Friday, August 15, 2014

What Can We Do in These Terrible Times?

These are chaotic, sad times in the world and I am encountering a lot of people who are beat down by it.

I myself would be beat down by it too but I have had to deliberately distance myself from the things I can't do to help people in the Ukrainian fight to keep their freedom, in Israel's fight against Hamas terrorists, in the path of ISIS terrorists, who are victims of terrorist Boko Haram. Equally distressing is how each new atrocity seems to push the others out of public consciousness. The suffering continues even when the news forgets to mention it.

Then, of course, we've got people without jobs and with the sorts of problems of which Robin Williams' sad end is all too emblematic.

I have to remind myself that I was put here, in this place, in this time, by God to make the world better in the things I can influence. I've got to depend on leaders like Pope Francis to move the larger world to better actions as he has been doing.

So what can I do? What can we do so far removed from all the anguish we see?

Let's not forget that we've got the most advanced "internet" in the world. Instantaneous communication from our hearts to God's ear. Remember those victims and even the perpetrators in your prayers. You can change the world right from your church, living room, or office desk.
  • The U.S. Bishops have called for Catholic parishes nationwide to join in prayer for peace in Iraq on August 17.
  • Diana von Glahn has a piece on pilgrimage at Dappled Things which discusses this topic (she hits this part about halfway down the piece).
  • Jennifer Fitz at Sticking the Corners talks about praying for a secret prayer partner, very much in the style of a Secret Santa gift exchange. I like it. It works both ways you know ... on them but also on you.

Look at it not only as supporting those who need the cash but as an opportunity to fast financially and offer that sacrifice as a prayer also. Speaking of which, you can also fast as well as pray for those who are suffering. It's not just for Lent.

We don't have to look far in our own homes, workplaces, and community to find people who need help from circumstances that hurt them personally. Mother Teresa said it best:
I never look at the masses as my responsibility; I look at the individual. I can only love one person at a time—just one, one, one. So you begin. I began—I picked up one person. Maybe if I didn't pick up that one person, I wouldn't have picked up forty-two thousand. ... The same thing goes for you, the same thing in your family, the same thing in your church, your community. Just begin—one, one, one.*
After all, that's how Jesus did it.Collecting disciples one, one, one; healing people one, one, one; loving each of us one, one, one. Let's follow in those footsteps.

It can seem frightening because it is personal. We are putting ourselves out there. But, speaking as a very imperfect practitioner of this action plan, it works. It is rewarding to both involved. It can change the world.

How do you get started? Help a neighbor, ask your parish office, read the bulletin. Cook for a sick friend or bereaved family (My Catholic Kitchen has a lovely piece on Funeral Ham and Cheese Biscuits that shows the difference a small effort makes.) Sometimes it just takes looking at the world around us with newly opened eyes.

And you can, once again, pray. If you ask God to send you someone to help, He will answer in a jiffy.

* I came across this quote in Brandon Vogt's excellent book Saints and Social Justice which not only contains many examples of people stepping up personally in love of Christ, but has very solid suggestions in how to do this in your own life. Don't wait to read it though. While you're looking for the book, pick something close to your heart (or your home ... how about that lonely neighbor who you see getting her paper every morning?) and begin today.

All images are public domain from Wikipedia.


  1. And then there's the advice in that bottom illustration: Cakes and Pies.

    It is a feast day.

    1. Thank you for your feedback. :-)

  2. Thank you, Julie, for this reminder. It's certainly been an eventful past couple weeks-both on the international stage and for a lot of people in my day-to-day life. It has been getting difficult to not feel bogged down.

  3. Thanks for this. As JoAnna said, it's been quite a trying few weeks for so many reasons. Sometimes we need reminders like this in out day to day lives.

  4. What a great post. I function in much the same way, always reminding myself (often *needing* to re-remind myself) that there are many "small" terrible times right in front of me, and it's those things God has asked me to address. Thanks for this.