War and Psalms

Psalms are the bedrock of Benedictine prayer. We pray them three times day, offering them up as prayer for the world and using them as a means to enter into the sorrows, sufferings and also the joys of being human.

In September 2017, I wrote a blog reflecting on these words from Psalm 42:

“Why are you sad, my heart?
Why do you grieve?
Wait for the Lord,
I will yet praise God my savior.”

The blog was inspired by world events at the time: natural disasters, terrorism, the threat of North Korea and nuclear instability. Those same words speak deeply to me now as we watch the war in Ukraine unfold. I ask myself the same question, which countless Christians have asked through the centuries: “Why does a loving, merciful God allow these things to happen?” I don’t know. I can’t see into the mind of God. I can only feel what I feel as a human being, and I’m very aware of how greatly the situation saddens and grieves my heart.

Ukraine challenges my assumptions about myself as a Benedictine. Benedictines promote peace, seek peace, pursue peace. I want peace, but there’s another side of me that looks at the Russian aggression and says, “I want to do something to stop this,” and I’m challenged to find what a peaceful way of making that happen could be. It can’t be sitting on the sidelines, thinking nice thoughts and waiting for peace to break out. That’s passive and it feels like letting things take their course, for better or for worse.

Yet what, exactly, can I, as an individual, do? I don’t have an answer. I’m simply sharing thoughts and concerns and a feeling that my visceral response to the suffering of the Ukrainian people demonstrates our common humanity. I should be grieved, and my heart should be sad because terrible things are happening to citizens of the world and our right to freedom is at stake. I’m asking myself, “Can I wait for the Lord?” I want to say “Yes!” I want to continue to trust in God’s saving love and grace, but I am finding it a challenge because I want to do something to make things right–NOW.

The beautiful thing about the psalms is that they allow me to have all these conflicting thoughts, they express them for me and help me to understand them as a part of being human. And maybe that understanding is a way to “yet praise God my savior.”

Karen Rose, OSB

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