The news this week has not been good. It is heartbreaking to see another war beginning. People are dying, homes are irreparably destroyed, and life will never be the same for so many of our fellow human beings. Watching the news is difficult with the front row seat to tragedy it offers. We see the devastating fighting in real time, hear people opine about economic consequences, and all of this is presented in the same medium we use to mindlessly binge our favorite shows. It feels unbelievably tragic, surreal, and all too real at the same time.
Last night as I was scrolling through Reddit, I came across this picture:
This picture of a man clinging to his beloved cat, huddled together with people in a subway station, hit me in a way that all the news reports did not. For me, it is difficult to identify with uniformed career soldiers or politicians with their polished words, but a man trying to protect his cherished feline–that would be me in this heinous situation. Just a person trying to save what they love. I wonder what he had to leave behind? I wonder what all of them could not save? Just ordinary, everyday people with ordinary, everyday needs trying to survive.
A while ago, during the Iraq War, I shared with my spiritual director how I could not face watching the news anymore; that all the tragedy, heartbreak, and frustration was just too much for me. A member of the Society of Saint Margaret, she lived with two other nuns in a small apartment in Dorchester and she shared with me that their practice was to “pray the news.” The three of them, Sr. Mary Gabriel, Sr. Christine, and Sr. Julian, would sit around the television in an attitude of prayer and bring all they were seeing and all they were feeling to God’s sacred throne. Their living room metamorphosed into an oratory and they fervently offered intercessions for the sake of the world transforming the news into a litany.
I love this practice and the image of these three faithful members of an ancient tradition gathered in prayer around a piece of modern technology is emblazoned on my imagination. But sometimes, I cannot help but ask myself, “What’s the point?” If I pray as hard as I can with every fiber of my being, will it relieve just one mote of suffering in the world? In the middle of feeling this way last night, I came across an Instagram post from the estate of the great Episcopal author Madeleine L’Engle:
This was the realignment that I needed. Of course, we do not pray to get what we want or try to control what happens in the world. That is not to say prayer is not effective, rather that prayer should be an expression of love and hope and a source of comfort instead of an attempt to impose our own will and desires on the world. It is a remembrance that God is present and active in our world even if it does not feel like it. It is bringing everything we are and all that we do into the divine presence and placing all our trust in God.
I invite you to join me in this practice of praying the news. It does not have to be an elaborate set of words; it can merely be an invitation for God to be present with you among your desires, hopes, and fears. Together, let us pray for the people of Ukraine, for the soldiers engaged in war, for those lost in their greed for power, and for peace.