Starting Point
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Issue Date:  March 31, 2006

Starting Point


Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world. -- Ephesians 6:11-12

Whenever I chant the Epistle in my Byzantine Catholic church, two angels flank me. Both are in full armor, their swords sheathed. I feel safe between these role models, and I look forward to being in their company.

I also enjoy being in the company of my good friend, Cameron. Cam is Mennonite. Mennonites believe that peace and wholeness are real possibilities in time and space. I am a secular Franciscan. St. Francis did not want his followers bearing arms. Faith in Christ and building peace are common bonds that Cameron and I share.

But I found myself being drawn to the sword. “Am I a pacifist because I am afraid to fight?” Cameron agreed to take a fencing class with me.

Wielding a weapon, my dream-life changed. I vicariously experienced blood lust, realizing that I have the potential to kill and be killed. There was a rush of excitement to the sport, and I learned how to attack, defend and hold my ground. My confidence improved. I found that I was able to transfer the skills used in physical engagement to other areas of life. I ultimately discovered that I am a pacifist -- not because of a fear of fighting -- but because I am called to work with others to build peace. It’s how God intends us to live, and we all have been given the necessary tools.

Our jihad to live Gospel values continues. The use of physical weapons is not part of our arsenal. We are warriors for our Lord, our swords sheathed, and our courage to struggle for peace renewed. We are in the world to wage peace, and we need each other. May we all be blessed with spiritual companionship along the way.

Ed Horvat writes from Morgantown, W.Va.

National Catholic Reporter, March 31, 2006

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