Catholic speaker, Hallie Lord, told of her encounter with the Sisters of Life in New York City. Lord asked one young sister, dressed in the signature navy and white habit, “What do you say when you meet a woman seeking an abortion?” The sister spoke softly, “We invite her to breakfast.” Ah. The sisters simply encourage any troubled woman to sit at the table to share in a good meal and warm conversation. One can imagine a distressed pregnant woman calming with the first sip of steaming hot chocolate or bite of a freshly baked cinnamon roll. When creating a place at the table, and listening with humility to the story of another, peace enters the room.
The Sisters of Life take to heart Christ’s command to usher in peace by loving “your neighbor as yourself.” In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus instructs His followers to seek peace by allowing the person offended to bring his or her grievances to the offender as a path toward reconciliation. Jesus established the Church as a community of peace and His followers as ministers of reconciliation. He offers the reconciling power of the table, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Montessori designed “The Peace Table,” a child-size table in the early educational setting where children bring disputes. The teacher invites any child upset by the actions of a classmate to bring his or her grievance to The Peace Table. Two children sit across from one another, with the offended child stating the problem. Each child can then speak with “I feel …” statements, but only when holding a “heart” stone. Studies have shown children request The Peace Table to work through an offense and to bring peace within themselves, between individuals, and within the community.
Restorative justice in the prison system turns one from punishment to healing by bringing together the victim and offender. At the “table” they listen and work toward understanding — and things change. Often restorative justice incorporates “peace circles” where members of the community encircle both the prisoner and the victim’s family. In the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Catholic Charities sponsors Circles of Support and Accountability: “Circles provide a healthy and supportive relationship between the individual reentering society and the community, opening an avenue for restoration and healing of all people impacted by crime.”
As parents/grandparents, our homes radiate with grace — God’s reconciling presence — each time we pray for God’s peace and then seek reconciliation with our spouse, brother, sister, child, parent. A “peace table” in the home offers children the opportunity to seek peace over power in dealing with disputes. The dinner table, where two or three are gathered, offers peace as family members share life and prayer. As Fr. Patrick Peyton coined: “The family that prays together, stays together.”
In a deeply divided Church and country, it’s time to sit at the table with someone who sees differently to gain perspective. Christ commands us to stop thinking of anyone as the other or the enemy — no matter what. Jesus Christ’s death and Resurrection ushered in the Ministry of Reconciliation, which is made present each time we gather at the Eucharistic table — God’s Peace Table. At the Sign of Peace, God prepares our hearts to receive His Body and Blood, which strengthens us to serve as His reconciling presence in our homes, neighborhoods, and world. Now, that’s good news.
How can you create a “Peace Table” in your home? Your community?
Mary Pedersen D. Min. reflects on the Gospel through the lens of parents/grandparents. You may contact her: www.marypedersen.com.