As Father Kirby reminds us, St. Augustine defined peace as the “tranquility of order.” In its proper place, including right relations with other creatures, every being is good. Only the disorder produced by ripping a thing out of its proper position constitutes the (all-too-familiar) phenomenon of evil.
This definition helps us to see that a peacemaker is, at bottom, someone who puts things (back) into their right order.
Though peacemaking can profitably be applied to reconciling others, to make any sense or bear any fruit, it must begin with oneself. This is one reason our Lord identifies peacemakers as “children of God,” for if we are at odds with the source of our being, we can by no means be at peace with ourselves, or help to bring peace into the world.
To make peace is to make order, and therefore to act in opposition to disorder. Though, metaphysically speaking, evil is a mere absence of the good, in practice evil has built up a powerful momentum beginning in the eternal rebellion of evil spirits, and the corruption of human nature through original and actual sin.
As a result, anyone attempting to make peace or order will inevitably run into significant resistance, and be required to put up a heck of a fight.
Unless we have the courage to do combat against our own disordered desires, and to risk (and often suffer) persecution at the hands of those unwilling to curb their own appetites, we have no hope of making peace with our Lord, or true peace with one another.
Fr. Kirby rightly stresses that genuine peace demands that we be willing to engage in conflict. By contrast, the world offers us a “false peace based on appeasement, compromise, and a ‘culture of nice’.”
This worldly peace is false in every way. In its “success,” it fosters a “relativism” according to which the will of man “determines whether something is right or wrong.” In other words, it does violence to the actual order of things.
Additionally, this false peace fails to provide an objective or firm standard to adjudicate the conflicting desires of its various proponents, who will sooner or later turn on one another with at least as much ferocity as the world vainly promised to remedy with its quackery.
Paul Seton wisely recommends that we look to Augustine in this time “when both the Church and the country are under attack from enemies foreign and domestic,” for “Augustine is the opposite of the milquetoast versions of Christianity that are so much with us these days.”
As a “heartfelt disciple of the Prince of Peace,” Augustine “engaged in countless polemics.” Understanding the “place and role of spiritedness in Augustine’s moral and political thought,” and in the order of sanctity itself, is a worthy way to prepare to make the peace our Lord expects of us in our profoundly disordered age.
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