Thoughts and Prayers

Thoughts and Prayers
"Anger makes the mouth swell and blackens the blood in the veins," by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

A recent letter released by a politician "invited" those who would offer "thoughts and prayers" in the face of a horrible tragedy to, in a somewhat profane and rude manner, to keep those same thoughts and prayers to themselves.   I find, not so much the language, but the tone shocking, that anyone would have anything but thanksgiving to those who would make any gesture of good will, regardless of faith or lack thereof.  What the gentleman in question was insinuating was that those who offered any thoughts or prayers would only offer those same thoughts and prayers and would do nothing more to prevent any future tragedies.  But the Church throughout history has not only supplied "thoughts and prayers," but material and spiritual comfort to victims and families of victims in every natural and man-made disaster that one can imagine.  We do not believe in "either/or" when one can do both. 

Now, the gentleman might be reacting from pain and anger, anger in the face of the evil of a tragedy.  That is understandable, to a point.  But anger can lead to danger, spiritually and psychologically.  Anger can make us blind if it is directed more at the person than the problem.  We lose sight of our common humanity, becoming more and more sectarian and divided.  We might feel righteous for a second at telling someone off, but at the cost of a longer-lasting loss of empathy and decency.  St. Catherine of Siena wisely warns us that, "There is no sin nor wrong that gives a man such a foretaste of hell in this life as anger and impatience."  Anger easily overrules reason.  Anger is a dangerous weapon that few of us can truly bear in a peaceful and righteous manner.  Perhaps for this reason, God tells us that "Vengeance is mine.  I alone with avenge."  (see both Exodus and Deuteronomy, and St. Paul in Romans).  It doesn't mean we can't be angry, and we should be angry at crimes and injustices, but it does mean that we recognize our limits.

But if in this world we find ourselves facing hatred and anger for "thoughts and prayers," perhaps we can calmly listen, and then pray likewise for the issue and the person who has an issue with those thoughts and prayers.  When we pray the Rosary for peace, it is not just for an absence of military conflict, but peace between our nations, our countrymen, and our families.  As we approach the Holy Season of Lent, perhaps it is time to calmly show anger just who is, or at least, should be boss of our souls.

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