Women and the teaching of peace
As is logical and natural, the Christmas season is when the focus of all persons of goodwill is centred on peace, not only within families but also around the world.
It is appropriate to point out that, under Pope John XXIII and his successors, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the Catholic Church has been harping that humankind has to move very efficiently from nice-sounding words to deeds.
It was John XXIII who in his encyclical Pacem in Terris (April 11, 1963) said: "Any human society, if it is to be well-ordered and productive, must lay down as a foundation this principle, namely, that every human being is a person, that is, his nature is endowed with intelligence and free will. Indeed, precisely because he is a person he has rights and obligations which flow directly and immediately from his very nature. And these rights and obligations are universal, inviolable and inalienable."
To educate deeply in the ways of peace means to open minds and hearts to embrace the values indicated in Pacem in Terris as indispensable to a peaceful society: truth, justice, love and freedom. As Pope John Paul II points out in his Message for World Day of Peace, 1995: "If peace is to be effective and long-lasting, work for peace cannot be concerned merely with the external conditions of co-existence: rather it must affect people's hearts and appeal to a new awareness of human dignity. It must be forcefully repeated: authentic peace is only possible if the dignity of human person is promoted at every level of society, and every individual is given the chance to live in accordance with this dignity".
The brilliant scholar Pope Paul VI, in his encyclical Populorum Progressio (March 26, 1967), emphasises that the effectiveness of this education for peace will depend on the extent to which it involves the co-operation of those who, in different ways, are responsible for education and for the life of society. Time dedicated to education is truly well spent, because it determines a person's future, and therefore the future of the family and of the whole of society.
Commenting on Paul VI's statement in Populorum Progressio, Pope John Paul II says in his World Day of Peace message: "I wish to direct my message especially to women, and to invite them to become teachers of peace with their whole being and in all their actions. May they be witnesses, messengers and teachers of peace in relations between individuals and between generations, in the family, in the cultural, social and political life of nations, and particularly in situations of conflict and war. May they continue to follow the path which leads to peace, a path which many courageous and far-sighted women have walked before them!"
As Pope Benedict XVI has repeatedly said in his homilies and in his public audiences every Wednesday, this invitation to become teachers of peace, directed particularly to women, is based on a realisation that to them God "entrusts the human being in a special way". This is not however to be understood in an exclusive sense, but rather according to the logic of the complementary roles present in the common vocation to love, which calls men and women to seek peace with one accord to work together in building it.
Inner peace comes from knowing that one is loved by God and from the desire to respond to His love.