What do We Do when the World is Burning?


First there came the pandemic. Italians made a video showing their society locked down because they didn’t take Covid seriously. Hospitals were overrun with patients.

Then churches were shut. Catholics were told by their bishops to do what literally no Catholics had ever dared do in the history of the church: stay home on Sunday. Do not publicly celebrate the Mass. Stay away from the Eucharist.

Then came the job losses. The US economy took a gargantuan dive. More jobs were lost in the span of a couple months than had been lost in that same span since the Great Depression.

Then came the race riots. They say most protests are peaceful now – or that most are mostly peaceful. But “mostly peaceful” still leaves room for looted neighborhoods, burned up housing, molotov cocktails, vigilantes with long rifles, and police on the streets with tanks and military gear.

Then came the fires. California burned like it had never burned before (as far as we could remember). My son developed a cough, and his nose started bleeding every day.

In all of this, what am I supposed to do? I have to stay home because of Covid and these fires make the air unhealthy to breathe. Yet I should get out and say something, right? Lend my meager voice to whatever protest movement I align with, even if we are so divided in this country, none of us actually listen to each other. I should give money, clothes, or something.

Yet such a response seems fantastically inadequate. Pollyanna in it’s hope of creating a better world. What do I know of the answer to racism? What experience do I have in fighting the many fires, real and unreal, raging around me? There is only one course of action I know will do concrete good.

I pray.

I’m Catholic after all. It’s the right thing to do. But more than that, it’s the best thing to do. From prayer comes the motivation to do good. In prayer, I can hand these knotted circumstances to a person – no, the only person – who knows what to do with them.

I could speak. I could protest. Maybe I should, but who would change at the sound of my voice without the Holy Spirit? What softening of the heart could ever happen without God first ploughing their souls to make them open to the rain? God is trying to tell each of us something through the gauntlet of 2020, but what clarity do I have about the message? “Thus saith the Lord!” …. what, exactly?

So I pray.

You can call me piously irrelevant. I promise you that with my words, Heaven and earth will move – not in my direction, as though I knew what was best for the world. No. It will move in the direction of the will of God.

The pandemic. Then the silent Masses… the job losses… the riots… the fires…

Then the prayer.

Then the peace.

©Catholic Anonymous 2020

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