I began to write this on the feast of St. John of San Facundo, a Spanish Augustinian Friar of the fifteenth century. He is the patron of the city of Salamanca. Conspicuous for being a peace maker among factions, he even ended a civil war that broke out in that city. In the Collect for his feast, the Roman Missal pays tribute to his gift of making peace:
“O God, who art the author of peace and lover of charity, who didst endue blessed John thy Confessor with singular gifts for the reconciliation of enemies: grant that by his merits and intercession we may be so established in thy charity; that we may not by any temptations be parted from thee.”
Coming as it does in the Pentecostal cycle, so close to Pentecost itself, St. John’s feast gives us a wonderful opportunity to consider peace, which is a Fruit of the Holy Ghost. The catalogue of these 12 fruits is recorded in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity. Against such there is no law.”1
St. Paul contrasts these with a longer catalogue of “works of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19-21), which read rather like the headlines of most major American newspapers.
There are two reasons why we call St Paul’s grouping of good spiritual acts “fruits.” First, they are the “produce” (or result) of living the virtues and the gifts; second, like fruit, they are sweet. St. Thomas Aquinas said that “Every virtuous act which man performs with pleasure is a fruit.” Since this is the case, according to the Angelic Doctor, the list St. Paul gives in Galatians 5 is not exhaustive. Numerous other fruits could be added to it.
The Fruits grow out of the virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Unlike the virtues and the gifts, they are not habits; they are, rather, acts. For a given act to be a Fruit of the Holy Ghost, it has to be the result of the virtues and the gifts, and done with ease and spiritual sweetness. An example is in order: I may perform an act of mildness in the face of a difficult situation — say dealing with an unpleasant individual who is making a spectacle of himself in evildoing. If I am interiorly in great anguish of soul as I discipline my repulsion to his behavior, my act of mildness is not a Fruit. It may be a heroic act of virtue, but it is not a Fruit. Only when such a thing is performed with ease and sweetness is it properly called a Fruit. St. Stephen praying for his murderers as he lay dying: that strikes me as a Fruit.
Because they are dependent on the Gifts of the Holy Ghost, and because the gifts are more radically at work in the souls of those habituated to a life of the supernatural virtues, the Fruits are conspicuous only in those who live a life of intense Christian virtue. This is why we see the Fruits amply manifested in the lives of the saints.
We come now to the particular fruit of Peace.
We tend to think of peace as the absence of war. That is a very minimalistic and inadequate definition. Peace is defined by St. Augustine as tranquilitas ordinis, “the tranquility of order.” Where there is order — everything in its proper place — there is peace. In a society, where good is recognized as good and evil as evil, where laws promote good and suppress evil, and where the people live accordingly, there will be peace. In an individual, where the passions (also called the emotions or appetites) are subject to reason and the reason is subject to God’s grace, there is peace. In the worst of circumstances, the well ordered man will be at peace. In the best of circumstances, the ill-ordered man will not be at peace.
Our Lord came to offer us the Peace that the world cannot give. Such Peace is of an entirely supernatural kind. That is why the world cannot give it. (No, not even the U.N. can give it!)
The saints are at peace in this life because they are so well ordered in themselves, but, even for them, perfect peace is only possible in Heaven. That is why we pray for the dead with those ancient Christian words requiescant in pace, “may they rest in peace.”
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace. Only when His sacred rights are recognized can there be real peace on earth. May the Queen of Peace pray for us all, that her Son may reign in our souls, our families, and our nations!
1Here is the way we list them in our SAI syllabus: Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience, Benignity, Goodness, Long-suffering, Mildness, Fidelity, Modesty, Continency, and Chastity.