How Mother Teresa taught us to strive for peace in the home

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

As the canonisation of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta approaches I’m reminded of one of her oft-repeated themes; the need for peace in the home.

She said, often, that world peace begins within the family, that home is where we sow peace, and that love begins not with the doing of great charitable works in far-flung locales but right at hand, in our everyday interactions:

“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”

“Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents.

Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of peace of the world.”

“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve the hunger of a stranger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.”

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”

Her words look so pretty on paper and posted in Internet memes, but oh how impossible it seems to correlate them with any semblance of the reality of our own abilities and our actual families sometimes!

Most families are very loving, but most of us always have also experienced in our families moments lasting from mere hours or days up to weeks and years of ongoing tension, rivalries, bullying, emotional distances, disappointments, anxieties, and even heartbreak.

Many times we can feel powerless to bring any real peace through our own efforts, or to consistently do, day in and day out, what Mother Teresa recommends. Especially if we are ourselves constantly rushing, with days and weeks filling months in advance, and timelines and inboxes filling by the hour.

We can’t bring love and peace into our homes if we don’t have it ourselves. So going back a step further, how do we fill ourselves with peace so as to offer it daily to our closest ones?

I have three suggestions, offered in the humble spirit that this is something we might try together:

First, we can ask God for peace.

When Pope Francis visited the World Trade Centre site memorial in New York in 2015, he invited people to “ask heaven for the gift to give ourselves for the cause of peace”.

We too can, and are surely called as part of our married vocation, to ask God for the gift of peace, begging if necessary, to be agents of peace at the ground zero of our own homes and families, and thus help rekindle the cause for peace for the whole world.

We might need the help of a spiritual director and/or another expert to help us see what actions we might need to take or avoid in order to be more at peace ourselves.

We might try Jesus’ advice that some more difficult problems require fasting along with prayer. And Mary, Undoer of Knots will surely add her prayers to ours if we ask for them.

Then, we could go to Sunday Mass, or if we are already there each Sunday, add a weekday Mass to our weekly routine. Even better if we take a family member or two along. In the Eucharist and the Liturgies of the Word and Eucharist we receive in actuality the ultimate peacemaker.

Pope Emeritus Benedict wrote that: “The early Church understood the mystery of the Eucharist as underlying the expression ‘peace’. ‘Peace’ very quickly became one of the names for the Eucharistic sacrament, for it is there that God does in fact come to meet us, that He sets us free…and…gives us to one another as brothers and sisters. The Eucharist is peace from the Lord.”

Then, in addition to doing the other things, we might need to apply what some of the parenting experts say we should do with our kids. They speak of the importance of remaining cheerful at home with our family, which is really the age-old virtue of perseverance under modern guise.

We can persevere in being peaceful, showing kindness, bestowing those smiles, withholding that unnecessary piece of criticism, even faking it if we have too.

Or we keep to whatever other course we have prayerfully committed to, based on any expert help or advice we’ve decided to follow; whatever it takes to keep practicing that human virtue of perseverance until the spring of true peace comes flowing through.

We have the greatest cause for confidence: “Ask and you will receive… if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matt 7: 7, 11)

Peace be with you!