“If you can’t feed one hundred people, then just feed one.” - Mother Teresa
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God.” - Matthew 5:9.
There are so many worthy causes in this world-worthy of our time, talent and treasure. But with the internet and social media, we are so aware of all the causes. I hit a crossroads this past Spring when I left my job within the Catholic Church. I needed a break after covid-burn out. I’m enjoying a short breath as a stay-at-home mom, but then, what next? I’ve worked with valued ideals and movements in the past: Native American reservations, missionaries to Mozambique, Crisis Assistance Ministry and Catholic Charities, Autism Speaks, crisis pregnancy centers–And they all matter! How can we know the best way to be a world changer? I don’t know the answer to that question. What I do know is I can’t just sit and read all of the things and do nothing.
And as I write this article on February 25, 2022, we are currently witnessing a Russian invasion within Ukraine. As an outsider, I feel helpless and sad and scared. But with the world of chaos swirling around us, we want to do anything in our power to help. That means we want to do everything, but are overwhelmed and seem to actually do nothing all at the same time. We are bombarded with 24 hour news cycles and viral videos that pull at our heartstrings–yet we just seem to continue to watch from afar. We want to all do something but don’t know what to do.
It can also be difficult to fully grasp all of the why’s and who’s of the invasion. As a non-political outsider, I just hear “evil destruction” so I don’t even really know of a hopeful end game.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta spent her life among the poorest of the poor in India. She loved the sick and dying. She gave individuals dignity and recognized each person as made in the Image of God. She also wrote extensively on how to share love and peace in the world–and she spoke about sharing love and peace to one person at a time.
If someone feels that God wants him to transform social structures that’s an issue between him and his God. We all have the duty to serve God where we feel called. I feel called to help individuals, to love each human being. I never think in terms of crowds in general but in terms of each individual person. Were I to think about crowds, I would never begin anything. It is the person that matters. I believe in person-to-person encounters.
With seven billion people in our world, we must find a balance between personal responsibility to love one another without feeling obligated to love everyone. We need to trust our brothers and sisters worldwide to do their part to love and care for someone else while we love each other. We change the world by acknowledging individuals with respect and dignity.
At the very least we can pray for those who are suffering around the world. At present, Ukrainian and Russian citizens all need our prayers. Mother Teresa states, “I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us, and we change things.” We are united in our prayers and thus the world gets smaller. And when we pray, we can stop and listen to our calling. We can’t do everything but we can all do one thing. What is that someone that God plans for us to make a difference in the world?
To pray is to lift one’s mind and heart to God-entrusting our will to His. It is not simply an action but a connection. Prayer is a relationship. And when we intercede on the behalf of another we also bring him or her into that relationship. We allow for larger and deeper connections. Prayer is a powerful weapon in the world as it has the ability to change minds and hearts. And prayer is rooted in community.
“I invite everyone to make next March 2, Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting for peace. I encourage believers in a special way to devote themselves intensely to prayer and fasting on that day. May the Queen of Peace preserve the world from the madness of war,” Pope Francis said on Feb. 23.
So we pray for the one. We pray for the mother who just delivered her baby in a subway station turned bomb shelter. We pray for the family walking to the border to find refuge out of Ukraine. We pray for the father who has to let his children go so that he can stay and fight. We pray for the nun who chooses to stay to be with her people. We pray for one. At a time. We see the face of each Ukrainian.
And when we stop and pray, we not only talk to God begging for peace and comfort for those suffering. But we can also listen in return for His call to us. What is our next step for the one entrusted to our care. According to NPR, here are things we can do:
- Donate to international organizations like UNICEF and Save the Children
- Stay informed without becoming disheartened
- Support refugees
Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, also said we should each make a “sacrifice for those who are wounded, for those who are discouraged, for the refugees who are on the roads” fleeing the war.
The world is full of those who need us. But we are only human and can only do so much. But let’s not dwell on what we can’t do. Instead stop, pray, listen, and then do one thing. And when we all do our piece, the puzzle will come together.
Emily Clary has worked in Catholic education since 2005. She has worked in parish Faith Formation for the Diocese of Providence and the Diocese of Charlotte. She has taught middle school Religion and worked in Catholic School Campus Ministry in Woonsocket, RI and in Raleigh NC.