11 November is Remembrance Day. On this day in 1918, at 11am, the guns on the Western front fell silent after more than four years of war and millions of deaths. On this day every year, we are invited to remember, and never forget.
We are called to pause, and to take a minute’s silence to remember the terrible power and price of war, and those places where Australians have been casualties of war and conflict.
It is not hard to think of war in our world today, and of millions of displaced people and those fleeing persecution and death. Or, we can bring to mind the domestic violence that devastates so many of our Australian families. Or the violence against asylum seekers that is embodied in our punitive border protection measures.
We can feel powerless in the face of what we see and hear. We can lose confidence in our ability to make a difference.
Fr Monty Williams SJ, an internationally acclaimed spiritual director and retreat leader, writes in his book, The Gift of Spiritual Intimacy, that:
‘To be gentle is, first of all, to face not only our vulnerability, but also the horror, the abject nakedness, and the blind misery that masquerade as the powers of this world, without becoming paralysed or trapped by fear — our own or others’.
‘To be gentle calls us to be attentive (as opposed to blind) to the forces that comprise our world; to be discerning, insightful, political, and flexible in dealing with these forces; and to be responsible — rather than reactive — for the transformation of the oppressor and the oppressed.
‘To be gentle calls us to dance in the flames, and in the ashes, and in the hard places of this life. The witness of this gentleness lies neither in our devotion to an ideology of social justice nor in withdrawal from the arenas of social effect.
‘It lies in the manifest joy of knowing with our own body the presence of the powers of good that are holding, protecting, affirming, and guiding us along the path that is salvation.’
Gentleness calls us to believe in the power of good in ourselves. It invites us to speak with each other civilly and treat each person with deep respect and as a fellow member of God’s creation.
It is to recognise the sacred relationship we share with all of life. It is a highly personal and spiritual response each one of us can make. The world needs each day the strength and presence of our gentleness.
On this one annual day of Remembrance, just for one minute, let us consider in silence what we are called to be, for a better world and for each other.
Fr Brian McCoy SJ, Provincial
This piece was originally published in Province Express in 2015.