Living Peace: A Spirituality of Contemplation and Action

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For John Dear, a Jesuit priest and a respected leader of the ecumenical peace movement, the spiritual life is a combination of contemplation and action, of maintaining inner peace and projecting that peace onto the greater world. It is the spirituality exemplified by the lives of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, and others throughout history who remained true to the highest ideals while addressing the most difficult problems and conflicts of the ...

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Living Peace: A Spirituality of Contemplation and Action

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For John Dear, a Jesuit priest and a respected leader of the ecumenical peace movement, the spiritual life is a combination of contemplation and action, of maintaining inner peace and projecting that peace onto the greater world. It is the spirituality exemplified by the lives of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, and others throughout history who remained true to the highest ideals while addressing the most difficult problems and conflicts of the real world.

As a tireless advocate for social justice and human rights, Dear has followed that path in his own life, and in Living Peace, he describes his journey. Breaking down the life of peace into three parts—an inner journey, a public journey, and the journey of all humanity—he shares the spiritual practices that have sustained him and teaches readers how to integrate them in their own lives.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The Fellowship of Reconciliation is the oldest interfaith peace group in America, its members having included Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr. and Helen Prejean. Now its director gives readers a succinct, moving paean to peace, in which he suggests that peacemaking on a world level first requires making peace within. Dear advocates long amounts of time in prayer, and peaceful prayer at that not just talking to God, but listening for God. Dear recommends that readers take up Ignatian prayer, in which one meditates on a Scripture passage and imagines one's way into the biblical scene (though readers will have to turn elsewhere for a truly thorough introduction to this method of prayer). "To live a life of peace," writes Dear, we must also practice peace "with the whole world," so in the second section, he turns to "The Public Journey." Worldwide peacemaking begins with an active choice for peace: Dear himself committed his life to peace while on a trip to Israel during the war with Lebanon. Some of the book's most encouraging passages recount Dear's own efforts at peacemaking: stays of execution he was instrumental in bringing about, trips to war-torn El Salvador, protests against Trident nuclear submarines. Remarkably, Dear never sounds moralistic or self-congratulatory; the book reads more like one friend sharing his experiences with another. In this inspiring little book, Dear proves himself the William Sloane Coffin of our day. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
Advance Praise for John Dear's Living Peace:

"Living Peace is a deeply moving and profoundly inspiring account of John Dear's journey of enviable courage, boundless faith, unquestioned hope, and unconditional love."
--Martin Sheen

"John Dear is a bright young light in the religious peace movement. Living Peace shows the deep spiritual roots of his commitment."
--Jim Wallis, Editor-in-Chief, Sojourners

"Some teachers are all theory and some all practice. John Dear has the earned ability to be both. Some teachers are very orthodox and some open new ground. John Dear puts the two together knowing they are the same. This fine book is a prototype of the spirituality that is both contemplation and action, put together by a man who has first put them together in his own life."
--Richard Rohr, O.F.M., Center for Action & Contemplation, Albuquerque, New Mexico

"John Dear's inspired journey inside and out gives us renewed hope for our own personal and public peacemaking. Living Peace is a beautiful reminder of our sacred identity."
--Fred Rogers, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

"What a splendid, hopeful handbook John Dear has placed in our hands!"
--Daniel Berrigan, S.J.

"In Living Peace John Dear shows we can enjoy peace only if we respect each other; and we can respect each other only if we have an appreciation of each other's beliefs."
--Arun Gandhi, Founder-Director, M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence

"No matter what religious affiliation or nonaffiliation a reader might have, Living Peace is a must read. It is brimming with hope. It is a message like "living water" for the traveler lost in the desert and dying of thirst. Nobody will lose by obtaining a copy of this book."
--Johann Christoph Arnold, author of Seeking Peace

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385498289
  • Publisher: The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/16/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 922,561
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

John Dear is a Jesuit priest and is Executive Director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. He has worked with the homeless in Washington, D.C., New York City, Richmond, Virginia, and El Salvador, and at a human rights center in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He taught theology at Fordham University and has edited books by or about Henri Nouwen, Daniel Berrigan, and Nobel Laureate Mairead Corrigan . He lives in New York City.
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Read an Excerpt

Making Peace with Yourself

A few years before his death in 1999, the great Latin American advocate for the poor, Brazil's Archbishop Dom Helder Camara, was speaking at a crowded church in Berkeley, California. He was asked, "After facing death squads, would-be assassins, corporations oppressing the poor, violent government opposition, and even hostile forces within your own church, who is your most difficult opponent?"

Without saying a word, Dom Helder pointed his hand into the air, then slowly arched it around, until it turned on himself, his index finger pointing to his heart. "I am my own worst enemy," he said, "my most difficult adversary. Here I have the greatest struggle for peace."

Likewise, Mahatma Gandhi was once asked about his greatest enemy. He spoke of the British and his struggle against imperialism. Then he reflected on his own people, and his struggles against untouchability, bigotry, and violence in India. Finally, he spoke of himself, and his own inner violence, selfishness, and imperfection. The last, he confessed, was his greatest opponent. "There I have very little say."

If we want to make peace with others, we first need to be at peace with ourselves. But this can sometimes be as difficult as making peace in the bloodiest of the world's war zones.

Those who knew Dom Helder Camara and Mahatma Gandhi testify that they radiated a profound personal peace. But such peace came at a great price: a lifelong inner struggle. They knew that to practice peace and nonviolence, you have to look within.

Peace begins within each of us. It is a process of repeatedly showing mercy toourselves, forgiving ourselves, befriending ourselves, accepting ourselves, and loving ourselves. As we learn to appreciate ourselves and accept God's gift of peace, we begin to radiate peace and love to others.

This lifelong journey toward inner peace requires regular self-examination and an ongoing process of making peace with ourselves. It means constantly examining the roots of violence within us, weeding out those roots, diffusing the violence that we aim at ourselves and others, and choosing to live in peace. It means treating ourselves with compassion and kindness. As we practice mercy toward ourselves, we begin to enjoy life more and more and celebrate it as adventure in peace. We turn again and again to the God who created us and offer sincere thanks. By persistently refraining from violence and hatred and opening up to that spirit of peace and mercy, we live life to the fullest, and help make the world better for others.

But this process of making peace with ourselves can be one of the most difficult challenges we face. Each one of us wrestles with our own demons. The daily challenge is to befriend those demons, embrace our true selves, make friends with ourselves, disarm our hearts, and accept in peace who we are. The deeper we go into our true identities, the more we will realize that each one of us is a unique yet beloved child of the God of peace. In that truth, we find the strength to live in peace.

For some, this inner struggle is just too difficult. Many prefer to endure their inner wars, believing that they cannot change, that inner peace is not realizable, that life is just too hard. Others succumb to violence and despair. I well remember my friend Mitch Snyder, the leading advocate for the homeless. For nearly twenty years, Mitch spoke out against poverty, organized demonstrations for housing, fasted for social change, and was arrested for civil disobedience on behalf of justice for the poor. He was director of the largest homeless shelter in the United States, a facility with over one thousand beds just three blocks from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. In the mid-1980s, while I was managing a small church shelter for the homeless in Washington, D.C., I often visited with Mitch and discussed the plight of the homeless and our campaign to secure decent, affordable housing for them.

Mitch gave his life for the forgotten and the poor, but became consumed by his anger against the system that oppresses the poor into homelessness. He advocated nonviolence, but suffered many personal demons which eventually got the best of him. For years, Mitch fought to gain local legislation guaranteeing the right of every person to shelter. Finally, in 1990, his effort was defeated. At the same time, a personal relationship broke down. On July 3, 1990, he gave in to despair, and killed himself. His suicide shocked and saddened us all.

Even though Mitch espoused justice and nonviolence eloquently on behalf of the most disenfranchised people in the nation, he could not maintain that same spirit of nonviolence toward himself, and the violence inside him literally destroyed him. His death challenged many of us who knew him to reexamine our own commitments and the violence within us, and to cultivate peace within, even as we continue to work actively for peace and justice.

"Love your neighbors as you love yourselves," Jesus tells us. As we love and accept ourselves, we will find strength to love others, and to love God, who loved us first. As we make peace with ourselves, we can learn to make peace with others. Such true self-love is not selfishness, egotism, or narcissism, but wholeness, even holiness. First, we humbly accept our brokenness, our weakness, our limitations, our frailty and vulnerability, and our dependence on God. We accept our failures and forgive ourselves for our mistakes. Then, we accept the living God who dwells within us, and allow God's peace to make her home within us. Making peace with ourselves is like building an inner house of peace and welcoming the God of peace to dwell there forever.

"While you are proclaiming peace with your lips," St. Francis of Assisi advised, "be careful to have it even more fully in your heart." St. Francis put down his sword, took up the life of peace, found his heart disarmed, and started serving the poor. Everywhere he went, he proclaimed the good news of peace and people would flock to hear him, just to be in his presence, because he radiated peace.

Copyright 2001 by John Dear
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2012

    Worth reading!

    I read this book in college as a requirement for a class and nearly 10 years later Dear's message in this book has stayed with me.

    Another reviewer blasted Dear as an anti-semetic, but I'm clueless as to why. I come from a very diverse family - we have Jews, Catholics, atheists and spirtualists. I'm very sensitive to intolerant messages and I didn't sense that at all in Living Peace.

    This is a good, thought-provoking read and its message of tolerance and peace will stick with you.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2011

    So called Living Peace

    I have read a few of Father John Dear books and while his life and beliefs can be inspiring, John Dear attacks Israel and the Jewish state in every one of his books. He talks about peace for Man kind but he seems to have very anti semetic views. He supports all Palestinian causes while denouncing Jews. So I can not possibly support Father John dears causes because of his hypocrisy.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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