Cover image for Living peace : a spirituality of contemplation and action
Living peace : a spirituality of contemplation and action
Dear, John, 1959-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Doubleday, 2001.
Physical Description:
xii, 227 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BX1795.P43 D43 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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"To take care of each other should be our primary concern in this 21st century and Father Dear is steady on this course."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh

For John Dear, a Jesuit priest and 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 into 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 these practices into their own lives.

Author Notes

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.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



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 to ourselves, 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. Excerpted from Living Peace: A Spirituality of Contemplation and Action by John Dear All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
I. The Depths of Peace: The Inner Journey
1. Making Peace with Yourselfp. 9
2. Solitudep. 18
3. Silencep. 26
4. Listeningp. 31
5. Letting Gop. 38
6. Imagining Godp. 45
7. Intimate Prayerp. 56
8. Mindfulnessp. 62
II. The Heights of Peace: The Public Journey
9. The Vision of Peacep. 69
10. Choosing Peacep. 74
11. Active Nonviolencep. 80
12. Public Peacemakingp. 92
13. Speaking Truthp. 100
14. Live and Let Livep. 110
15. Resisting Evilp. 119
16. Standing with the Poorp. 127
17. Witnessing for Peacep. 138
18. Disarming the Worldp. 146
19. And Justice for Allp. 163
20. Including Everyonep. 170
III. The Horizons of Peace
21. Love Your Enemiesp. 181
22. Building Communityp. 193
23. Forgive Seventy Times Sevenp. 200
24. Persistent Reconciliationp. 207
25. Hope upon Hopep. 214
Conclusionp. 223
Notesp. 225