When my daughter was young, we moved to a beach community. It was a collection of mostly summer cottages with a smattering of year-round residents, and most of those residents were retirees. Fortunately, there was a young family directly across the street and we went on to develop a deep friendship. We visited with each other daily and one of the things I loved about their house was the family room. On one wall was a map of the world. I’m not talking about one of those maps that was held up with push pins. No! It literally took up the entire wall and it was huge! I assume it was wallpaper, and while I know it was there for the children to become better educated in geography, I was fascinated with it. I’d sit there and say to myself, “I wonder where Bali is?” or “Where the heck is Easter Island, anyway?” I was never that great in geography in school but for some reason, I loved that map.
For well over a year, we’ve been praying for the people of Ukraine and an end to the war there. We have recently been praying for the people of Sudan, a country that has been beset by war and unrest for generations. I happen to know a little bit about Sudan. Sister Jeanette Chishibanji was a classmate and a member of my cohort when I was in graduate school studying pastoral ministry. She told me and my classmates of the abject poverty of her people. She spoke of the lack of food and water, the lack of health care and sanitation, and the lack of electricity, and education for the children. Sister Jeanette did what news reports cannot — she put a human face on a global problem. It wasn’t a two-minute clip or a headline in a newspaper. No. She was a living, breathing human being whom I knew that spoke daily of the struggles of her family, her people, and her nation. And we felt her pain.
My parish now prays daily for the people of our country and those throughout the world who are affected by floods, wildfires, tornadoes, drought, and for those suffering under the oppressive and unprecedented heat. Just this week we’ve heard about wildfires in Canada and the islands of Greece. Smoke from more than 900 fires in Canada has blanketed much of the U.S., affecting our air quality and causing many with pre-existing heart and lung issues to become ill. The heat of the summer has been unbearable for folks in the Southwest. The “heat dome,” as it’s called, is now creeping north and east and threatens millions more with unbearable humidity and scorching temperatures. Europe and Asia are experiencing similar heat and weather-related problems.
I miss that map on the wall. Today I’d spend some time finding Sudan or Ukraine on it. I’d locate those Greek isles; maybe I’d even take a look at Canada and states that are so far removed from where we live. I might be inspired to google those countries and places that are struggling with war, poverty, violence, and natural disasters to get a better understanding of who and what I’m praying for. For the past year we have been praying for peace in Ukraine; we now pray for Sudan, as well. We pray for those affected by natural disasters. We pray for the sick and injured and deceased. We respond, “Lord, hear our prayer” Sunday after Sunday, yet I wonder if we could do just a bit more?
In a few short days we will celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the time when Mary’s earthly life ended and she was assumed, body and soul, into heaven. Perhaps this month, we could seek the intercession of Mary — Mary, the Mother of God, Mary, the Queen of Peace, Mary, Help of the Sick, Mary, Comforter of the Afflicted, Mary, Mother of Sorrows. This month, we could pray for Mary to intercede for victims of war — the children, the parents, the elderly. We could pray for people throughout the world whose lives have been impacted by weather-related events. We could pray for priests and missionaries throughout the world. We could pray for a deeper understanding of the struggles and turmoils of those in places overcome with strife and loss. We could pray for Mary, the Mother of God, to intercede for us with her Son to reconcile hearts filled with violence and vengeance and bring peace and tranquility to our troubled world. And that, my friends, is the Good News!
“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”
Anchor columnist Ada Simpson is former editor of Ministry and Liturgy magazine, holds an M.A. in Pastoral Ministry, and is the director of Music Ministry at St. Francis and St. Dominic parishes in Swansea.