"A Nation Shall Not Lift Up Sword Against Country"
Mother Teresa was largely responsible for my returning to the Catholic
faith, and now perhaps this was an opportunity to thank her personally.
Monday, February 25, 6:00 PM, JFK International Airport. Flight 111
for Geneva departs at 7:30 PM giving me ample time to reexamine what I
am doing and to reconsider going on a "peace pilgrimage" with Joe
Cosgrove, a brilliant and dedicated public defender.
Joe's plan was simple. We would go to Rome, meet Mother Teresa, and ask
her to present his report to the Pope, who, in turn, would approach
the World Court and demand an immediate cease-fire in the Gulf. Wishful
thinking? Pure nonsense? Perhaps an equal measure of both. 6:45 PM I am now firmly resolved to tell Joe of my intention to withdraw from
the sophomoric misadventure. After listeninng patiently to me, he asks,
"How can we determine what's in store before we even take the first step?"
I have to agree. More often than not, it was the unplanned journey
that proved more fruitful and rewarding. I have been moved by the Spirit
to join this peace pilgrimage and I decide to trust that Spirit.
We're pilgrims -- not diplomats -- and we must surrender to what lies
in store for us and stop trying to determine the work of grace. Tuesday, February 26, 5:00 PM (Rome time). Joe and I made our way up the
Piazza San Gregorio to the residence of the Missionaries of Charity
and rang the bell. No sooner had we begun to settle in than a tiny
sister appeared in the doorway. It was Mother Teresa of Calcutta!
I was astonished at her size. Not taller than five feet, she could not
have weighed more than 90 pounds, yet I had never in my life
experienced a more powerful presence. She was simply overwhelmingly ssimple,
which made her completely disarming. As we rose to greet her, she took
our hands and gave us each a blessing.
"Now what can I do for you?" she asked. Joe said that he had been moved
by the Spirit to draw up a legal petition for the World Court in The Hague,
to sue for a cease-fire in the Gulf, that he needed to present this
brief on behalf of a state, since the World Court does not acknowledge
individuals as litigants. "I have never heard of a World Court,"
Mother Teresa said. Explaining that it had been founded when the UN
charter had been ratified, Joe gave the brief to Mother in an envelope
addressed to Pope John Paul II.
After a reflective pause, Mother Teresa said, "You know both Saddam
Hussein and Mr. Bush have ignored the Holy Father's plea to end the war.
I also wrote to both of them, but neither one of them responded." She
told us she had considered going to Baghdad to see saddam. "What good
could I do?" What good? I thought, recalling how she had caused
an immediate cease-fire during the civil war in Lebanon simply by her
presence in Beruit. Mother Teresa finally said, "I am going to see the
Holy Father tomorrow and, I will give it to him then." Relieved and
gratified, we talked to each other for another forty-five minutes ---
like three old friends. Wednesday, February 27. After a meeting Mother Teresa, the Pontiff,
as part of his regular midweek general audience, issued a strong statement
against the horrors of the war in the Gulf. Thursday, February 28, 6:00 AM, Missionaries of Charity Chapel.
On Mother Teresa's invitation, we returned for a Mass of celebration.
Earlier that morning the news of a cease-fire in the Gulf had reached
us in Rome.
Was there any meaning in our journey? Did it have any impact on the
course of the war and the beginning of peace? Who can say?
In his traditional Urbi et Orbi speech given on Easter Sunday, Pope
John Paul II was vehement in his criticism of the Gulf War. He repeated
the moral chastisement that he had used since the war's beginning, but
in an unusal moment, the Pope also called the war a "violation of international law."
To place a secular label on this terrible event was a dramatic move by
the Holy Father. Was it coincidence that the brief Mother had given the
Pope on our behalf outlined the illegality of the war based on international law?
Perhaps. A letter, dated three days after Mother Teresa's meeting with
the Holy Father, and written by the Vatican secretary of state, thanked Joe
on behalf of the Pontiff for the information given to him. In it's final
paragraph the letter bestowed the Pope's apostolic blessing on us.
a fair reward for our humble effort, reminding us once again what
Daniel Berrigan has always taught: Our work for essential human
needs seeks not results, but instead remuneration in the goodness,
the rightness of the work itself. And that is a blessing of apostolic