Joseph Cardinal Bernardin's gentle leadership throughout his life of ministerial service had made him an internationally beloved figure, but the words he left behind about his final journey would change the lives of many more people from all faiths, from all backgrounds, and from all over the world.
In the last two months of his life, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin made it his ultimate mission to share his personal reflections and insights as a legacy to those he left behind. The Gift of Peace reveals the Cardinal's spiritual growth amid a string of traumatic events: a false accusation of sexual abuse; reconciliation a year later with his accuser, who had earlier recanted the charges; a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and surgery; the return of cancer, now in his liver; his decision to discontinue chemotherapy and live his remaining days as fully as possible. In these pages, Bernardin tells his story openly and honestly, and shares the profound peace he came to at the end of his life. He accepted his peace as a gift from God, and he in turn now shares that gift with the world.
"This book is an important part of my preparation for dying and allowing others to share in that awesome experience," wrote Chicago's Cardinal Bernadin just days before his death last November. With transparent honesty, Bernadin recounts the traumatic events and emotions of his last three years: a false accusation of sexual misconduct, the grim diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, severe back and leg pain and fatal liver tumors. Yet suffering, for Bernadin, was not punishment but opportunity. "Through suffering we empty ourselves and are filled with God's grace and love," he writes. "We can begin to think of other people and their needs." In that spirit, he began a ministry to others with terminal illnesses, and his prayer list swelled to 700 names.
In this gem of a book, reminiscent of the best of Henri Nouwen, Bernadin stresses the importance of regular prayer, the need for loving human relationships and the profound peace that comes from trusting God even in the worst of times.