Something rather horrible dawned on me at Mass yesterday as I was listening to the peace petition in the Prayer of the Faithful. The more than 95,000 children in our parish religious education programs have never known a day without war being presented to them on television, on their hand-held devices and computers, or even on the car radio. No children have. And some children are being maimed and dying in wars waged by their elders.
Our youngsters never saw the Twin Towers standing in our financial district. Most of them have never seen our major churches, temples and mosques without a police presence. They have never walked onto an airplane, into a ball park or even into our own St. Patrick’s Cathedral without having their back packs inspected for explosives. They have never known a time without some war. They don’t know what peace is supposed to be. My worry is that they will grow up thinking this is the way the world is and that it can never be any different.
Perhaps some people remember or have read about Pope Paul VI’s unprecedented speech to the United Nations in October of 1965, not that the world heeded his peace call. He, in his turn, was echoing the call for a lasting peace by one of his predecessors, Pope Benedict XV, who reigned during and after the First World War, which was supposed to be the war to end all wares. Obviously, no one heeded him either.
And now the pope of our times is warning the world to change what looks more and more like a course to another world war – one too terrible even to contemplate. This is what Pope Francis said yesterday, July 27.
Please God, let us not be like those who ignored this pope’s predecessors. Let us give our children a chance to know peace.