“(We have) political leaders who fund wars and send the young to fight them, judges and juries who dispatch people to death row, filmmakers who script gunplay movies and cartoons, toy manufacturers marketing ‘action games,’ parents in war zone homes where verbal or physical abuse is common, high school history texts that tell about Calamity Jane but not Jane Addams, Daniel Boone but not Daniel Berrigan.”
These comments by peace advocate Colman McCarthy led me to reflect on the horrific homicides in my beloved city of Chicago.
St. John Paul II saw the culture of death we are experiencing and how it takes the heart out of us. He did not, however, dwell on its evil but encouraged hope as the best means of righting wrong. McCarthy would point to education as the best means for fulfilling that hope.
When envisioning peace-promoting education, we tend to see it teaching about inspiring historical figures like Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, the Berrigan brothers, Martin Luther King Jr., St. Teresa of Kolkata, Joan Baez, Jane Addams and St. Frances Xavier Cabrini.
If education, especially of our youth, is to succeed, what more must it do? First and foremost, it must address the spirit within those who promoted peace.
What is this spirit’s inner force and why is it attractive to the point of sacrificing one’s life for peace?
That inner force contains the gifts of the Holy Spirit at work: understanding, wisdom, counsel, piety, knowledge, fortitude and fear of the Lord.
A closer look at that force reveals that as God put order into our world, it was reflected in the Garden of Eden’s animals, sun, moon, oceans and the birds of the air living in harmony. We, too, are most wholesome when pursuing God’s order that promotes peace.
Often, education fails because it doesn’t include the Holy Spirit’s role in our life. Education should teach appreciation of life and how to make it better with the help of the Life-Giver, that is, God, and his moving inspiration.
To create effective promoters of peace, prayer must be an integral part of students’ education. Lessons should aim at firing up students’ love for God’s heavenly order and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Pope Benedict XVI, writing of Plato’s thought, said that music “draws our senses into our spirit and so brings man to wholeness.” The Holy Spirit is like this music, bringing us to wholeness when we pursue God’s order and its harmony.