Waging Peace Means Not Averting Your Eyes

Praying for Peace on World Labyrinth Day

With special prayers for the people of Ukraine

Liberty, Missouri — About two dozen people gathered at Precious Blood Renewal Center on World Labyrinth Day, May 7, to pray for peace in Ukraine and for peace in our lives. We prayed together, broke bread together and walked the Renewal Center’s Reconciliation Labyrinth together.

He opened the talk by reading from John’s Gospel  20:19-29, the story of doubting Thomas.

Next Fr. Nassal reflected on and show photographs from an essay by award-winning photographer David Hume Kennerly that appeared in the New York Times under the headline “Photographing Hell.”

Kennerly notes in his essay that media coverage of war these days inevitably carries a disclaimer: “This material is graphic. It may not be suitable for everyone.” Kennerly argues for removing these disclaimers, as Fr. Nassal explained: “These pictures, bear witness to the horrors of war… [Remove the disclaimers,] “because we need to see. We need to Look at what war does.”

The disclaimers “are meant to protect people from seeing disturbing images,” Fr. Nassal said. “We need to be disturbed. We need to be disturbed by the horrors of war, because when we avert our eyes, we fail to see the truth.”

Fr. Nassal then asked participants to recall the image of Thomas standing before Jesus in the Upper Room. “The picture again is not just to confirm one’s faith in the Resurrection, as some would suggest because Thomas was moved from doubt to faith,” he said. “But even more important to me is the challenge to look, to probe, to stare down evil, to document crime and suffering and loss, so that when we rise up with Jesus, we confront the evil that is in the world.”

We confront evil, he continued, with “the power of good that is within us. From that light that dwells within us, that started our day of prayer. Believing that that power of light can overwhelm the darkness. And that truth ultimately will overwhelm the power of people.”

This is an audio recording of Fr. Joe Nassal’s talk on that day.

Here is the New York Times essay Photographing Hell” by David Hume Kennerly, a Pulitzer Prizing winning photographer and chief White House photographer for President Gerald Ford.  A version of this article appears in print on April 17, 2022, Section SR, Page 6 of the New York edition with the headline: “Photographing Hell.”

Here is a copy of the handout from the day, Nine Ways of Waging Peace.

A transcript of the talk is in production. When the transcript is ready, you will be able to find a link right here. Transcript of Fr. Joe Nassal’s talk on World Labyrinth Day, May 7, 2022.

Below is the mediation Fr. Nassal used to begin the day. Candles had been distributed among the participants, and he asked them to light the candles.

“May the candle be a symbol, not only of your individual prayer, but also of our common prayer for the resolution of the war between Ukraine and Russia, for resolution and renunciation of the use of armed forces in the region, for serious negotiations, not only in the hope of resolving the war, but also toward a lasting peace.

May the light of our candles burning in the darkness remind us of the light of Christ’s love and the power of love to illuminate even the darkest, the deepest darkness of hatred and mistrust and fear and evil.

May we believe this light, take comfort from this light, strengthen this light.

I invite you now to sit comfortably in your chair. Sit quietly for a few moments as we seek to breathe together for peace.

Breathe slowly, quietly, quietly calming ourselves.

Take a breath, breathe out anxiety.
Breathe in peace, breathe out fear.
Breathe in trust, breathe out resentment.

Breathe in joy, breathe out hate
Breathe in love, breathe out worry.

Breathe in the calmness of God’s presence and become fully present to this moment, this time of prayer, this light of Christ, the risen one who dwells within each of us.

God of faithfulness, we come to you troubled by the war in Ukraine. We are filled with anxieties and questions. What change are we able to affect by our prayer before you? By our words? By our deeds? What can we do to bring peace to our planet?

God, we need your grace to settle and redirect our hearts. We need your hope to rekindle and sustain our passion for justice. We need your wisdom that we might recognize anew your presence dwelling within us, calling us to live as people of light and hope rather than of darkness and fear.

Be with us, help us to truly believe not only in your abiding presence within and among us, but in the power of our prayer to move mountains.

Help us, O beloved, to build a world where people of every nation form community, where all coexist in peace, gratitude, and love.

All this we ask in your name, the creator who creates peace in our hearts.

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