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GROWING UP CATHOLIC | Mother Teresa’s advice to find inner peace

Peace is the result of spreading God’s love to the people around us

Finding inner peace, as cheesy as that sounds, is on my to-do list. Like most people, I have periods of peace but also suffer through — thankfully shorter — periods of anxiety and turmoil. I sometimes get so worked up that I lie awake at night. Peace is a difficult concept to pin down, especially when we think of it as the spiritual goal, as if peace is a thing we will one day earn or be given as a reward for a life of faithfulness. Once I have inner peace, I might tell myself, I will have achieved my goal. I will have finally become a mature, grown-up Christian. The flip side, of course, is that when I’m anxious, does that mean that I’m an immature Christian or have lost my faith?

Peace doesn’t come and go like that. Yes, we have our ups and downs, but like all of God’s gifts, peace is a state of being that we settle into as we draw closer to Him. He doesn’t want us to struggle to hold onto it, and as long as we stay near God we won’t lose it.

So why do so many of us struggle with anxiety? The problem is in what we are seeking, because peace isn’t actually the goal of spirituality. Our purpose is to know God and to love Him. Peace naturally follows from our relationship with Jesus, but it is Jesus who really matters. If we have Him, He is all we need.

Mother Teresa talked about peace quite a bit and she’s helpful in sorting out the connection between loving God and finding peace. She says, “Works of love are works of peace.” In other words, peace isn’t the result of going through a program or a self-help scheme to make it happen. Peace is the result of spreading God’s love to the people around us. The less we think of ourselves, the more peaceful we are. She also says, “Whenever you share love with others, you’ll notice the peace that comes to you and to them.” To her, the way to follow Christ is to focus on giving love away and in that action, surprisingly, peace drifts down to us. Perhaps it’s because when we focus on the needs of others, we have less time to worry about ourselves. Or perhaps it’s because the human soul expands and finds its true purpose only when it connects with the souls of others through love. “If we have no peace,” says Mother Teresa, “It is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

In the end, it’s very simple. “Smile five times a day,” she says, “Do it for peace.” Spread love and joy. Be positive. Smile at other people. Seek God for His own sake. Jesus not only promises to give peace to us, He is our peace.

Father Rennier is parochial administrator of Epiphany of Our Lord Parish in St. Louis. A former Anglican priest, he was ordained in 2016 under a pastoral provision for the reception of Anglicans and Episcopalians into full communion with the Catholic Church. He and his wife, Amber, have five children.

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