Pax Intrantibus: ‘Peace On Those Who Enter Here’

Joan Chittister offers a reminder of the stance that we as Christians are called to take toward kin, strangers, and even enemies. This “stance” only comes after years of intentional inner work, as well as outward practice, failure, and practice.

Over the archway of every medieval monastery were carved the words, Pax Intrantibus, “Peace to those enter here.” The words were both a hope and a promise. In a culture struggling with social chaos, Benedict sketched out a blueprint for world peace. He laid a foundation for a new way of life, the ripples of which stretched far beyond the first monastery arch, to every culture and continent from one generation to another, from that era to this one, from his time and now to ours. To us.

That is our legacy, our mandate, our mission—as alive today as ever, more in need in today’s nuclear world than ever before. Benedictine peace, however, is not simply a commitment to the absence of war. It is, as well, the presence of a lifestyle that makes war unacceptable and violence unnecessary.

Even if we dismantled all the war machines of the world tomorrow, it would be no guarantee that we would have peace. The armies of the world simply demonstrate the war that is going on in our souls, the restlessness of the enemy within us, the agitation of the human condition gone awry.

To all these things we need to bring our own world—new spiritual imagination. Imagine a world where people choose their work according to the good it will do for the poorest of the poor—because they saw it in us. Imagine a world where holy leisure, spiritual reflection rather than political expedience began to determine everything we do as a nation—because they saw it in us. Imagine a world where the care of the earth became a living, breathing, determining goal in every family, every company, every life we touch—because they saw it in us.

Imagine a world devoted to becoming a community of strangers that crosses every age level, every race, every tradition, every difference on the globe—because they saw it in us. Imagine a world where humble listening to the other became more important than controlling them—because people saw it in us. Imagine a world where what makes for peace becomes the foundation of every personal, corporate, national decision—because they were called to it by us.

Let us resolve again to follow the fiery-eyed radical Benedict of Nursia whose one life illuminated the western world. Let us, in other words, live Benedictine spirituality and illuminate our own darkening but beautiful world.–Joan Chittister, OSB

From Radical Christian Life: A Year with Benedict by Joan Chittister (Liturgical Press)

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