With the invasion of Donbass by the Russian armed forces last February, a worrying world scenario has opened up that threatens a nuclear conflagration. It is therefore not surprising that prayers for peace are raised almost everywhere, from the Pope to parishes, groups and individuals. It is certainly right to pray for peace. But with some distinctions.
First, what is peace? Peace is not the absence of war. “Ceasefire” and “lay down your arms” do not equate to achieving peace. Peace, says St. Augustine in City of Godis “the tranquility of order» (De Civitate Dei, 19, 13). «Out of order restlessness reigns, within order stillness». And since in man there is a triple order: with himself, with God and with his neighbor, it can be said that there are three forms of peace: inner peace, peace with God, and relative peace with one’s neighbor.
St. Thomas, in his Sum, develops the Augustinian idea of peace. It is no coincidence that he deals with it in relation to the theological virtue par excellence, which is charity, of which peace, according to Aquinas, is an effect. True peace – according to St. Thomas – exists where there is true love of God and neighbor, which can only occur in a soul in grace. And he concludes by stating that “without sanctifying grace there can be no true peace, but only an apparent peace» (Summa Theologiae, II-II, q.29, a.3, ad 1). «From the Thomistic thesis that makes charity the proper cause of peace – comments the theologian Msgr. Amato Masnovo (1880-1955) –, Two consequences immediately arise. Since charity presupposes sanctifying grace, true peace, which presupposes charity, presupposes sanctifying grace and therefore the absence of sin. Therefore where there is the social fault or, perhaps more exactly and more modernly, the fault of the public entity “State”, there cannot be true social peace.
The second consequence of the Thomistic thesis, which makes charity the proper cause of peace, is that peace is not the effect of justice. St. Thomas explicitly declares that justice is, in relations with peace, only one removens prohibens: that is to say that it removes the obstacles of peace and therefore, it is a condition of it, but nothing more» (“Magazine of Neo-Scholastic Philosophy”, n. 4 (August 30, 1918), pp. 356-357).
Individual peace is therefore founded on charity and only the soul in grace, possessing charity, can really enjoy it. Collective peace is founded on the order established by God, and only the State which, with its laws, promotes it, or at least respects it, can enjoy it.
Praying for peace therefore means praying that the order willed by God be re-established in individuals and in society. Only in this way can true peace be achieved. There is no one who does not see that, consequently, peace cannot be invoked with a rainbow flag in hand, because that sign is an invitation to moral disorder, which is the exact opposite of the order willed by God, from which only peace descends. Nor can peace be invoked in misleading ecumenical and interreligious meetings, which are an invitation to supernatural disorder, conveying the most pernicious message that all religions are equal. Still less can we theorize an indefinite and chimerical “universal brotherhood”, founded on illusory and ephemeral social values, as if peace were the result of human agreements. These peace initiatives go exactly against the natural and supernatural order established by God.
We want peace, but we don’t want the means for peace. The cessation of war is requested, but the intention is not to remove its causes, with an invitation to repentance, with public and private acts of expiation, with due reparation for offenses committed against God, with public and private penance, with invitation to conversion.
We want peace, but we do not want Christ, the Prince of Peace, to reign over individuals and nations. As long as he will continue to echo the cry that on Good Friday rang out in Jerusalem two thousand years ago: «we do not want him to reign over us» (Lc 19, 14), peace will remain a distant utopia and prayer for peace will perhaps be a commendable human initiative, but will certainly remain incapable of achieving it. The truly Catholic soul, on the other hand, asks for peace from Christ, its Lord, the peaceful King and the Prince of peace, the only one who can give true peace based on charity and grace, and blasphemous cry «we do not want him to reign over us», he replies: «Adveniat regnum Christi adveniat per Mariam».