A WORLD IN NEED OF PRAYER
We live in difficult times. We are engulfed by a worldwide pandemic in which death tolls dominate the headlines, healthcare systems are overwhelmed, scientists race to find a vaccine, and facemasks have become commonplace. Though we are made for community, entire populations obey orders to “stay at home,” so we live in isolation. Social media substitutes for social gatherings; social distancing becomes a social necessity. Schools are shuttered, businesses are boarded up, and churches are closed. Normalcy eludes us.
In the midst of all this, we watch with horror as Mr. George Floyd suffocates from a stronghold while in police custody. We learn that Ahmaud Arbery is gunned down while jogging; that young Breonna Taylor is shot in her home; and that Rayshard Brooks is tasered and killed in a fast food parking lot. Ignoring medical advice, citizens of all faiths, young and old, Black and White, rich and poor take to the streets to voice their outrage and show their solidarity. Protesters –peaceful and not – demand racial justice and radical reform.
With all this, one can easily become mired in an overwhelming sense of helplessness. What can one person do? How should I react? How should I respond?
Certainly, as faithful citizens we should lend our voices to the political process. Certainly, as diocesan and parish ministers we have responded creatively, quickly and valiantly with live-streamed Masses, online classes, and web-based committee meetings. Certainly, as parents and teachers we have cared for each other with remarkable patience and sacrifice. Certainly, as Christians we have reacted with heightened sensitivity to the needs of the unemployed and the poor and have responded with unprecedented generosity.
How can each of us and all of us respond as liturgists? In the past few months, the members of this Federation have not rested. We have reimagined the Triduum, postponed Chrism Masses, and reorganized ordinations. We have continued to journey with the Elect and candidates. We have visited the sick, buried the dead, and comforted the mourners. We have prepared guidelines for safe re-openings, have debated the safest ways to administer the sacraments, and have responded to countless questions. We shared resources and exchanged research. In short, we have helped the nation to pray!
Similarly, we need to draw on prayer ourselves. We need to humbly acknowledge our own helplessness, our own inadequacies in the face of such overwhelming tragedy. Like our liturgical texts, we need to offer up prayer that not only gives glory to God, but that sanctifies humanity. This is prayer that begs forgiveness and seeks reconciliation. This is prayer that not only joins us with the Angels and Saints, but that weds us with the marginalized and the poor – making us more acutely aware of our common needs and our shared humanity.
We not only have to implore God to hear our pleas, but we have to listen to what God asks of us. What is God’s plan for us? How are we to cooperate with his will?
I contend that the fruit of this prayer will be action. I imagine that, through us, God will continue to condemn racism in all its forms. I imagine that, through us, the hungry will be fed and the lonely will be comforted. I imagine that God will ask us to defend the sanctity of all human life and to protect the rights of all his children who have been unjustly treated.
So, let us pray. Whether we gather in a church (six feet apart) or march in the streets; whether we kneel in adoration or kneel at the bedside of the sick; whether we whisper through masks or shout words of protest – let us pray. The world is in need of it. n Rita A. Thiron, Executive Director, FDLC