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Do you lack peace? Do you ever wonder why inner serenity seems so elusive? We hear the word "peace" so much -- but what does it mean?

There's a great new little book that we can recommend because it addresses precisely those questions, by a French priest named Father Jacques Philippe, who starts with a powerful truth:

If we want the Grace of God to act in us and produce, we need that inner calm; it's crucial that "we strive to acquire and maintain an interior tranquility" -- the peace of our hearts. From that flows many things.

"Consider the surface of a lake, above which the sun is shining," writes Father Philippe, who is currently with a community in Rome.

"If the surface of the lake is peaceful and tranquil, the sun will be reflected in this lake; and the more peaceful the lake, the more perfectly will it be reflected. If, on the contrary, the surface of the lake is agitated, undulating, then the image of the sun can not be reflected in it."

"The more our souls are peaceful and tranquil, the more God is reflected in it, the more His Image expresses itself in us, the more His Grace acts through us.

"On the other hand," writes Father Philippe (in Searching for and Maintaining Peace), "if our souls are agitated and troubled, the Grace of God is able to act only with much greater difficulty. The more our souls are peaceful, balanced, and surrendered, the more this good communicates itself to us and to others through us."

We become partners in redemption.

Grace is not a race. Withdraw from the clamor of the world.

We need to empty ourselves -- of worries, of overwork, of competitions, of expecting everything this minute.

How can we hear Him when we are agitated?

How can we hear Him when we're hurried?

How can we hear Him when we are anxious -- which is the opposite of peace?

And this happens -- agitation -- when we try to do too much ourselves, as if the whole world hinges on every single minute.

It happens when we seek perfection too quickly.

It happens when we stray from the calm gaze of God. We lack peace when we are not doing what He made us to do and when we stray from the person He made us to be.

The way to peace starts with prayer, of course, and casting out the "spirit of tension." It also comes when we stop thinking ill of others. It comes -- chiefly -- from trusting in God. 

The Lord is brightest when we are calmest. Let us remember the experience of Elijah when he found out that God was not in the storm or earthquake, nor in the fire, but in the whisper of a gentle breeze (1 Kings 19).

In other words: settle down. Seek patience.

Is it easy?

Certainly not. The devil tries to disrupt us every way he can. He knows where -- and to Whom -- tranquility will lead. And he wants nothing more than to keep us from the Prince of Peace.

And yet with dedication we all can achieve serenity no matter how wound-up or "hyper" or "driven" we are (driven, we must always ask: by what?).

There is spiritual combat -- but as St. Catherine of Siena said: "without war there is no peace."

We know there is peace in nature and yet we strip our interior ecology.

"The devil does his utmost to banish peace from one's heart, because he knows that God abides in peace and it is in peace that He accomplishes great things," said the great mystical writer Dom Lorenzo Scupoli (see: The Spiritual Combat), whom Father Philippe cites.

The first goal of combat, says Father Philippe, should be to learn to "maintain peace of heart under all circumstances, even in the case of defeat."

Can you do that?

Or do you seek to control everything?

Trust, trust, trust; do the best you can and then leave it to Him.

Here is a good bumper sticker: "All the reasons that cause us to lose our sense of peace are bad reasons."

Bad days happen.

What counts is how we handle them.

The Lord likes us to do things before everything is guaranteed. We never will reach true peace until we reach true love. Look at how often religious orders proceed and built without a penny (while helping others), in the spirit of faith. When one doesn't incur an expense without being sure in advance to have enough to cover it, writes Father Philippe, "how can Providence manifest itself?"

Relax -- in His Arms!

Find His favor.

Exercise patience always (including patience with yourself).

Be disciplined.

But give yourself a break.

We are here to learn and we learn by mistakes.

"We must know that one of the weapons that the devil uses most commonly to prevent souls from advancing toward God is precisely to try to make them lose their peace and discourage them by the sight of their faults," notes the priest.

Stop tormenting yourself.

Give it to Him.

You are not infallible.

True humility realizes this.

True humility leads to peace.

Don't obsess in scrupulosity.

Focus on goodness.

Don't let the devil drive you crazy (when you are making decisions).

Stop competing with everyone.

Your heart will be ready for any eventuality, said Saint Joan de Bonilla, if it is detached and "not enslaved by anything" (or anyone).

Advance with patience.

With peace come giant steps.

[resources: Searching for and Maintaining Peace and The Spiritual Combat]

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