Book Review: “Nine Days to Welcome Peace”
Two days from now our nation will provide its political answer to some of the major disputes facing this country. The stakes of the outcome range from a universal mandate on human behavior, a fundamental transformation of the now most powerful branch of government, and the question of America’s hegemonic dominance in international relations.
How are we meant to brave such a conflict? Acquire interior peace. In Nine Days to Welcome Peace, a short, guided retreat book by well-known author and Catholic priest, Jacques Philippe, we are provided such a program.
Interior peace as a solution to today’s societal ills sounds like a trite expression printed on a coffee mug or a poster in a college dorm. Yet, the power behind those words come from the experience of a Holocaust victim and God Himself.
Philippe opens the first day of his retreat with reflections from Etty Hillesium. Hillesium, a young Jewish woman who was ultimately exterminated in Nazi Germany, encountered Christ and recognized the priority of acquiring interior peace even in that dark time.
If that shocking testimony was not enough to settle any objection of calling for activism prior to interior peace, he references the struggle of God’s people in the book of Isaiah and their yearning for political solutions to their trials. The response comes from God Himself: “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, in quiet and trust shall be your strength. But this you did not will.”
How many times in today’s world would we not? In this world of activity, we would rather ‘do’ without first choosing to ‘be.’
Nevertheless, the initial reluctance to the urgency of acquiring peace is understandable in light of what we call peace. The cultural images of peace which spring to the imagination span from Nixon in China, hippies, or the valediction of “peace out.” Like the word ‘love’, peace has so many cultural appropriations that it may come across as a very shallow quality.
However, Scripture indicates how profound peace truly is. Fr. Philippe finds evidence of the power of peace from Scripture, particularly from the Johannine account of the Last Supper. Fr. Philippe sets a familiar scene for us as we approach the election. He writes, “The disciples are upset and worried because of everything going on in Jerusalem, plus the hostility against Jesus that was getting stronger. The first thing that Jesus asks of them is to calm down: They must not let themselves get upset and must keep an attitude of faith.”
To be clear, Philippe’s call to peace is not for quietist inactivity. Rather, it is a necessary disposition toward correct action. He writes on St. Ignatius of Loyola’s distinctions of periods of consolation and desolation and the necessity to make decisions only in the former. The failure of certain activists to properly choose between peaceful protest and burning down a Wendy’s at least suggests that the decision was not made after making a traditional 30-day Ignatian retreat.
As we approach the third of November, we may be asking ourselves, what next? But for Fr. Philippe the question is, what now? As we look toward the election with anxiety and fear, let us instead cultivate interior peace today.
To close, let us pray with Fr. Jacques Philippe:
“I place my whole past into God’s Hands anew, with the trust that He can draw good from anything. I entrust my future to Him, and only ask for the grace to do well what is asked of me today.”
Adam Ryback is a member of the PLW Victory Fund PAC board and helps coordinate for Sursum Corda, a young adult initiative of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. Opinions expressed are his own.