April 20, 2020

I cannot ignore the shooting rampage that has taken place in Nova Scotia. I spent 17 months in that Province of creative, peace-loving, welcoming people. It is difficult to even begin to imagine the effects of the loss, and my heart wants to move to a place that doesn’t know about it, but, of course can’t. This is another area where First Responders take on a task, at great cost, that is essential to the well-being of others. An there is another group of Responders, the Clergy, the Funeral Directors, the doctors and nurses and counselors who answers the call to support the family and friends of victims as they navigate the personal chaos of their grief.

A number of years ago, I penned a prayer called “A Prayer for This Week” in response to a difficult news week in the world. I took it out to read today and ended up completely re-writing and so it is “A Prayer for Today”. It is a prayer for those who need to respond to a heart-wrenching situation. It is also a prayer for all those suffering from a condition known as “compassion fatigue”, a condition brought on by having been faced with so much suffering, the ability to feel compassion feels far off.

Terms used in Prayer that follows: *guerrilla – a person who takes part in guerrilla warfare; fighting or harassment by small groups acting independently. *grace – God’s loving mercy. “Gruerrilla’s of Grace” is the name of a book of poems/prayers by Ted Loder.

Prayer for This Week
It has been a tough week, God, for your guerrillas* of grace*,
and I confess that I have turned off the television
    not because I heard you calling me into quiet conversation,
    or because I heard my neighbour's cry of distress;
but because I did not want to hear or see or know
    that violence has desecrated another community,
    that parents and siblings and friends are weeping,
        unable to cope, the physical comfort of hugs restrained,
        the door to hope mercilessly shuttered,
        the mystery of the willful destruction of lives,
              obscured by death, complicated by madness.
Even as we lament the violent impulse
     and comfort devastated families,
we, or our children, play games
     where we obliterate imaginary enemies,
and then dance happily to profanity-blaring music,
     and laugh at clever name-calling,
pretending like we don't hear these small violences.
But we do hear, God.
     We hear the small atrocities we dismiss,
      and the news-blaring atrocities we can't ignore.
I hear! - - and try not to,
because sometimes the heart of me feels
    like a wrung-out dish rag,
        soggy with the germs of this world,
and I am too used up to be able to mop up any of its mess.
And this day,
    though I have not taken one step
        in the direction of my neighbours' sorrow,
        or uttered one word of broken, prayer,
I am weary from caring.
Come to me in my compassion fatigue
    and wring from me
    the desire to live in the deadly comfort of denial.
Comfort me with your quiet presence,
    until I have had enough of self-pity,
    until my heart dares to hear the cries of distress.
Make space in the fibre of my being
    for the courage and will to shake off apathy and self-pity.
If I cannot find the words to heal,
    let me sit with grief until love brings relief.
If I cannot meet my neighbour,
    let my spirit and my prayers find their way
         to their shattered world.
Do no let despair harden me,
    nor the whirlwind of destruction overwhelm me.
Stir me into action with images of hope and healing.
Create in me a vision of justice and peace so vivid
    that it takes life within me.
Give me the courage to face unfathomable pain
    and walk in heavy silence,
        as we wait for love to do its work
        as we wait for hope to show its face
        as we wait for the future to become possible. Amen.

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