by Sister Mary Lucy Astuto

Lent is an ideal time to find Peace...God's light within each heart

Wow, Lent's upon us and it seems like just yesterday was the season of Christmas. Christmas cards...Christmas songs...Christmas wishes...Christmas advertisements...all displaying that word: PEACE! This internet publication is called "A Call To Peace". What does that really mean? Our Lady at Fatima and at Medjugorje calls for it over and over. She says "Pray for peace in a world which longs for peace, but which is without peace." What does she mean? What does she really mean?

All of us know that words can have several meanings. The word "church," for example, can mean "a place, a building wherein people worship God together." But its deeper meaning is "the PEOPLE OF GOD." WE are "the Church." What then of the word "PEACE?" When most of us think of "peace" we think of absence of war, absence of violence, turmoil and fighting. We think of calmness and serenity all about us. This is good, but I believe Our Lady is referring to something much deeper...something, the fruits of which will bring those things such as absence of war, etc. and the establishment of calm and serenity.

I was taught that peace does not mean the absence of trouble...that one can have peace and still suffer. I never understood that explanation. As a matter of fact, for some reason, I never seemed to learn a definition of peace that really sat well with me. So about five years ago, as I was driving from Chicago to Memphis alone, I asked: "Lord, what do YOU mean by 'peace?' How can someone have 'peace' and still suffer?" Immediately, my prayer was answered. A definition came that "fit" any explanation I had heard. God had allowed me to live some 50 years before making His idea of peace (and that of the Church) clear to me. (Now that I've let my age "out of the bag" you'll keep it confidential, won't you?)


Isn't that terrific? It bears repeating. "Peace is having a right relationship with God and with one another, as far as it is possible." It is in essence, not a FEELING, but a STATE OF BEING. We really cannot talk about "peace" then, without talking about CONVERSION, for we cannot have a "right" relationship with God without being in the state of grace. That means, if we have committed a serious offense against God and have deliberately not acknowledged it within the Sacrament of Penance, we do not have a "right relationship with God." Furthermore, in this state, we must NOT receive Jesus in the Eucharist, for then we would be guilty of sacrilege and another serious sin to boot. God's Commandments are just that...COMMANDments, not suggestions or recommendations. If we observed them, there would be no war, no violence. There would be calmness and serenity, even if there would be suffering in other ways.

For as long as I can remember, I've known that. But the definition of PEACE, which came to me in prayer, gave me a new insight. If we keep God's Commandments, we will have a right relationship with Him and with our neighbor. We will have PEACE! No wonder the angels on Christmas night sang: "Peace on earth...Peace to men of good will." No wonder Our Lady said in Medjugorje that if she were to say one word it would be "conversion." We human beings will never have peace unless we have conversion...unless we "turn toward" God and choose Him and His Will, His Commandments.

As I travel the country, talking about Our Lady's messages, I make it a point to say: There are three kinds of conscience: a) the scrupulous conscience, which thinks certain acts are sinful which really are not; b) a lax conscience, which doesn't think certain acts are sinful which really are; and c) a correct conscience, which is able to discern, in the light of the teaching of the Catholic Church, which acts are sinful and which are not. Each of us has an obligation to form a CORRECT CONSCIENCE. One way to do that is by securing a good examination of conscience book that will teach you, literally, right from wrong. It may seem unnecessary for me to write such a statement, my dear people, because you are adults, but believe me...I have met people (all too many) who tell me they don't sin. Can you believe that? What they are really saying is that they don't know what sin is and they really do not know themselves. Incidentally, it is interesting that the saints were always very aware of their sinfulness. Pope Pius XII went to confession every day!

Now, someone might say: "Sister, you shouldn't lay guilt on anyone!" Well, if I took a gun, shot somebody, and did not feel guilty about it, would you not say something was terribly wrong? So the truth is: NOT ALL GUILT IS BAD! When any of us offend God, that is, fail to keep His Commandments, we should feel guilty. If we don't, there is something wrong with us...with our consciences. LOVE DOESN'T WANT TO OFFEND AND FEELS BAD WHEN IT DOES.

One of satan's tricks in our modern day is to convince us, through errant psychology, that all guilt and all fear is bad. Nonsense!!! If I don't save my soul because I love God, then saving it with the right amount of guilt and fear is actually a good thing. I believe this world needs a lot more fear of offending God and a lot more guilt when it does. If that were to happen and people would turn to God because of their respect and love of Him and His Laws, we would have conversion...we would have peace!

Our Lady tells us to work for peace in our own hearts, peace in our families, and then peace in our workplaces. I believe she means that in that order. In other words, there will never be peace in the world until there is peace in individual hearts. That implies that each of us must work to form a good conscience and do what is necessary to have a right relationship with God and neighbor. There is a wonderful booklet that may help one form a good conscience called A Contemporary Adult Guide to Conscience for the Sacrament of Confession by Fr. Richard J. Rego. It is found on many church racks and in Catholic book stores. It's an ideal guide to striving toward a correct conscience.

To each of you as we have begun this new year, edging ever closer to the new millennium and many, many changes ahead, I wish you the PEACE of which Our Lady speaks...especially as we enter this special time of Lent. I wish you to have a right relationship with god and with your neighbor, as far as it is possible. I whish you the joy that comes from seeing God's Commandments as guidelines for your happiness rather than burdens. I wish you the gift of conversion, which we all need. I wish you the gift of seeing yourself in God's light - not the artificial light of the world. I wish you to have a "right" or correct conscience. I wish you to make regular use of the Sacrament of Penance (Reconciliation) as Our Lady requests in her messages and which Jesus gave us to heal us and give us His PEACE. I wish for you Jesus, Himself, Who is the Prince of Peace and with Him, His precious Mother, who as our Mother, too, is the Queen of Peace.

Finally, during this Lent and throughout the year I ask only one favor: please pray for me. Ask God to bless me and the special work He has called me to do. And while you're at it, add in a special prayer if you will for my dear earthly mother who is suffering greatly in the short time she has left on God's earth. And though she suffers, she is at peace with God. That's what PEACE is all about! As always, you are in my heart and prayers! PEACE!