PTSD Spirituality: The Meaning of Semper Pax and the Compassion of John 8

I am often asked why I sign my letters with the words “Semper Pax.”   Almost all of my e-mail includes the desire, hope, prayer, and admonition that is included in the words “Semper Pax.” I find that Semper Pax and the Story of the Woman Caught in Adultery in John, chapter eight, combine to provide me with a constant life lesson as I deal with my PTSD.

Semper Pax is Latin for “Always Peace.”   

Semper = Always   

Pax = Peace

Semper Fi and Semper Pax

Many of the PTSD Spirituality blog’s readers know “Semper Fi” for its connection with the United States Marine Corps (USMC).  Semper Fi is short for Semper Fidelis which means “Always Faithful.” Semper = Always Fidelis = Faithful

While most of my military service was as an Army officer, I have a lot of affection for the Marines (they look so cute and cuddly with their shaved heads!).  A member of our family was a Marine.  He is gone now, but the Marines helped him to become responsible man who cared for others.  By the time of his demise he was a better man because of the US Marines.   I have also met a fair number of Marines in my PTSD Spirituality work.  When it comes to PTSD, we are all brothers and sisters.

Semper Pax is Both Secular and Supernatural

My personal motto of Semper Pax helps me to sustain the hope that we can all be at peace.  While it is a lofty goal, it is not an unattainable goal.  As a Catholic I worship the Prince of Peace.  So there is a double entendre in my use of Semper Pax.    

 – One the one hand I desire and endorse peace in its secular mundane sense.

 – On the other hand, it represents my commitment to Jesus Christ, the Son of God.   This understanding is an axis mundi application of Semper Pax, a place where heaven and earth meet in the fully human  and fully divine person of Jesus.

If a person is not a Christian, I hope they can at least accept and endorse the secular desire for peace.  For the Christian, peace is so much more than merely the absence of violence.  It is about relationships, responsibility, and love.  The absence of peace leads to alienation and the construction of one’s own personal hell.

At the bottom of most of my e-mail I sign off with Semper Pax and also a quote from the Gospel of John (8:7):

And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’

I am Not Innocent Either and I need Compassion

John 8 reminds me that I am never innocent.  It reminds me to show compassion even for those who have clearly broken the law and were “caught in the act.”  I, too, am guilty of personal and structural sin.  If I drive a car, then I own part of the war and the resultant trauma that goes with it.

Jesus’ reminder that we are none of us innocent, helps me to tone down some of what I write in my e-mails.  Before I fling the stones, even if a law has been clearly broken as in John 8, I am reminded that I am not innocent either.  This Christian teaching means that I had better reconsider the ferocity of my righteous indignation. 

John 8 coupled with Semper Pax, have helped stop me from making a fool of myself by zipping out a self-righteous angry e-mail more than once. 

Does what I do promote “Always Peace”? 

Does what I do promote compassion as Jesus showed the woman caught in adultery? 

If not, then I should reconsider sending that e-mail.

We All Need to Give (and Receive) Forgiveness and Compassion

People who are traumatized and living with the daily struggle of PTSD need our compassion and in some cases they need our forgiveness.  When you forgive us and show compassion it gives us hope to live.  In forgiveness and compassion we experience the model established by the Prince of Peace. 

Semper Pax, Dr. Z


  1. Wow! Amazing! Thank you! Gonna have to print this out and use Semper pax 8 that’s ok with you?

  2. Thanks so much for that clarification. “Semper pax” means so much more than I had previously thought.

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