Msgr. Luigi Civardi
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1961
Published on the World Wide Web with Permission of the Publisher.


General Notions

St. Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologica, defined peace as: "The tranquillity of order, particularly in the will."

Peace is tranquillity, to wit: the absence of disturbances, disorders, and of strife; and such tranquillity rests upon order, which comes from the regular convergence of means to an end, by virtue of which everything finds itself in its proper place.

True order is first of all that internal and moral order that is found in wills before it is found in things, in wills guided by justice, which is respect for the right of all and each.

Justice is the guardian of order and, consequently, of peace. Without justice, men would always be fighting like wild beasts over the prey. Hence the Biblical saying: "Opus justitiae pax" ------ "The work of justice shall be peace." [Is. 32: 17].

Without justice it is possible to have a purely external, mechanical, apparent, unstable order, liable to be broken with every wind that blows; and order resting on the points of bayonets.

One may recall the famous phrase of that French minister who, when asked in parliament concerning conditions in Poland, which had just been subjugated by the French army, replied: "Order reigns in Warsaw."In truth, Warsaw, the capital of Poland, was completely under the heel of the invaders: it was a purely external order that prevailed, and so they called it "the order of Warsaw."The phrase of the French minister re-echoed the famous saying of the writer Tacitus: "Ubi solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant" ------ "They have made a wilderness and they call it peace."

But Christian peace, true peace, is neither wilderness nor help- lessness, nor stillness; that is the peace of cemeteries. Christian peace is life, it is motion, it is spontaneous action, the fruit of harmony and cooperation.

There is an inward peace that reigns among men's faculties, whereby the lower are subject to the higher; and there is an outward peace that reflects the relations between man and man, between classes, and between peoples. Outward peace is national when the relations between rulers and subjects and between citizens are founded on justice. It is international when the relations between nations that make up the human family are founded on justice.

We now wish to examine the prerogatives of Christian peace, but in order to do this we must first know the examples and the teachings of Christ concerning peace.

The Examples and Teachings of Christ

1. Jesus Christ was foretold by the prophets as the Bearer of Peace, the Peaceful King.

Isaias says: "And he shall judge the Gentiles, and rebuke many people; and they shall turn their swords into plowshares, and their spears into sickles; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they be exercised any more to war." [Is. 2: 4). The Kingdom of Christ will, therefore, be the Kingdom of Peace; the same prophet, in fact, elsewhere calls the future Messias the Prince of Peace. [Is. 9: 6].

Zacharias, the father of the Baptist, prophesied that the Divine Messias will come "to enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to direct our feet into the way of peace." [Lk. 1: 79].

The prophecies find their fulfillment in the doctrine, in the teachings and in the life of Christ.

2. First of all in the teachings of Christ.

Around the cradle the angels proclaim: "Peace to men of good will." It is the first and only wish that Heaven sends to earth upon the appearance of the Savior, but are not all other wishes included in it?

Jesus made a summary of His public teachings by His Sermon on the Mount, which is, as it were, His program, and in it He said: "Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God." [Matt. 5: 9]. And the peacemakers in this case are those who are at peace with their brethren. They are called by the honorable title of Sons of God, because the Lord, as St. Paul says, is the God of Peace. [2 Cor. 13: 11].

Peace is the loving wish of Jesus to His disciples: "Have peace among you." [Mk. 9: 49]. It is the legacy, the only legacy which He leaves to them in the discourse of the Last Supper, which is, as it were, His last will: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, not as the world giveth do I give to you." [Jn. 14: 27], And His first word of greeting to them after the Resurrection is: "Pax vobis." ------ "Peace be to you." [Jn. 20: 19].

Besides, He wants His disciples to be messengers of peace: "And when you come into the house, salute it . . . If that house be worthy, your peace shall come upon it." [Matt. 10: 12-13].

However, there is a passage in the Gospel that seems to be in conflict with the practical mission of the Savior. In fact, He said: "Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword."
[Matt. 10: 34].

Some who know no other passages from the Gospel but this claim that Jesus is in favor of war. These persons do not understand the true meaning of these words. Jesus speaks of that ceaseless war that the Christian must wage against the enemies of good, with spiritual and unbloody means. It is not the sort of war, therefore, that sows the battlefields of the earth with corpses, but that which fills Heaven with souls; it is the war that is waged by the martyrs dying in their own blood unshaken.

3. Furthermore, against this materialistic interpretation are not only the teachings, but the whole life of Christ. Jesus made His solemn entry into Jerusalem riding, not on a fiery charger, but on a meek and lowly donkey. Why? The Evangelist tells us: so that what the prophet foretold might be fulfilled: "Behold thy king cometh to thee, meek and sitting upon an ass." [Matt. 21: 5].

The Jews were dreaming that the Messias would be a warrior, and a conqueror: Jesus presents Himself to them as a mild King, as the Prince of Peace.

When the inhabitants of a Samaritan city had refused Him hospitality, two of His disciples, James and John, prompted by an indiscreet zeal, put this question to Him: "Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from Heaven and consume them?" and Jesus replied: "You know not of what spirit you are; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy souls, but to save." [Lk. 9: 54-56].

During His arrest in the Garden of Olives, Peter, in order to defend his Master, drew his sword and cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest, but Jesus rebuked him thus: "Put up again thy sword into its place, for all that take the sword shall perish with the sword." [Matt. 26: 51-52].

The conclusion is obvious: Christ did bring the sword upon earth, but not that of Peter that kills; His is a spiritual sword that kills not, but quickens.

The Prerogatives of Christian Peace

What are the prerogatives of the peace of Christ, of that peace that He brought to the world and that He wills should reign at all times and in all places, in individual, family and social life among men and nations?

In substance, the peace of Christ is friendship with God and with men: first of all, inward peace, from which, as rays from the sun, comes outward peace; peace within souls, from which it radiates upon things, ------ peace founded on justice and inspired by charity.

Let us develop these two doctrines:

1. Peace founded on justice.

Jesus came upon earth not only to preach peace, but to bring justice, which is the foundation and the safeguard of peace, as we have seen. The prophet Isaias, speaking of the future Redeemer, says with a poetic phrase, "And justice shall be the girdle of his loins." [Is. 6: 5). And the Psalmist, describing the work of the Messias, exclaimed: "Justice and peace have kissed." [Ps. 84: 11].

How Christ inculcated justice, the basic virtue of individual and social life, we have already seen in Chapter VI. His disciples must not only "hunger and thirst after justice" [Matt. 5: 6], but they must be ready to suffer every kind of persecution rather than default in their duties toward justice. In fact, the last Beatitude runs thus: "Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." [Matt. 5: 10].

2. The peace of Christ is not, therefore, any peace whatever, peace at any cost. It is peace founded on justice; therefore, when justice is violated and there is no other means of redressing it, it is lawful to have recourse to force, which is entirely different from violence, since it is not summoned to the service of caprice or of passions [like violence], but of law and order. Hence, the lawfulness of war under certain circumstances.

According to Catholic moralists, war is lawful when:

(a) It is declared by legitimate authority;

(b) It is just; that is, is waged for a just motive, such as re-establishing justice when offended, repairing an injury or defending oneself against aggression;

(c) It is inevitable, ------ that is, when all other peaceful means of obtaining justice and of obtaining redress have failed;

(d) It is useful,. insofar as it is likely that the advantages obtained will outweigh the damages suffered.

Some pacifists accuse the religion of Christ with legalizing war which, according to them, is never lawful. It should be pointed out to these people that justice is a higher good than peace itself, because without justice, as already observed, there can be no human society. That accounts for the coining of the aphorism: "fiat justitia, pereat mundus" ------ let justice be done, though the world should perish!

In the second place it is to be noted that the religion of Christ, by condemning every injustice, thereby condemns and at the same time seeks to do away with every cause of war, for most wars, as we know, are nothing but acts of violence and abuses of power.

3. Christian peace, besides being founded on justice, is inspired by charity.

As a matter of fact, it is difficult to observe the rules of justice if there is no fire of charity burning in the heart. Indeed, charity is the inspirer, the nourisher, the guardian of peace. If men love themselves like brothers, they cannot offend or kill one another as enemies.

The peace of Christ was promised by the Heavenly messengers to "men of good will," and the will is good precisely when it is guided by justice and inspired by love.

The Prophet Isaias saw and described this wonderful scene in the future reign of Christ: "The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion and ox shall eat straw." [Is. 65: 25].

What will ever be able to achieve this prodigy, that those who are wont to tear each other to pieces should become friends? The love of Christ. Take away this love and that which a cynical philosopher fancied concerning the origin of society will readily come true: "homo homini lupus" ------ "Man is a wolf to man."

The representatives of all nations have been seeking and are still seeking a way to general disarmament, or at least to substantial reduction of arms. Physical disarmament is an excellent thing, but either it will never come to pass, or it will not last unless it is preceded and accompanied by moral disarmament: that is the disarmament of spirits, stripped of every feeling of hatred, of vengeance, of individual and collective selfishness.

Peace is sometimes represented by an angel bearing an olive branch in its hands. This angel of peace soars aloft on two wings, the names of which are justice and love.

The Teachings of the Popes

1. The Popes, the representatives of the Prince of Peace, have not only invoked peace and deplored war, but they have also pointed out the ways of peace ------ namely, the means and the methods of achieving and of preserving it.

This salutary teaching is found repeatedly in the writings of recent Popes, who have seen the horror and the ruin of the last worId wars. They are Benedict XV, Pius XI and Pius XII. They pointed out particularly the foundations and the safeguards of peace, in the following remedies: association of nations, universal disarmament, compulsory arbitration [for the solution of international controversies], the independence of all nations, respect of minorities, and equitable distribution of wealth [among the various nations, large and small, rich and poor].

We will confine ourselves to a few citations:

2. Benedict XV, in his note to the heads of belligerent nations [August 1, 1917] wrote: "First of all, the fundamental point must be that the moral force of right shall be substituted for the material force of arms; thence must follow a just agreement of all for the simultaneous and reciprocal diminution of armaments, in accordance with rules and guarantees to be established hereafter, in a measure sufficient and necessary for the maintenance of public order in each State; next, as a substitute for armies, the institution of arbitration, with its high peace-making function, subject to regulations to be agreed on and sanctions to be determined against the State which should refuse either to submit international questions to arbitration or to accept its decision."

The same Pontiff, in the Encyclical Pacem Dei Munus [May 23, 1920] said: "It is much to be desired, Venerable Brethren, that all States, putting aside mutual suspicion should unite in one society, or rather a single family calculated both to maintain their own independence and safeguard the order of human society. What specially, among other reasons, calls for such an association of nations, is the need generally recognized of making every effort to abolish or reduce the enormous burden of the military expenditures which States can no longer bear, in order to prevent these disastrous wars or at least to remove the danger of them as far as possible. So would each nation be assured not only of its own independence but also of the integrity of its territory within its just frontiers."

3. Pius XII, in his discourse of Dec. 24, 1939, on the requisites for a just and honorable peace said, among other things:

"A fundamental postulate of any just and honorable peace is an assurance for all nations, great or small, powerful or weak, of their right to life and independence. The will of one nation to live must never mean the sentence of death passed upon another, When this equality of rights has been destroyed, attacked or threatened, order demands that reparation shall be made, and the measure and extent of that reparation is determined, not by the sword nor by arbitrary decision of self-interest, but by the rules of justice and reciprocal equity, "The order thus established, if it is to continue undisturbed and ensure true peace, requires that the nations be delivered from the slavery imposed upon them by the race for armaments, and from the danger that material force, instead of serving to protect the right, may become an overbearing and tyrannical master. Any peaceful settlement that fails to give fundamental importance to a mutually agreed, organic and progressive disarmament, spiritual as well as material, or which neglects to ensure the effective and loyal implementing of such an agreement, will sooner or later show itself to be lacking in coherence and vitality:" The same Pontiff, in his broadcast of December 24, 1951, set forth the bases of a just and lasting peace and stated that:

"Within the limits of a new order founded on moral principles, there is no place for that cold and calculating egoism which tends to hoard economic resources and materials destined for the use of all, to such an extent that the nations less favored by nature are not permitted access to them. In this regard, it is a source of great consolation to see admitted the necessity of a participation of all in the natural riches of the earth even on the part of those nations which, in the fulfillment of this principle, belong to the category of givers and not to that of receivers. It is, however, in conformity with the principles of equity that a solution to a question so vital to the world economy should be arrived at methodically, and in easy stages, with a necessary guarantee, always drawing useful lessons from the omissions and mistakes of the past. If, in the future peace, this point were not to be courageously dealt with, there would remain in the relations between people a deep and far-reaching root blossoming forth into bitter dissensions and burning jealousies, which would lead eventually to new conflicts.

"The maxims of human wisdom require that in any reorganization of international life all parties should learn a lesson from the failures and deficiencies of the past. Hence, in creating or reconstructing international institutions which have so high a mission and such difficult and grave responsibilities, it is important to bear in mind the experience gained from the ineffectiveness or imperfections of previous institutions of the kind."

The exhortation of Christ to His disciples, an exhortation that is also command: "Have peace among you" [Mk. 9: 49], still re-echoes in the heart-rending words of the representatives of Christ. That exhortation is addressed also to us: Let us keep peace in our own little world; in our family, in our society, in our place of work, in our community, in the circle of our friends and acquaintances. Away with animosities, with quarrels, with envy!

Let us hearken to the appeal of the Apostle: "If it be possible, as much as is in you, have peace with all men."
[Rom. 12: 18].

Let us strive to be at peace with all men, even if all around us there is hatred and strife. Thus we will help to bring about the peace of Christ ------ universal peace!


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