I sit in our silent, cool chapel, trying to pray for Syria but distracted instead by the air conditioning noises and the rumbling of my belly. The Pope has called us to a day of prayer and fasting. My wonderful parish complied quickly and has organized this vigil. And so I sit here physically, but my brain is far away, cloudy, distracted.
Together as a small group, we recite our prayers: a rosary, a Chaplet, a litany, and the USCCB Prayer for peace:
Almighty eternal God, source of all compassion,
the promise of your mercy and saving help fills our hearts with hope.
Hear the cries of the people of Syria;
bring healing to those suffering from the violence,
and comfort to those mourning the dead.
Empower and encourage Syria’s neighbors
in their care and welcome for refugees.
Convert the hearts of those who have taken up arms,
and strengthen the resolve of those committed to peace.
O God of hope and Father of mercy,
your Holy Spirit inspires us to look beyond ourselves and our own needs.
Inspire leaders to choose peace over violence
and to seek reconciliation with enemies.
Inspire the Church around the world with compassion for the people of Syria,
and fill us with hope for a future of peace built on justice for all.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace and Light of the World,
who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
For the people of Syria, that God may strengthen the resolve of leaders to end
the fighting and choose a future of peace.
We pray to the Lord…
My mouth recites the prayers in unison with those around me, yet my heart is wracked by sadness and doubt. Do we make any difference with this effort? This small little group of us who could get away from Saturday busyness, soccer games, Costco, or work? Or are our efforts as ineffectual as the small tag team of peace protestors I passed on my way to church, waving their signs as folks simply drove by ignoring them?
I pray for the answer I desire… that a loving God, all-knowing and filled with compassion, hears and knows the prayers of not only those of us in this little chapel, but of the literally millions of us around the world who call for peace, to an end to the ever-escalating rush of our leaders to meet arms with arms, not only in Syria but really around the world.
The cynic within me (weak as she is) watches us march towards yet another antiseptic war, so far away, and tends — sadly — to see our participation as an act of politics. That’s wrong, I know. Our leaders justify our need to meet such unthinkable acts of violence that have been perpetrated upon poor souls in Syria with a strategic military response to send the message that such horrors cannot and will not be tolerated.
And yet we have Papa — Pope Francis — calling us to beg for peace, to decide against an act of violence as an answer for violence.
After our communal prayer, I turn in silence to the recipe of that USCCB prayer, reminding me what we seek:
- Healing and comfort for those persecuted in Syria
- Empowerment for those who care for over two million refugees
- Conversion for those who have taken up arms and have perpetrated such despicable acts of violence
- a strengthening of resolve for those of us who call for peace.
Surely God, you know and hear these prayers before we ever even think them. Show yourself through your intercession, in this moment in time. Slow the tide that seems to be ready to crash us into yet another act of war. Turn the hearts of Syria’s leaders to see the wrong they have done to their own people. Be with our leaders to strengthen their focus on seeking meaningful, lasting reconciliation and peace.
Turn my heart, God, to acts of true faith, love and caring. The suffering surrounds me. In Syria, yes, but also here in my own community, Lord. Let me be your hands, your will, your love, your path to peace in my own little corner of this crazy world.
I am yours.