In this, the season of gift giving, you probably received at least one gift.

Maybe you were given a lot of gifts.

But were you the recipient of the gift of peace?

The two words most synonymous with the Christmas season are joy and peace.

Perhaps you had tinges of joy. Did you find peace?

While life might always have seemed to be a bit stressful, the last few years have been the most stressful of all for many.

Economic woes keep worsening for many of us. Some lost their homes to foreclosure. Some lost jobs or had their hours cut. That means many are struggling to pay their mortgages along with the other bills.

Then, along comes Christmas with its inherent need to come up with money for gifts. Even when money is no problem, it's a stressful time of year with a time crunch for many of us.

Do I hear the word "peaceful" in here?

Yet, many Christmas cards wish us "the peace of the season."

As I wrapped the Christmas gifts I bought for my friends and loved ones, I thought about what I really wanted to give as gifts all things that can't be gift wrapped.

And the strange thing is, I find myself thinking that if I could give any gift possible, I would give the gift of peace.

I say it's a strange thought because in the past I have discounted the importance of that gift.

In church, there is one part of the Mass where we offer each other the gift of peace. I've done that ritual so often that I think its meaning has lost its luster for me.

When my husband is at my side and it's time to offer each other the gift of peace, I always turn to him and say, "Peace and Love, David."

I throw "love" into the traditional handshake of peace, as if peace itself were not enough.

But lately, as I've been thinking about what would best help some people I care about, I think the answer is the gift of peace.

One friend thought she had the gift of peace until she ran out of money in her savings account and is now struggling to get by with only her meager Social Security check.

Another friend is trying to cope with serious health issues while yet another friend is trying to cope with a major betrayal that cost him his job. With few firms hiring, he hasn't been able to get another job.

I always pray for my friends and for family members. I used to pray that God would give them the gift they most needed.

One day I realized the gift we most need is the gift of peace, a peace so deep and so real that personal circumstances can't shake it.

Few of us have that gift.

My friend Fran is probably one exception.

When you're around her, you can feel her serenity. If you didn't know her personal circumstances, you would never know she suffered one setback after another.

After she lost her home to a bank foreclosure, she stayed upbeat. When she had to go back to nursing at the age of 72, she stayed upbeat.

"Happiness is a choice for each of us," she says. "We can choose to be happy. Or, we can choose to let personal problems get the best of us. I choose to be happy."

And, she is. She has a rare gift of peace that shines from within her.

I wish I could give that gift to everyone who needs it.

But peace is not a gift anyone can give to someone else. It's something we have to find for ourselves.

My wish for all of you this Christmas season is that you find the gift of peace. I wish you the peace that surpasses all understanding.