Editor’s note: The following post originally appeared on Marianna Bartholomew’s personal blog Seeking Finer Fields. LMH
A picture making the rounds on Facebook caught my eye. It’s like an image straight from WWII: bombed buildings on a wide avenue, concrete and brick walls fragile as broken eggshells.
In the Facebook image, stands a vast carpet of humanity. Just as people crowd to hail a visiting pontiff, these masses are lined shoulder to shoulder. The scene is gray. Slate sky, walls and people. Even the faces seem drawn and colorless.
This is Syria, and the people are in line for bread. It seems impossible to gauge their numbers, because the queue appears to stretch into infinity. Faces fill the length and breadth of the frame to the horizon, even peering from patches and holes that have been blown from structures.
“Apocalyptic” is the word that comes to mind.
I always hate to hit the “like” button on such an image, because what’s to like? But I went ahead and joined 6,003 others in “liking” the photo, and then 2,080 others in “sharing” it.
“This is why Pope Francis wants us to pray and work for peace in Syria. War is very tough on the people of Damascus. Here they are the other day waiting for bread.”
My “share” drew four immediate responses. Two people hit “like.”
One lady I know to be mission-minded simply put this: 🙁
Another Facebook friend wrote, “Thank you for sharing Marianna. The face of war is often hidden from us.”
I’ve written about regions in conflict before. See my post and poem on “Bridging Souls,” my reflection “Pray the News in 2013,” my piece on the New Evangelizers blog: “Missionary Friendship Changes Everything,” and this Catholic News Agency post: “A For Arms.”
But because I know too little about Syria’s particular “hidden face,” I did an online search on “Syria and Catholics.”
Up popped “A Prayer for the People of Syria,” on the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops website. Thank you, Facebook and U.S. bishops, for drawing me to prayer on this frigid, snowy Ash Wednesday. My cross of ashes is on my forehead, and my prayers are now with the war-torn people of Syria:
A Prayer for the People of Syria
Almighty eternal God, source of all compassion,
the promise of your mercy and saving help fills our hearts with hope.
Hear the cries of the people of Syria;
bring healing to those suffering from the violence,
and comfort to those mourning the dead.
Empower and encourage Syria’s neighbors
in their care and welcome for refugees.
Convert the hearts of those who have taken up arms,
and strengthen the resolve of those committed to peace.
your Holy Spirit inspires us to look beyond ourselves and our own needs.
Inspire leaders to choose peace over violence
and to seek reconciliation with enemies.
Inspire the Church around the world with compassion for the people of Syria,
and fill us with hope for a future of peace built on justice for all.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace and Light of the World,
who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
For the people of Syria, that God may strengthen the resolve of leaders to end
the fighting and choose a future of peace.
We pray to the Lord…
Oración por Siria
Dios todopoderoso y eterno,
fuente de toda compasión,
nuestros corazones se llenan de esperanza
con la promesa de tu misericordia y de tu auxilio salvador.
Escucha el clamor del pueblo de Siria,
sana a los que sufren a consecuencia de la violencia
y consuela a los que lloran a los muertos.
Fortalece y anima a los vecinos de Siria
en su cuidado y recibimiento de refugiados.
Convierte los corazones de los que se alzan en armas
y fortalece la resolución de los que se comprometen a la paz.
cuyo Espíritu Santo nos inspira
a mirar mas allá de nosotros mismos y de nuestras propias necesidades,
inspira a los jefes a escoger la paz en lugar de la violencia
y a buscar la reconciliación con los enemigos;
inspira a la Iglesia por el mundo entero a la compasión por el pueblo de Siria
y llénanos de esperanza por futuro de paz construido sobre justicia para todos.
Por nuestro Señor Jesucristo, Príncipe de Paz y Luz del Mundo,
que vive y reina por los siglos de los siglos.
[This prayer is adapted from Catholics Confront Global Poverty, a collaborative effort of USCCB and Catholic Relief Services.]
Copyright 2014 Marianna Bartholomew