What Can We Do?
In 2001 we said we would never forget about 9/11. Fourteen years later a younger generation now feels the outrage of terrorist attacks on innocent people. France is not a war-torn country, but a popular place, where many people visit, and almost everyone seems to have some connection or memory related to the country. Over a hundred innocent people who were enjoying their Friday evening eating out at a restaurant, going to a sports game or attending a musical concert had their life cut short, and many others are dealing with serious injuries.
We are all grieving at the loss of human life and the horrible crime committed by these terrorists. We feel connected to the suffering and wonder if this can happen here. It brings up the question, “What Can We Do?”
I always turn to the Church and the Liturgical Year for answers to my question. There are certain themes in the Liturgy particularly this month that provide some answers. My suggestions are basic and uncomplicated, but universally applicable:
- Recall our Connection with the Communion of Saints: This month opened with the feasts of All Saints and All Souls. The Church is emphasizing the Mystical Body of Christ, also known as the Communion of Saints or the True Vine and Branches. We are connected through all of time and through life and death to everyone, especially through Baptism. The connections are with the saints in heaven, those in Purgatory, and those living on earth.
When a terrible tragedy happens, it is a reminder of this spiritually intimate connection. We are jolted back to reality; we cannot go through life thinking only of ourselves. We might not be able to be physically present to help, but our thoughts and prayers help all members of the Mystical Body. There are some people (or parts of the Body) that are suffering more, and we should find ways of prayer and charity for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
- Pray for the Dead: Expanding on this connection with the members of the Mystical Body, the month of November is dedicated to the Poor Souls in Purgatory. We shouldn’t presume the victims went straight to heaven but pray for their souls’ repose. November is a month to particularly pray for the dead, gaining as many indulgences as possible and offer up our days for the Poor Souls. This article has particular prayers and acts for Poor Souls. The Enchiridion of Indulgences provides detailed explanation and listing of indulgenced acts and prayers.
- Prepare Ourselves: This Sunday is the Solemnity of Christ the King, which marks the last Sunday in Ordinary Time and the end of the Liturgical Year. The Liturgy is focused on the Last Things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. The liturgical readings throughout the month of November are focusing on looking ahead at our death and the Second Coming of Christ, with Advent continuing this theme. The Church is exhorting us to prepare ourselves. If we think of those people in France, no one had any inkling that they would die that night:
Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.—Matthew 24: 40-42
In November we are reminded of these certain realities of death and judgment. The next liturgical season, Advent, is a time that the Church sets aside for us to look inwardly, examine and prepare ourselves also for these same realities. How? Go to Confession, work on our faults, pray more, attend Mass, unite our daily duty with Christ...the list goes on.
A tragedy shouldn’t scare us into being prayerful, but it is a good reminder to pray for our living brothers and sisters, especially those who are hurting, pray for the dead, and also remember to prepare for our own deaths, since we know not the place or time.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let the perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
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