The recent retirement of Pat Gaffney as the general secretary of the British section of Pax Christi, the international Catholic peace movement, has made me think about my own commitment to realising Christ’s peace in our world. Pat worked for Pax Christi for 29 years and, at times almost single-handedly, built it up into an effective organisation to increase awareness and educate our community in the art of peace-building. Among many other qualities needed to be a person of peace Pat showed the virtue of courage at its best.
To have the courage of our convictions is what is needed to be a follower of Jesus. We often forget this and withdraw into a kind of personal religion where we set the boundaries and don’t step outside them. The harsh reality is that at times Christianity demands us to be prophets as well priests; leaders as well as disciples. To be faithful to this takes guts. We cannot always retreat into prayer; sometimes prayer and reflection mean that we are compelled to act. But we must always be rooted in prayer, otherwise we may lose our way, and then we will be following our own ambitions and not those of our Master, the Prince of Peace.
Pat’s courageous service will be missed by many in the peace movement both inside the church and beyond, but the work of peace-making will continue. In truth, the Church should be the peace movement par excellence: if only we had the courage to be just that.
Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God!