help me focus on God rather than myself?” and “Afterwards, did I exhibit more fruit of the Holy Spirit in my

behavior?” Obviously, this is not just the work of the worship leaders, but also how the individuals give themselves to participate, both internally and externally. A useful thing to do would be to review the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and ask ourselves, “what behaviors are we growing in that show the Spirit bearing fruit?” Another good thing to do is pray for the Holy Spirit:

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray.

O God, who have taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant that in the same Spirit we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in his consolation.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

This is Pentecost! Let us Celebrate!


Healthier Brain, More Peaceful World

Dear Folks,

In discussions about making this a less violent world, the subject of mental health comes up. Then it usually vanishes, and people move on. Partly, I think people get uncomfortable dealing with this subject, as if it is somehow shameful. We need to get over this. The brain is an organ and gets sick like any other organ. I would also think it is a big issue without a simple solution, and we like quick and simple solutions. How can we keep the conversation going?

How can we have some fruitful discussion about our mental health system, and how does our system need restructuring? What resources would be needed for some good outcomes? People who know more than I do need to be pushing these questions.

Of course, just as we know that heart health is not just a matter of thoracic surgeons, cardiologists and statins, but also fruits, vegetables, and exercise, so we recognize that mental health is not just about the mental health professionals, but healthy practices. As we think about how people are taught to brush and floss their teeth, and how we are taught nutrition principles, should we not be trying to develop some more common mental hygiene practices?

My training in psychology is pretty rudimentary, but there are some places to start.

One place is in relationships. So many are lonely now. So many describe the pain of toxic relationships. Can we talk about what makes a healthy relationship, and how to form them?

Another place is how we react to events in our lives and how we weave them into a narrative.

What meaning we can find in our good experiences and bad experiences? Viktor Flankl, in his wonderful book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” talks about the human response to suffering. As a Psychiatrist and a survivor of Nazi concentration camps, he has a special authority to talk. He said that people who are more resilient in horrible situations are people who find meaning in them.

Many today do not have a strong enough vision of life to help them find meaning in bad situations. Many would agree with Macbeth: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing (Macbeth Act 5 Scene 5).” Or, as Monty Python said so eloquently, “Is life just a game where we make up the rules as we’re looking for something to say? Or are we just really spiraling coils of self-replicating D.N.A.?” Not a strong vision to give you hope when life gets really hard, and our hearts get broken.

This is a good time to talk about Christianity. A relationship with Jesus and discipleship in the Gospel is the most powerful approach I’ve found, not only to find meaning in suffering, but even power in suffering. We see our lives woven into a larger story of salvation, and that casts a different light on everything, the bad and the good. Many who go to church, and many who have wandered away from church, have not found that to be the case. I would suggest that many have been taught an enfeebled, mush version of Christianity that is has no power to transform lives. It is for those who take Jesus seriously to help others find what Jesus is really about. As Peter Kreeft said in “Jesus Shock”: “If you think Jesus is boring you have the wrong Jesus.” The better we know Jesus, the better we can share Jesus. If you want a better world, the best first step is always to fall more deeply in love with Jesus.


Fr. Jim

Build a Better World

Dear Folks,

Talking about developing a less violent world, I think we need to look at the power of personal agency. So often, it can feel like what we do doesn’t make much difference in the larger world. It is a terrible feeling to think that the world and other people can make marks on us quite easily, but there is nothing we can do to make our mark on the world. This is a feeling I lived with for a lot of years, and it can lead to desperation. If we can help people learn better to channel that energy, that can lead to lead to more productive activity and less desperation.

This can involve developing a vision. If things are not good as they are now, what improvement do we want? It is good to be specific. Then we need a path between here and there.

We need to learn skills: learn to make a case for what we think should happen and making it effectively, both for the goal and the way to get there. Just because it seems painfully obvious to us doesn’t mean it will be obvious to others, in fact, we can count on someone thinking it is completely wrong, and that can be frustrating. Seeing things from others’ point of view is a good first step. We need to recognize that if people do change the way they think, it can be a slow process, and we need patience. I find however much patience I think I’ve learned God seems to think I need more. If we get attention, it needs to be in a way that helps people see things from our point of view.

We can cultivate more realistic expectations. This can keep people from giving up when things take a long time and get difficult. I don’t know much about farming, but I think people take for granted that when they plant seeds, it will take months for the crop to be ready. On the other hand, if I put coffee in the microwave and it takes months for the coffee to get hot, I’m throwing that microwave away. Making profound, meaningful changes in society is long, slow work, often spanning generations. Getting people to change the way they think takes time, especially when ideas are deeply rooted and intertwined with their basic world view. I suggest lower expectations short term, higher expectations long term. Before we try to justify quick and dirty tactics, remember the other side might use them too, and they tend not to win people over.

Boundaries are essential! Just because we have good intentions does not mean our behavior is justified. We as a society need to reject excusing people’s bad behavior because we think it is for a good cause (remember, everyone thinks they have a good cause). If protesters behave badly, it hurts the credibility of their cause. Jesus said, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be as clever as serpents and innocent as doves (Matt 10:16).”

We must support those who help make it a less violent world. This starts with law enforcement. We need to recognize the great risks and sacrifices that they make, and how much we depend on them. We need to remember many of the decisions, especially shoot/don’t shoot situations, must be made in a fraction of a second, and if they get it wrong, they often die. They want to go home at the end of their shift like everyone else. Yes, we need to get rid of bad actors, but when there is an incident, we need to give the officer the same benefit of the doubt that we would want for ourselves. When people commit a crime, there should be quick and consistent consequences as much as possible. Lax or selective enforcement encourages more crime.

Let’s not disparage thoughts and prayers. Yes, they are not a substitute for action, but action can follow from focusing our hearts. We can always invite people to action, and this is an opportunity to make our case.

Blessings, Fr. Jim

Families Building Civilization

Dear Folks,

If we are serious about building a less violent world, we need to take a look at fatherless families. According to everything I’ve read (see for some data), children who grow up without their fathers are significantly more likely to live in poverty, have

behavioral problems, become drug addicts, commit crimes, and many other things. I’ve been told that boys learn from their fathers how to be men and how to treat women, while daughters learn from their fathers what to expect from men.

There are many single parent families that are doing great things, and there are some fathers that are not doing a good job, but it can still be true that encouraging families with both the father and mother present and engaged can build a better world.

Someone told me that her observation was that some parents see their children more as accessories than as their central life vocation. Such parents drop off their kids at school, and maybe at church, and act as the primary teachers of their children. However, many parents are taking their responsibility very seriously and see themselves as the first mentors, protectors, and advocates for their children. How can we help and encourage them?

I’ve heard some voices that suggested that parents shouldn’t have a say in (or even know) what their children are getting taught because they weren’t trained like teachers are. However, I’ve heard some teachers saying please, please, please would parents be

more involved in their children’s education. How can we help and encourage them?

For many years it was clique that in movies and TV shows the father of the family was either a doofus or a jerk, and everyone knew better than him. How might that have helped form the notion that fathers were not that important to have around. I’ve been told by a

number of sources that the way the welfare system is structured, it is actually encouraging the mother to raise children without the presence of the father. If that is true, how can that be changed? How can it be structured to encourage active presence and participation of both parents? I have been told it will never be changed because keeping people poor and dependent is big business. I figure systematic change can only happen when enough people rise up and decide not to stand for it. I don’t know where to start, but I refuse to believe it is impossible.

It has been said that “Love is love.” It is a true statement, but not all love relationships are the same. The relationship between husband and wife is different from father and son, from mother and daughter, between cousins, between brothers, between brother and sister, between two good friends, and so on. Each has a different nature, makes a different contribution to society, and is expressed differently. I would suggest that the relationship

between a man and a woman, committed to a permanent exclusive relationship of love that is ordered toward the generation and nurturing of children makes a unique contribution. If

that is true, how can society privilege this relationship, encourage it, strengthen it, and value it? Our future, and our hope for a better world, may depend on it.


Fr. Jim

Want a Better World? Start with “what does ‘better’ mean?

Dear Folks,

This is the second of a series of articles on building a less violent world. If we want a better world, we need to have an idea of what “better” means. You may think this is obvious, but I challenge you to think again. What seems obviously true to me might seem obviously false to someone else.

The book “Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right from Wrong” by William Kilpatrick tells of values clarification in some school programs, where they teach children to form their own value system. He mentioned how shocked teachers were by the value systems they came up with.

“The Abolition of Man” by C. S. Lewis describes how, back in the 1940’s, people were already working to deconstruct our value system without considering the results (“They laugh at honor

and are shocked to find traitors in their midst”). Since then things have gotten stranger.

Imagine a society where most people have a fuzzy, undefined, inconsistent view of right and wrong, and when something happens that feels wrong to them, they scream, and if they can get

enough people to scream with them, they can dominate the conversation. Now stop imagining, because I think we have arrived. Why are we surprised that such a society has so much violence? If people excuse violence when they are sympathetic to the cause, why should they be surprised that people will use violence on the other side? If we believe in standards of behavior, it needs to be consistent with our allies and our opponents. It is easy to call out our opponents; it is more important to call out our allies and remind them they are hurting the cause.

When we disagree and are angry, we need to reject violence. We need to reject name calling. If we need to avoid reading people’s hearts, and saying because they disagree with us, they don’t

care about goodness. If we are frustrated that they reject our position, we need to make a better case for our position. We may think we’ve made a good enough case to convince any

reasonable person, but they clearly don’t think so. We can insult the other people, or we can make a better case. We need to do things that will move the conversation forward.

So often we see people talking past each other. When I see someone saying, “I long for a country where people love their children more than their guns.” I know that moves us away

from anything constructive. The very people they most want to convince are going to read that and say, “they have not even tried to understand our point of view. We need guns to protect our

children.” On the other hand, simply posting, “What part of ‘shall not be infringed’ don’t you understand?” is not going to help. It reinforces their opponents’ belief that they don’t care about

stopping violence. Wouldn’t it be so much more helpful to make a better case, that our proposed solution would actually make things better. Once again, it may seem obvious to us, but the opposite might be obvious to other intelligent people of good will. Our reasoning seems to us to be more reasonable, but we all have an unconscious thumb on the scale pushing us in that

direction. It will take much patient, persistent work to develop common messages about behaviors that build a better society.

Imagine a society where parents, teachers, entertainers, political leaders, and church leaders all reinforced a common message to reject violence and destruction to make our points, to build

constructive and respectful dialog, to value growing in virtue over gratifying desire, to value problem solving over complaining, and to respect the law and law enforcement? Would that be

a less violent society?


Fr. Jim

From Cain and Abel to a More Peaceful World

Dear Folks,

As we celebrate the Easter season, we remember it is a time of new hope and new possibilities. As we read Acts of the Apostles, we see things happening that the early Christians would not have thought possible at first.

There is so much violence in our world. I sure would like for there to be less. When there is a particularly horrific incident it will often dominate the news for a while. Then different people will repeat their usual talking points. Various groups will talk past each other, and then nothing changes. I think we could do better. Short term, we can harden targets and make them less vulnerable. The deeper solution is not being so good at creating savages.

We have to have a less violent culture, a more peaceful culture, or no law can save us, and civilization itself is in the balance. I think there are some concrete things we can do. We have to decide what kind of people we want to be. It would involve looking at our own behavior (let none of us assume we are guiltless). It will involve what kind of messages that we send, and what kind of messages we encourage (calling out people on our side would likely be more effective than calling out our opponents; the other side is easy to dismiss). It will require considerable thought on how we as a society encourage good behaviors and discourage bad behaviors.

Particular issues would include:

• Support law enforcement, and value law and order.

• Build a strong sense of right and wrong.

• Combat fatherlessness.

• Stop talking past each other.

• Don’t condemn or demean our opponents; make a better case for our position.

• Keep our feelings and thoughts in perspective: just because I’m angry about something important doesn’t give me license to be destructive. Just because my cause is right doesn’t mean I have license to be destructive. We can work toward a better world, but we can’t expect to fix everything in our time. Building a better world is an intergenerational project.

• Build empathy, especially with people who see things differently, and reject objectifying groups or individuals. Avoid ridiculing people we disagree with.

• Reject using others’ behavior as an excuse to misbehave ourselves.

• Have the same standard of behavior for those we agree with and those we don’t; not condemn destruction when we disagree with their cause, and condone or dismiss it when we agree with the cause.

• Value growing in virtue over gratifying desire.

• Have some serious humility about how much we understand and how much we don’t: maybe even people we disagree with have some things to teach us.

In the weeks to come I’ll try to expand on these issues. I hope it may stimulate some thought and some discussion. Civilizations do rise and fall, but when they fall, it causes much suffering. It would be worth a lot to keep ours going.


Fr. Jim

Pentecost and Peacemaking

Dear Folks,

This is Pentecost, the great feast of the Holy Spirit, and the birthday of the Catholic Church.

The Holy Spirit came and brought people together, breaking down barriers between people, and enabling them to have relationships. This is a path to peace. This is the path to peace.

With the recent shooting that was in the news, I think it is good to talk about some violence in our society. There has been so much lately, such increases in different kinds of violence and cruelty, from shootings to rioting, to assaulting people on the subway, to suicide. What has caused this? I think as a society we need to put our collective energy behind building some values, some norms, and some habits.

On is empathy, an awareness and attentiveness to the state of another person. Often, we are focused on how things affect us, but deep awareness of what’s happening in others is precious.

This is built in good relationships, interacting sharing, and working together (texting is not enough). Essential is good fathering and good mothering. Could we agree that fathering and mothering are crucial, heroic vocations that should be honored and celebrated? Could we work to develop respect for people when we disagree, and try to understand them rather than insult them? This requires recognizing that the way things look to us in not always how they look to others, and we can’t just demand they see things our way.

Humans have a desperate need for agency. I have observed that we humans have a real need to make a mark in the world, ideally to do great and noble things, but if we feel we cannot, it is easy to make a mark by being destructive. We must nurture the potential greatness in each person, so they can see themselves as heroes and not victims. We must build the fortitude to keep going when that road gets harder than expected (which it will). We must focus on strategy and tactics for making changes large and small.

We need reverence for boundaries. Because we think we are right does not give us the license to use tactics that we would condemn in the other side (they think they are right too). We must measure violence by those on our side with the same scale we measure violence by our opponents. We need support and for law enforcement and consistent enforcement of laws.

Some people have been proposing what they consider the solution, and berating those who do not agree. They do not make a case for their solution but seem to presume it is obviously the thing to do, and they say that those who don’t follow their plan do not care and do not love children. I think this is the exact opposite of what we need. What if there are intelligent people of good will who do care very much, but believe that this proposed solution will not help, but will in fact do harm? This approach is guaranteed to fail. It completely neglects to look at other people’s point of view. It makes both sides feel more helpless and pushes people farther apart. No amount of browbeating is going to make me accept a solution that I think will just make things worse. Let people make a case for their proposed solution, recognizing that their other side has their case too. We need to go through how it would be implemented in practice. We need to recognize that we are all biased in favor of our own arguments, and we need to work harder on making our case than we think we do.

As a Christian, I believe that the starting point is Jesus, and I highly (very highly) recommend getting to know Jesus better. However, if anything I’ve said resonates with you, my efforts have not been wasted. Let’s move the conversation forward. Let’s make the situation better.


Fr. Jim

Loving People Hard to Love Part II

Dear Folks,

We all have a deep need to tell our story, to be heard, to be understood. Much anger, frustration, and resentment come from a feeling of not being heard, not being understood. It is often difficult to make ourselves understood to someone, and what makes the experience much harder is when we get the feeling that the other person isn’t trying. Sometimes the truth is more complex.

Perhaps we underestimate the depth of the chasm between our minds. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Talking to Strangers” he mentions that we tend to underestimate how we can use the same words and gestures and mean different things. Both sides might be trying and failing to connect.

Stephen Covey said, “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior.” Consider what that means, that what we experience ourselves can be very different from how others experience us.

In “The Screwtape Letters” C.S. Lewis portrays the devil Screwtape teaching his nephew Wormwood how to lead a soul into hell: “Keep his mind on the inner life. He thinks his conversion is something inside him and his attention is therefore chiefly turned at present to the states of his own mind—or rather the expurgated version of them which is all you should allow him to see. Encourage this. Keep his mind off the most elementary duties by directing it to the most advanced and spiritual ones. Aggravate that most useful human characteristic, the horror and neglect of the obvious. You must bring him to a condition in which he can practice self examination for an hour without discovering any of those facts about himself which are

perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house with him or worked in the same office (Letter 3).” And “Your patient must demand that all his own utterances are to be taken at their face value and judged simply on the actual words, while at the same time judging all his mother’s utterances with the fullest and most over-sensitive interpretation of the tone and the context and the suspected intention. She must be encouraged to do the same to him (Letter 3).” I believe this sort of thing is not uncommon. How do we watch for such behavior in ourselves? I suspect we tend to be very aware of how the other person tries our patience, but we might have no idea how much we try the others’ patience. How can we watch for that?

There may be times, and certainly there are abusive relationships, in which we are innocent, and the other person is quite guilty. We want to be careful about getting to that conclusion too quickly and too easily. When it is such a situation, we still have the challenge of how we are going to deal with the situation. Waiting for the other person to change is not going to get us anywhere. When we must play a game that is rigged against us, we must play it well. In Matthew 16:10, Jesus says, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be as clever as serpents and innocent as doves.” We must be clever as psychological tricks and traps are thrown at us. Though there is a temptation to use the other’s behavior as an excuse to lower the standards of our own behavior, it is essential to strive to be innocent, first because it is right, and second because others might use any lapse on our part as a reason to attack us and make us the villain (never mind they do worse on a regular basis).

This stuff is hard, at least I find it hard. I suggest that if more people took these things into account, we could get along better. Can you think of anything to practice during Lent for more peace in the world?


Fr. Jim

Loving Those Hard to Love Part I

Dear Folks,

In our Gospel today, Jesus teaches us unconditional love, even our enemies. If people know anything about Christianity, they know we are to love one another. This is wonderfully easy to say. It is much harder to do. The first issue is spiritual. There are some

people it is easy to want to love, while others, who can be so aggravating, are much more difficult. It is hard to empathize with someone who has caused pain, difficulty, or harm, and seems not to care about it.

It helps to pray for such people. It always begins with seeking God’s help. It is good to remember the goal: not to destroy the person but purge the evil from them and rejoice with them in heaven. God says, “Do I find pleasure in the death of the wicked—oracle of the

Lord God? Do I not rejoice when they turn from their evil way and live? (Ezekiel 18:23; Ezekiel 33:11; Luke 15:7).” The more focused we are on the eternal goals the more we can handle worldly problems.

Another problem is practical. In Christianity love is not a feeling but a decision to seek the good of others for their own sake.

In Ann Garrido’s excellent book “Redeeming Conflict” habit #4 is “Undo the knot of intention.” Good intentions don’t necessarily mean good consequences, and bad consequences don’t necessarily mean bad intentions. It is harder. I have learned, again and

again, that I can intend to do good and have it not work well. Now, God will judge our hearts, and if we are doing our best, that is having a loving heart. That said, if we do less than our best to find out if we are really doing good, I don’t think that will go well.

Doing parish work, I’ve found that there are some people who focus their energy and skill in getting resources from helping agencies, and they can refine that to an art. I think about

what they could do if they put that intelligence and energy into doing something constructive. Some people say to just give them money, and if they misuse it, “that’s on them.” Is that really seeking others’ good, or is that about making ourselves feel good?

Someone referred to one such person as “he helps the poor to stay poor, because he needs them to be poor.” I know that sometimes I risk being taken. I’m quite sure I do get taken from time to time, but we can’t close our hearts in an effort to be safe. One thing I’m sure of, we don’t want to be in the position of explaining to God why we didn’t try (Matthew 25:14-46). Sometimes the aggravation is part of the price for loving our neighbor. Direct help in emergencies is great; helping people who cannot help themselves is great; when we can help people move themselves into a better situation where they can flourish, that is wonderful. I love our community dinners and our food pantries; sometimes getting a meal from someone who treats you with courtesy, kindness and respect can make all the difference. I love Habitat for Humanity, because people who participate in their program tend to flourish

more afterward. I love Have Mercy, the program for the homeless in Montcalm and Ionia counties. They give a great deal of immediate help and will regularly move homeless people into permanent homes. I love Alpha Family Center who help people in a uniquely vulnerable time in their lives, giving help they can be grateful for for the rest of their lives. There are some many good things being done, and I hope we can learn more and more ways to help people in need. We don’t ask if they deserve it; we ask what is truly helpful. How to be helpful is something we can spend the rest of our lives learning and practicing.

If we dedicate ourselves to helping people we don’t know and can do nothing for us, maybe that will strengthen our ability to love even the people who harm us.


Fr. Jim

Making 2022 a More Peaceful Year

Dear Folks,The Christmas season has just begun, and today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, and also St. Stephen (Holy Family takes precedence over St. Stephen, but I’m sure he doesn’t mind). The Story of Christmas includes the story of Herod and all the nastiness that he did, so even our season of joy has a reminder that there is great evil in the world and forces that seek to stamp out the light. The story of St. Stephen, the first martyr, reminds us that the Gospel sometimes faces a harsh response. Family often includes conflict, and it has a special poignancy because these are people so special to us. God made us all to be one family, a family united by His peace and love. I want to start out this year returning to a theme that I have touched on before, but I believe that it is worth reemphasizing.There has been so much violence in the news. I’m so tired of hearing about violence, whether it is with a knife, gun, vehicle, fists, it is horrifying that there is so much. Various things have been proposed, and I do believe that law enforcement is essential, but it won’t solve the ultimate problem. We must become a more peaceful people from the inside out. In John 17:20-23, Jesus prays that all may be one, and says that if we are, that will help people believe in the Gospel. We can’t control others, but we can look at our own behavior, and see how we can get closer to the Christian ideal. We remember what the Scriptures teach. “Bless those who curse you; bless and do not curse them (Romans 12:14).” “Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:9).”Does this mean being passive in the face of malice? Doormats to bullies? I say no, emphatically no. It does mean trying to respond in a way that has a chance of making the situation better. My whole life’s experience tells me that good intentions are not enough, that we must learn peacemaking as an art. I have found books to be helpful. “Remembering God’s Mercy” by Dawn Eden is about healing painful memories (especially childhood memories), and we must begin to heal if we are to be healers. “No Future Without Forgiveness” by Desmond Tutu is an inspiring call to forgiveness. “The Book of Forgiving” by Desmond and Mpho Tutu, “Don’t Forgive Too Soon” by Matthew Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Dennis Linn give practical thoughts on the process of forgiveness. “Verbal Judo” by George Thompson is about de-escalating conflict. “Love Your Enemy” by Arthur C. Brooks is about dialog with those with whom we disagree, and how such people can be gift. “God Help Me, These People are Driving Me Nuts!” By Gregory Popcak talks about seeking win-win solutions rather than working against each other. If you will only read one book from my list, I would encourage “Redeeming Conflict” by Ann Garrido. It is twelve habits (virtues) that transform conflict into a spiritual journey, and I believe would make it more productive. I again emphasize that I don’t speak as one who has mastered this. I have come a long way from where I used to be, but I can see that I have a ways to go.We cannot do it by our own power. We must begin by opening ourselves to Jesus. It is by His transforming power that we became able to love and forgive our enemies and bless those who curse us. If we want a better world, the first step is always falling more deeply in love with Jesus. There’s no better way to start our year.Blessings,Fr. Jim