John Dear is an internationally known voice for peace and nonviolence. A priest, peacemaker, organizer, lecturer, and retreat leader, he is the author/editor of 30 books, including his autobiography, A Persistent Peace. In 2008, John was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and in 2015 by Sen. Barbara Mikulski.

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How Mary Taught Jesus the Path of Nonviolence

by John Dear 11-30-2023
Luke’s gospel shows Jesus learned about peace from the best.
The illustration shows Mary illuminated by a ray of light wearing a white robe and cape with a red ribbon. She is holding one hand to her heart and the other is raised in a nonviolent protest. Behind her are three unnamed figures in white robes.

Illustration by Leonardo Santamaria 

MOST CHRISTIANS TODAY do not understand the life and teachings of Jesus as a broad vision of daring nonviolence. But scripture gives convincing evidence for this: The gospel of Luke presents Jesus as the God of peace who comes among us in total poverty into our impoverished world of war and empire, who brings with him God’s reign of peace and nonviolence, and who invites us to follow him on the path of love, compassion, and justice. With his birth, we hear the angels announce the coming of peace on earth.

Jesus, the greatest peacemaker in history, marked the path of peace toward Jerusalem, where he confronted imperial injustice and called us to learn the things that make for peace; he endured rejection, betrayal, torture, and execution in the holy spirit of nonviolence, and rose to offer his gift of peace and send us out all over again on his path of peace.

How did Jesus learn all this? Luke’s gospel offers an amazing answer. The writer presents Mary, Jesus’s holy Jewish mother, as his teacher of nonviolence.

Luke tells the story of Mary’s journey as three movements of creative nonviolence: the first, the Annunciation as a story of contemplative nonviolence, which leads to the second, the Visitation as the story of active nonviolence, which leads to the third, the Magnificat as the vision of prophetic nonviolence.

Movement 1: Contemplative nonviolence

THE ANNUNCIATION IS a scene of contemplative prayer in which Mary communes with the God of peace; in that silence and stillness, she encounters, and is ready for, God. Jesus learned this from his mother. We will see this in Jesus’s first public appearance when he sits by the Jordan River after his baptism and, in that contemplative peace, hears the God of peace call him “My beloved,” which sets him on his journey.

The first lesson of Lucan nonviolence is to sit in silence and solitude, in contemplative prayer, to open ourselves to God, to listen for God, and to be available if the God of peace chooses to speak. As Mary would have known, the first step in a peaceful life is to spend time in peace with the God of peace, to let God speak to us, to be ready if God sends us forth as peacemakers into the world of war.

From the Archives: August 1993

by John Dear 07-02-2018
A Solitary Witness
NATALIA61 / Shutterstock

NATALIA61 / Shutterstock

On Aug. 8, 1943, the night before he was beheaded for refusing to fight for Hitler’s army, Franz Jagerstatter sat in a Berlin prison cell, deep in intimate prayer with God. On a table in front of him lay a piece of paper, a promise to serve in the Nazi medical corps. All he had to do was sign his name and the Nazis would let him live.

It was a simple choice. His guards encouraged him to sign the paper. His parish priest and bishop prayed for him to sign it and save himself. His wife and three little girls begged him to give up his one-man stand against imperial violence and sign the document so that one day he could come home.

Never Give Up

by John Dear 04-25-2018
Lessons from Desmond Tutu on working for justice and waiting for God.
Brian Snyder/ Reuters

Brian Snyder/ Reuters

I FIRST HEARD Archbishop Desmond Tutu speak at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., sometime around 1987. It was at the height of apartheid in South Africa, and the world was just waking up to its horrors and organizing global economic sanctions.

Tutu spoke of an elderly woman he had met a few days earlier in Soweto. She told him that every night she got up at 2 a.m. for an hour in order to beg God solemnly for an end to apartheid. “I know we will win now,” Tutu told us, “because God cannot resist the prayer of that poor old woman.” With that, he burst into tears. Those tears of peace converted the thousands of us who crowded in to hear him. We had never heard such a witness for peace.

Later, I came to know him as a friend. During my 2014 pilgrimage to South Africa, I spent a morning visiting the great man at his foundation headquarters in Cape Town. First, we had Mass together with his staff; then he catered a brunch for me and my friends. He and I helped ourselves to a plate of food and coffee, then sat together by ourselves for an hour.

“We do not have the right to give up this work,” he told me. “Our sisters and brothers are suffering around the world, so we have to keep working for peace and justice till the day we die.” I was amazed to hear that he planned to leave the next day for Iran. He was in his 80s, in bad health, and relentless.

He spoke of the millions of squatters living in total poverty around Cape Town and elsewhere. “We have the ultimate First World wealth and the worst Third World poverty, the biggest gap between rich and poor in the world,” he said. “One percent of the money for war and nuclear weapons could feed and house these poor people. Sometimes I say to God, ‘What the heck is going on? Why don’t you do something?’”

The Life and Death of Daniel Berrigan

by John Dear 05-02-2016

Dan Berrigan published more than 50 books of poetry, essays, journals, and Scripture commentaries, as well as an award winning play, The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, in his remarkable life, but he was most known for burning draft files with homemade napalm along with his brother Philip and eight others on May 17, 1968, in Catonsville, Md., igniting widespread national protest against the Vietnam War, including increased opposition from religious communities. He was the first U.S. priest ever arrested in protest of war, at the national mobilization against the Vietnam War at the Pentagon in October 1967. He was arrested hundreds of times since then in protests against war and nuclear weapons, spent two years of his life in prison, and was repeatedly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In Afghanistan, A Call for Peace

by John Dear 12-13-2012

An Afghan girl looks out from the entrance of her mud hut at a refugee camp in Kabul. BAY ISMOYO/AFP/GettyImages

We call upon the United Nations to negotiate an immediate cease-fire to the war in Afghanistan, and to start talks aimed at ending the war and beginning the long road to healing and recovery. 

That’s what the Afghan youth said on Tuesday afternoon in Kabul, along with Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire of Ireland, as they launched their “Two Million Friends for Afghanistan” campaign and presented their petition to a senior United Nations official.

For me, it was the climax of a heart-breaking, astonishing eight days in one of the poorest, most violent, most war-torn, most corrupt, and most polluted places on the planet — and because of the amazing “Afghan Peace Volunteers,” the 25 Afghan youth who live and work together in a community of peace and nonviolence — one of the most hopeful.

A Peace Movement Victory Against Drones

by John Dear 09-21-2010
[Editor's Note: Every once in a while there is a landmark court case for the cause of freedom and justice.

Six Found Guilty Of Trying to See Their Senator

by John Dear 09-10-2007

On Thursday, Sept. 6, 2007, six of us were found guilty in federal court in Albuquerque, New Mexico, by a federal judge for trying to visit the office of our senator. We will be sentenced in a few weeks.

It all started one year ago on Sept. 26, 2006. That day nine of us entered the Federal Building in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and tried to take the elevator to the third floor to the office of Sen. [...]

Iraq Journal

by John Dear 07-01-1999
Notes from a peace delegation to a ravaged land.

In Jail, Keeping Watch

by John Dear 07-01-1994

John Dear, S.J., Philip Berrigan, Lynn Fredriksson, and Bruce Friedrich are currently being held in the Chowan County Jail in Edenton, North Carolina, for their Pax Christi-Spirit of Life Plo

The Solitary witness of Franz Jagerstatter

by John Dear 08-01-1993

Invoking Franz Jagerstatter

Seventy Times Seven

by John Dear 08-01-1989
Forgiveness, Faith, and Life on Death Row

A Whisper in Our Hearts

by John Dear 08-01-1987

What you hear in the whispers, proclaim from the housetops.
--Matthew 10:27