“Peace I give unto you, My Peace I give unto you. Not as the world gives do I give”, John 14:27*
Words spoken at the Welcome for arriving Pilgrims to the Military Pilgrimage International, Lourdes, France.
Military from forty countries, including Ukraine, would be arriving in two days for a weekend of reconciliation and healing. They have been arriving for this weekend in May since the end of WWI when Knights of Columbus brought the French and German military together for Reconciliation.
I have heard these words many times over my forty year journey to Catholicism, first spoken to me in the middle of a very dark night of my soul. Many times since, I would hear these words, and wondered about that “Peace”.
Throughout my nursing career, I had the opportunity to develop and facilitate several new programs including developing a program which addressed the unique needs of Veterans and Military Active Service Members at the end of life. I collaborated closely with the National Hospice and Palliative Care Association, and the National Veterans Affair Health Care System. The name of the program is “We Honor Veterans”.
A decade later, most hospices in the United States offer this unique and healing program. I facilitated workshops for healthcare teams, nurses, physicians, social workers and chaplains, focusing on undiagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the need for integration and healing of trauma necessary for a peaceful death. With only weeks to months to live, traditional psychotherapy and medications were not feasible. We created ceremonies and rituals and offered sacred spaces for the telling of horrific stories of war.
No one wants Peace more than the Soldier.
The soldier knows and has experienced the toll and consequences of war, individual, generational, and collective war trauma, the physical and the hidden wounds of war, Post Traumatic Stress and Moral Injury. With advances in neuroscience and neuroimaging we know trauma is experienced in the body and passed down through generations. Individual trauma recovery and healing must include collective and ancestral healing of trauma, trauma integration. Peace.
My experience at Lourdes was this Peace. As we gathered into small fellowship groups after the Welcome, I shared my personal yearning for knowing that Peace. Throughout the following days, I was drawn to the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto time and time again. I was aware that I was sharing the healing energy of so many not only that day, but all the days before and all the centuries before, of healing in this place. Rituals and ceremonies within community are healing of Post Traumatic Stress and Moral Injury.
Our Lady of Lourdes invitation.
Attending the Masses, the Twelve Stations of the Cross outdoors on the side of a mountain, with a view of the snow capped Pyrenees, it was at the Bathes, I experienced Our Lady of Lourdes’ gaze with a slight smile saying “you are here”. In this moment I experienced that Peace that I was yearning for.
When attempting to describe the experience of Peace, there really are no words. When I attempt to describe it something magical is lost. The best I can do is go back to the words of Thomas Merton in his book, The New Seeds of Contemplation, “For unless Our Lady is recognized as the Mother of God, and as the Queen of all the saints and angels and as the hope of the world, faith in God will remain incomplete.” Words from the chapter, “The Woman Clothed with the Sun”.
Being peace, being complete. Yes, that is the best way I can describe my experience. Being here, being complete, being whole. As if I was always going to be here, at Mary’s invitation, with Mary’s smile silently speaking, “You are Here”.
Healing from trauma is possible. Trauma Recovery can not happen alone. When one heals “we” heal.
Military Pilgrimage to Lourdes | EWTN News In Depth