This has been a long, angry, unsettling summer. It opened with a disgruntled gunman opening fire at a baseball practice for congressional Republicans, nearly killing House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. Then came the president’s nerve-jangling verbal one-upmanship with a nuclear-armed North Korean dictator.
A few weeks ago, white supremacists marched through the streets of an historic Virginia college town bearing flaming torches and chanting evil slogans heard in the Third Reich and at Klan rallies. A woman protesting the hate died after police said one of the marchers deliberately plowed his car into her, ISIS-style.
The need and suffering on display as a result of Tropical Storm Harvey seem to have doused the nation’s fevered divisions, at least for the moment. Disasters tend to bring out the humanity in us. But it should not have to come to that.
There is another eye to be found in the storm closer to home. It began at 7 p.m. Wednesday at 345 E. Ninth St. in Erie.
That is where Benedictines for Peace of Erie hosted its first Silent Walk for Peace. They invited those from all backgrounds to walk slowly and silently together in “response to the escalating tensions and divisiveness present in our country and our world.”
Simple quiet can promote peace within, the sisters say, and extinguish fear, divisions and hatred.
The Benedictines led residents on a quiet 30-minute walk through the neighborhood that hosts many of their good works: the Emmaus Soup Kitchen, Saint Benedict Education Center and the Inner City Neighborhood Art House, among them.
“Benedictines for Peace begins this initiative in its own neighborhood as a reminder that peace and justice does ‘begin with me,’” said Sister Anne McCarthy, coordinator of Benedictines for Peace. “It is another way of making visible the corporate commitment of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie to be a healing presence and prophetic witness for peace by working for sustainability and justice, especially for women and children.”
This is only the first of the peace walks, which the group intends to hold monthly. The walks are modeled on similar events that began in Florida in 2006. They are also of a spiritual piece with the Take Back the Site vigils the Benedictines, Sisters of Saint Joseph and Sisters of Mercy hold at the scene of every homicide in Erie, more than 100 of them since 1999. They join with mourners to honor those who lost their lives to violence and reclaim the site for peace.There is a deep and dreadful human impulse to respond to fear, division and hatred with violence.The Benedictines’ approach seems infinitely preferable.