Sometimes events happen that are so beyond our scope of understanding that we become frozen. At work, all we can do is stream a live-feed of the events unfolding, ignoring work that should be done. We text and call friends living in the area of the incidents just to feel connected, to feel as though we are doing something by offering a comforting word or a friendly voice. We wonder why it happened, how someone could wish to inflict so much pain. Frankly, I’m glad I don’t understand. I don’t want to know how it would feel to be that filled with something that is the so poisonous to the soul. If I understood, that would mean it was ‘normal’, and that just is not acceptable.
During these times it is my habit, my gut reaction, to turn to prayer; to try to find comfort in familiar prayers or just enter into dialogue with God and find refuge in His being. Sometimes, though, when I turn to prayer, I don’t know how to begin. I become numb, as though I have forgotten how to pray. This happened to me this morning. After a long night of following the Twitter newsfeed and the “latest, breaking news” of the story in Boston as it was developing, I turned to prayer. However, I simply did not know how to begin. It was like writers block, a blank state of mind. It was almost as though something that was once so flawless, so simple, was now one of the most difficult tasks. There were so many questions and emotions that it was hard for me to truly process just why I was turning to God.
Do I pray for the city of Boston as a whole? A city that is so close to home, where so many of my friends reside and that holds so many memories for me. Do I pray that we as Americans can come together to show our support for the victims? Perhaps I should pray that the victims and their families, together with all the people of Boston, are able to find peace within their hearts, that they are able to come out on top after such tragedy. Or do I pray that these young men, who are responsible for so much fear and grief, somehow move past their hatred and seek forgiveness for their actions? Or maybe, do I just offer up a general prayer for peace, for understanding, for love? Love between neighbors, friends, families, strangers. But a prayer for love, at a time like this, seems so trite, so unimportant. Does prayer even matter in this situation?
Yes, it does. It has to. It is times like these, when it is hardest to form a prayer, hardest to even think of what I am turning to God for, that I know I have to. That even if I sit in silence and offer my scattered thoughts up to the Divine, it means something. I have to trust that my prayers, the silent prayers especially, are able to do something. Because, at a time like this, what more can we do?
Kat O’Loughlin is the Assistant Director of Campus Ministry at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in New York.