Two grieving loved ones, a father and his young daughter, stand outside a bus in Ukraine as they prepare to separate for who knows how long. This short video posted on social media is among the most heartbreaking, indelible images of the suffering that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused so far.
This ruthless campaign to take over an independent country of nearly 44 million in Eastern Europe, some 5,700 miles from the United States, should intensify our Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Pray, first, for an end to war in Ukraine.
“The Holy Father has called for prayer and fasting to end the war in Ukraine. In times of trouble, we call on the tender mercy of God, to guide our feet to the way of peace (Luke 1:78-79),” Bishop Thomas Zinkula says. “May our prayers, joined with those of people around the world, inspire leaders of nations to resolve conflicts through diplomatic means, assist our brothers and sisters in Ukraine who are facing devastation and fear, and prompt those waging war to cease their aggression and restore peace. Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us.”
As we watch tanks rolling into Ukraine and view images of desperate men, women and children lined up at train stations and see buildings with gaping holes from recent bombing, we may doubt the power of prayer. We cannot lose hope, the theological virtue by which we base our trust in God. Pray for war to end in Ukraine.
Andrea McKinless, an executive editor at America, interviewed Father James Martin, S.J., about why we should pray for peace in Ukraine. “First of all, peace is something that Jesus desires,” responded Father Martin, an editor at large for America and author of “Learning to Pray, A Guide for Everyone.” “One of the most common phrases in all his public ministry is ‘Peace be with you.’ In fact, it is the first thing that the Risen Christ says to the disciples after the Resurrection” (America, Feb. 24, 2022).
While Father Martin believes God hears our prayers and responds, “sometimes the response is not through a sudden turnabout of events but by turning our own hearts: softening them, awakening in us a sense of compassion or even a righteous anger over injustice.”
Peace takes time, and patience, rare commodities in our world today that demands instant solutions to problems. St. Paul VI once said, “Peace is not founded on the power of arms that today are endowed with an infernal capacity for destruction, but is founded on the patient, rational and loyal method of justice and freedom.”
We must persevere in prayer. As James tells us, “The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful. Elijah was a man like us; yet he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain upon the land. Then Elijah prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the earth produced its fruit” (5:13-20).
Father Martin says he is “praying fervently for peace, especially in Ukraine. How will these prayers be answered? Perhaps by God’s opening hearts and moving thoughts to ways of peace, concord and reconciliation. Perhaps by awakening in us an intense compassion for the victims of war. Perhaps by filling us with outrage over the suffering caused by war.”
Father Guillermo Trevino, pastor of parishes in Columbus Junction and West Liberty, shared a post that reminds us how small our problems appear when we think of parents in Ukraine explaining to their children that everything is going to be all right. “Pray with me,” the post reads.
We pray, for the grieving father and daughter outside the bus and so many others in harm’s way in the Ukraine. We pray for conversion of our own hearts that will guide us in the way of peace. We pray for an end to the selfish interests of another country, but also the selfish interests in our own hearts. We pray for an end to war in Ukraine.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor