Monday, March 05, 2007

The World for Which We Pray

Twentieth Century PIETA
Kosovo, Yugoslavia - October, 1998
by Alan Chin for the New York Times

Just learned that on this day in 1933, less than twenty-four hours after his inauguration, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared a 'bank holiday' in an effort to protect the savings of citizens whose loss of trust in financial institutions had brought on a disastrous 'run on banks' that eventually followed the Great Stock Market Crash in October of the 1929. My Sicilian immigrant grandfather (American citizen and veteran of World War I) lost almost everything he owned as a result of that crash.

On the very same day in 1933 the Nazi Party, led by Adolf Hitler, was democratically elected the majority party of the national German legislative body, the Bundestag. In 1928, my then eight-year-old German-born father, came to this country with his family to escape the post- World War I financial disaster of that country, a disaster which made the rise of Hitler possible.

Today is also the 150th anniversary of the famed Dred Scott Decision of the United States Supreme Court which upheld the institution of slavery and declared that no Negro could ever have the rights of a citizen in this country. Today, for the first time in our history, we have a serious and electable African-American candidate putting himself forward for election to the presidency of the United States.

These little bits of interesting information may seem out of place here. Contemplative nuns are all about prayer not finance, politics and race relations. Is that so? Someone once said, "You cannot pray for a world you do not know." Our community is very interested in what is happening in the world, the world for which we pray, the world for which we endeavor to pray constantly. While maintaining our center of gravity in silence and solitude, the home of contemplative prayer, we do find time to keep ourselves acquainted with the daily realities of our world - troubled, tortured, amazing, creative, and often seeming to be about to spin out of control.

In the last few days we made some special efforts in this direction. We were greatly rewarded by that effort and, more important, emerged even more highly motivated to pray without ceasing.
Together we watched a tape we'd made of a one-hour Public Television documentary, "The Sisters of Selma." It focused on the startling participation of Roman Catholic Nuns in the civil rights demonstrations in Alabama in the early 1960s. Even for those of us familiar with the history, it was a shock to the system to see such anger and hatred poured out upon non-violent demonstrators. We were in awe of the courage displayed by the Sisters and their avowed support of voting rights for their Black "brothers and sisters." In discussion afterward we spoke of all that has changed and all that remains to be changed and how this human rights story is being played out in our own day and time, here and elsewhere. We spoke of the necessity of our prayers for those who have yet to obtain justice and for those prophets among us who support that movement forward and urge us to do so.

Former ABC anchorman, Bob Woodruff and his wife, are making the rounds of
book publicity outlets to inform the public about his experience of being mortally wounded while on assignment in Iraq and his miraculous recovery from an astonishingly damaging brain injury. We'd been fans of his and were concerned about his progress. We taped a recent ABC feature program about his experience and that of the shockingly high number of brain injured soldiers returning from the Iraq war zone. Woodruff's dramatic recovery was affirmation of the power of prayer. The plight of wounded soldiers which he so compassionately communicated was a powerful motivator for our lives of intercessory prayer. The impressions made by this program on the sisters of our community were reflected in our spoken spontaneous intercessions at Liturgy of the Hours and at Mass for days afterward. We prayed for the soldiers, their families, their doctors, nurses and caretakers and for the powerful in our government to do all that can be done to ensure ample and correct rehabilitative treatment for the injured in this hour of extreme need. And we prayed for peace.

We find that we need to know. In this we are compellingly reminded of our responsibility as a prayerful presence in the troubled world. We are more highly motivated to be present in that prayer to those in need of healing and justice. We are made aware of the suffering of so many. We are reminded of our call as Redemptorsitines to be 'viva memoria', the living memory of Jesus in this world and with Him to offer our prayers to the Father.

In the night of our technological barbarism
monks must be as trees which exist silently in the dark,
and by their vital presence purify the air.

Thomas Merton
Basic Principles of Monastic Spirituality


The changing heathen-Pottyaboutjesus said...

Can I please beg of your prayers for a young girl called "Lanie Hallett" who is much in need of God's mercy and grace

In Christ

Niamh Moloney

Anonymous said...

These two documentaries (Srs of Selma and Bob Woodruff) also inspired me. I often wonder if I am "too glued to the news" and your reflections help me discern my way. Thanks for sharing your lives, your values, and the your ways to stay faithful to your vocation.