The Gift of Peace

The Gift of Peace

4.8 6
by Joseph Bernardin, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin

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Joseph Cardinal Bernardin's gentle leadership throughout his life of ministerial service had made him an internationally beloved figure, but the words he left behind about his final journey would change the lives of many more people from all faiths, from all backgrounds, and from all over the world.

In the last two months of his life, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin made


Joseph Cardinal Bernardin's gentle leadership throughout his life of ministerial service had made him an internationally beloved figure, but the words he left behind about his final journey would change the lives of many more people from all faiths, from all backgrounds, and from all over the world.

In the last two months of his life, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin made it his ultimate mission to share his personal reflections and insights as a legacy to those he left behind.  The Gift of Peace reveals the Cardinal's spiritual growth amid a string of traumatic events: a false accusation of sexual abuse; reconciliation a year later with his accuser, who had earlier recanted the charges; a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and surgery; the return of cancer, now in his liver; his decision to discontinue chemotherapy and live his remaining days as fully as possible.  In these pages, Bernardin tells his story openly and honestly, and shares the profound peace he came to at the end of his life.  He accepted his peace as a gift from God, and he in turn now shares that gift with the world.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A wonderful book celebrating and showing the way to peace.”
New York Newsday

Chicago Tribune

“A gem of a book.”
Publishers Weekly

“This is a book for people of all religions.”
Columbus Dispatch

“Very moving–written with simplicity and deep wisdom.”
Library Journal

"A gentle, personal voice."
USA Today

“This uplifting book testifies to a life well spent–The Cardinal shares with his readers a tremendous trust in the Lord that results in inner peace–Simple true words that can give us all a deeper sense of hope.”

“Overflows with strength and compassion–Bernardin's recipe for personal peace transcends organized religion.”
–Paul Reid, Palm Beach Post

“In his final testament, Cardinal Bernardin urges the dying to bask in the light of each other.”

“We come to know a humble man who touched many people with love and compassion, without judgment.”
Hartford Courant

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"This book is an important part of my preparation for dying and allowing others to share in that awesome experience," wrote Chicago's Cardinal Bernadin just days before his death last November. With transparent honesty, Bernadin recounts the traumatic events and emotions of his last three years: a false accusation of sexual misconduct, the grim diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, severe back and leg pain and fatal liver tumors. Yet suffering, for Bernadin, was not punishment but opportunity. "Through suffering we empty ourselves and are filled with God's grace and love," he writes. "We can begin to think of other people and their needs." In that spirit, he began a ministry to others with terminal illnesses, and his prayer list swelled to 700 names.

In this gem of a book, reminiscent of the best of Henri Nouwen, Bernadin stresses the importance of regular prayer, the need for loving human relationships and the profound peace that comes from trusting God even in the worst of times.

Library Journal
The well-loved cardinal of Chicago completed this book during the last few months of his life. In it he records the personal struggle of his final three years, during which he faced charges of sexual misconduct, later dropped as admittedly false. Eventually, Bernardin made peace with his accuser, helping the younger man reconcile with his Catholic faith before he died of AIDS. Bernardin also accepted his own imminent death from pancreatic cancer as a true lesson of the cross, writing here about his mixed sense of abandonment and hope with a profound awareness of the meaning of shared suffering and Christian love. A very moving last testament, written with simplicity and deep wisdom.
The reflections of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin during the final two months of his life before he died of cancer on November 14, 1996. Cardinal Bernardin talks openly of events that occurred during the previous three years, including the false accusation of sexual misconduct, diagnosis of cancer, and return of cancer after 15 months of being in remission. Throughout the book, he shares the peace he accepted as a gift from God. A portion of receipts will go to The Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center.

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Crown Religion/Business/Forum
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Read an Excerpt

"Come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome."

On August 31, 1996, the day after I announced that the cancer had spread to my liver and was inoperable, I presided at a communal anointing of the sick at Saint Barbara Church in Brookfield, Illinois.  I told my fellow sick that, when we are faced with serious illness (or any serious difficulty), we should do several things--things that have given me peace of mind personally.

The first is to put ourselves completely in the hands of the Lord.  We must believe that the Lord loves us, embraces us, never abandons us (especially in our most difficult moments).  This is what gives us hope in the midst of life's suffering and chaos.  It is the same Lord who invites us: "Come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you.  Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.  Your souls will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden light" (Mt 11:28-30).

This is a favorite passage of mine and, possibly, one of yours also.  It is so comforting, so soothing.  Perhaps it also sounds too good to be true.  Indeed, further reflection shows that Jesus' message is a bit more complex than it appears at first sight or hearing.

For example, is there not a tension between the "rest" that Jesus offers and the "yoke" he invites us to wear? What did Jesus mean by his "yoke"? The ancient rabbis used to refer to the Mosaic Law as a kind of yoke.  But Jesus' metaphor is different because central to his "yoke" or wisdom or law is the Lord himself.  He practiced what he preached.  He was gentle toward the people he served and humbly obedient to the will of his Father.  He called us to love one another and laid down his own life for us.  The "rest" he offers us comes from adopting and living each day his attitudes, his values, his mission, his ministry, his willingness to lay down his very life--in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.

What makes Jesus' yoke "easy"? A good yoke is carefully shaped to reduce chafing to a minimum.  Jesus promises that his yoke will be kind and gentle to our shoulders, enabling us to carry our load more easily.  That is what he means when he says his burden is "light." Actually, it might be quite heavy, but we will find it possible to carry out our responsibilities.  Why? Because Jesus will help us.  Usually a yoke joined a pair of oxen and made them a team.  It is as though Jesus tells us, "Walk alongside me; learn to carry the burdens by observing how I do it.  If you let me help you, the heavy labor will seem lighter."

Perhaps, the ultimate burden is death itself.  It is often preceded by pain and suffering, sometimes extreme hardships.  In my case it is primarily a question of a pervasive fatigue that seems to increase day by day, forcing me to spend much of the day and night lying down.  But notice that Jesus did not promise to take away our burdens.  He promised to help us carry them.  And if we let go of ourselves--and our own resources--and allow the Lord to help us, we will be able to see death not as an enemy or a threat but as a friend.

Meet the Author

Joseph Louis Bernardin was born in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1928.  He was ordained a priest in 1952 and served as an Auxiliary Bishop of Atlanta (1966-68), general secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C.  (1968-1972), president of the Conference (1974-1977), and Archbishop of Chicago (1982-1996).  He became Cardinal in 1983.  Cardinal Bernardin was widely respected for his gentleness, his spirituality, and his ability to reconcile.  He received the Medal of Freedom at the White House two months before he died of pancreatic cancer in November 1996.

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The Gift of Peace 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
bc258 More than 1 year ago
Cardinal Bernardin shows his true faith and love of God and all people.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Anyone having a terminal illness, or anyone dealing with betrayal, needs to read this to help gain forgiveness and peace in one's journey. It is a model for living while giving insight on humility of a beautiful person who is dying with great dignity.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In this book Cardinal Besnardin gives his reflections on life, from the final days of his own. He explains that while upon his death bed, knowing he was going to die, he was enveloped in the greatest peace he had ever expirienced. Because he emptied himself, and let god take over. This book was very very good and I definatley reccomend it to those who are in need of spirtual guidance or inspiration
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Gift of Peace is written in a way that shares how the soul longs to find healing in the midst of dis-ease. This books reveals how each of us search for meaning and hope beyond our present circumstances and seek out wholeness from the depths of our being. I recommend this book to anyone facing a terminal illness or simply searching for ways to live in soul.