by Cheryl Ann Smith
Our foundress Catherine Doherty lived through many crises and traumas both in her personal life and in the nations where she lived. How did she find hope in such times? I’d say her main pathway to hope was prayer.
Today, when we are in the midst of horrific political turmoil, she has much to say to us. Her descriptions of the many political catastrophes she lived through are vivid:
In her book, In the Furnace of Doubts (p. 51), Catherine wrote: “When I think of World War I, when I think of starvation in Russia, when I think of escapes to foreign lands at the risk of one’s life, when I think of being present at the beginning of the Hitler horror, when I think of Spain during the civil war and all I saw there, the abomination of desolation takes hold of me, I stand still, because there was nowhere to go mentally, intellectually or emotionally. Facing horrific desolation, I cried out to God, ‘Where are you?’”
During the Cuban missile crisis, Catherine wrote, “The world was breathless, as we faced the possibility of a nuclear war with Cuba’s missiles descending in a fiery death upon American cities.
“But we must be prepared for these moments. To us they mean all that they mean to any other human being. It will be normal for us to have fear. However, we belong to him who is perfect love.
“Perfect love casts out all fears and makes human fears of destruction and death bearable with his graces. So for us, the first step in such emergencies is to come together in prayer—prayer for peace, prayer that the dark clouds pass, prayer for people to keep their sanity. And remember that God is with us.
“If we live far removed from the conflict, we must go about our business, which is the business of God, as we normally do in the days of peace … We are going to have to face despair in others. We will have to give them hope. How can we give hope if we don’t pray?”
In the closing words of Fragments of My Life, Catherine wrote, “When you are in love with God, you become one with the Absolute. Your oneness with God will overflow to all your brothers and sisters. My friends, this is the kind of prayer we need today.
“If you pray like this, you will be overshadowed by the wings of a dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit. On those wings your prayer of silence will be lifted into the hands of the Woman Wrapped in Silence, and she will lay it at the feet of the Most Holy Trinity. The answer today to the salvation of mankind lies in prayer”.
Pope Francis offered a powerful example of such prayer at the beginning of the pandemic, when the whole world faced death and destruction through sickness. I will never forget the image of him standing alone in St Peter’s Square in the rain, holding up the Blessed Sacrament in prayer.
Then just two years later, when we seem to be on the brink of WW III, with nuclear warfare once again threatening, Pope Francis again helped to focus the prayer of the world. To me, it seemed an inspiration from the Holy Spirit, to consecrate the world, and especially the perceived enemies, Russia and Ukraine, to Our Lady.