Feb. 5, 2010 — Disarming the heart: Peace begins within us, by Sister Anna Marie Broxterman

February 5, 2010 by

“What time is it?”

Who would think that such a question might be a disarming one? It was for Angie, a friend of mine.

At the time she was a woman in her late 30s, a peace advocate and one who taught, through workshops, the art and skills of nonviolence. She lived at the Catholic Worker house in St. Louis and assisted in the work through meal preparation and hospitality.

It was mid-August and the Worker house was closed for the month but she was there alone in the three-story house. She was awakened by the sound of her bedroom door being opened and someone, quite large, moving toward her bed.

She found her voice and asked the disarming question, “What time is it?”

A male voice responded as he walked toward the window to check his watch, “It’s 3 o’clock,” he said.

Angie responded, “Oh I see that my bedside clock says 3:10,” which led to a vocal pondering about the disparity of the two timepieces. It allowed her enough time to turn on her bedside light. She invited him to be seated, and then engaged in a conversation as to why his original intent, as he entered her room, would not be a good thing for either him or her. He agreed, and after continuing conversation about his life, she offered him a room for the night. She prepared breakfast for him in the morning and he left.

Later in the day, she found a bouquet of flowers placed between the door and the screen door with a note thanking her for having made a difference in his life.

Angie’s capacity for nonviolence did not begin with this episode. She had dealt with her own internal disarmament in and through her teachings and spiritual disciplines of prayer and study. The disarming of our own hearts begins in the same place, the harnessing of the interior forces that give birth to violence, like anger, anxiety and greed.

We hope most of us will never encounter a situation like that of Angie’s; rather, it is the daily little events that awaken us to the violence within. So the next time you find yourself breathing angry threats because of the behavior or attitude of a companion on the journey, a working partner or a family member, I hope you make a mental note that you still have work to do to come to an internal disarmament. The old but true adage: The only person you can change is yourself.

Whenever I am on the path to internal destruction and find myself blaming others for my feelings, behaviors or attitude, and am pushing such negativity into the environment, it helps to have a friend with a sense of humor.

That happened recently. A friend listened for a while and then said, “Could it be you have a ketchup deficiency?”

I recognized that phrase from a tongue-in-cheek segment of Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion” but no matter its source, spoken at the right time it disarms the heart! Peace happens at such moments!

— Sister Anna Marie Broxterman is a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia and serves on the Concordia Year of Peace Committee.

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