World Day of Peace: Pope Francis' Message and Rule of St. Augustine

Today we celebrate the 50th World Day of Peace

 photo: CNS

photo: CNS

In his message for the 50th World Day of Peace, Pope Francis pleads for a rise in strategic non-violence within the global community. This is a non-violence that begins within one’s heart, is nurtured at the level of the family, and blossoms within the larger political order.

While the 20th century brought two world wars, with well-defined sides and clearly distinguished victories, in this century, Pope Francis says, we are in the midst of a “world war fought piecemeal.” When the lines of battle become more difficult to distinguish, we must carry the spirit of non-violence in our hearts on a daily level. The papal message acknowledges that aggressive acts of terror will likely trigger our desire for violent retaliation. Yet, Pope Francis argues that, in a piecemeal war, such violence will only give birth to more violence: "When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promotors of nonviolent peacemaking.”

Within the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church, St. Augustine is most noted for his contributions to the teaching on “just war.” Yet, if we look to the Rule of St. Augustine we see that peaceful “living together” lies at the heart of his concerns. Just as enemies become more difficult to discern, so too does our “community.” Our communities and neighborhood are much more expansive, global, and dispersed today than in centuries past. This demands a new sense of responsibility.

Let’s reflect on a number of brief points from the Rule of St. Augustine. Consider which of these apply to your family life, your friendships, or your public conduct:

-- "The main purpose for your having come together is to live harmoniously in your house, intent upon God, with one heart and one soul (Acts 4:32)."

-- "Let all of you then live together in oneness of mind and heart, mutually honoring in yourselves the God whose temples you have become."

-- "You should avoid quarrels altogether or else put an end to them as quickly as possible; otherwise, anger may grow into hatred, making a plank out of a splinter, and turn the soul into a murderer. For so you read: 'Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer'"

-- "Any who have injured others by open insult, or by abusive or even incriminating language, must be mindful to repair the injury as quickly as possible by an apology, and those who have suffered the injury must also forgive, without further wrangling. But if they have offended one another, they must forgive one another’s trespasses for the sake of your prayers which should be recited with greater sincerity each time you repeat them."

In recent years, the North American Augustinians have made efforts to extend these principles of communal living into broader efforts to promote a more peaceful and just global community. Read more about the Augustinian Commission on Justice & Peace