A line in today’s first reading always fascinates me. An angry crowd attacks Paul and drags him out of the city, and stones him, leaving him for dead. But when the disciples gathered around him, he got up and went into the city! Did he dust off his toga and sandals and rush back into the fray? Somehow, the peace of Christ had energized him and filled him with the courage to face down all adversity.
Let’s examine one group of young high school students on fire with the peace of Christ.
In 1968 during a time of intense political and cultural turmoil in Italy, a group of high school students began to find the local parish life uninspiring. They resisted the pull of Marxist ideology sweeping Italy and stayed clear of the too comfortable relationship of Church and state in the Christian Democrats. They began to read scripture and pray together.
One of the students was Andrea Ricciardi, a founder of the Sant Egidio community. Rooted in prayer and dedicated to the pursuit of peace, Sant Egidio grew into a worldwide movement of lay people committed to solidarity, ecumenism, and dialogue. They like to invite people to “Keep peace and fight poverty with us.”
Their robust Evening Prayers at first were located in a run-down abandoned Carthusian monastic Church called Sant’Egidio, given to them by Paul VI. This Church eventually became too small to accommodate the crowds of young professionals and middle-class youth attracted to Sant Egidio. Pope John Paul II entrust to them one of the most prominent basilicas in Rome and among the most beautiful, Santa Maria in Trastevere, along with another famous Church, San Bartolomeo.
Today, Sant Egidio cares for physically and mentally challenged people, operates a trattoria staffed in large part by waiters and chefs with down syndrome and other various abilities. The community reaches out to the poor, the elderly and the homebound, and to immigrants. They actively campaign against the death penalty. They brokered a peace agreement that ended a long and bloody civil war in Mozambique. Each year they help organize and promote the interreligious prayer events in Assisi. They have been nominated for a Nobel peace prize.
The spirit of Sant Egidio is one of openness, friendliness to all people and has spread over the years to more than 73 countries around the globe.
What is it about the peace of Christ that brings not only the tranquility of order but a wave of justice and harmony in its wake? Every family would benefit immensely from the peace of Christ. "The family that prays together stays together." (Venerable Patrick Peyton) Amen.
“My Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.”
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About Father Willy Raymond, C.S.C.
Father Willy Raymond, C.S.C. is President of Holy Cross Family Ministries. He entered Holy Cross Fathers in 1964. He earned a Bachelors in Philosophy from Stonehill College in 1967 and a Masters in Theology from the University of Notre Dame in 1971. In addition to English, Father Willy is conversant in French and Spanish. He's a native of Old Town, Maine and one of 12 children. He remains a diehard fan of the Boston Red Sox, even though he has served as Chaplain for the Los Angeles Dodgers.