For months now, we have all watched the news each day regarding the terrible war being waged on Ukraine by Russia. Each day seems to bring not only more terrible images of the devastation wrought on that nation, but heart-breaking stories of numerous atrocities and apparent war crimes being perpetrated by the aggressors. Every day, these stories and images are ingrained more and more deeply in our personal and collective consciences.
The subjective effect of the influx of distressing information is that we can feel entirely powerless to do very much to help. How can I, sitting here in my house, have any effect on the terrible things happening on the other side of Europe?
Perhaps the first thing to note, as a person of faith, is that peace – notwithstanding the various practical help we might be able to offer (and should, if we are able to do so) – does not depend on us; true peace is a gift. It is not our gift to give – it comes from the Lord. But we can work toward peace being granted – and we can do this by means of prayer. Prayer is not a replacement for practical assistance in whatever form we can give it – that assistance is most assuredly ours to give, and we are called to give it (and expected to give it) wherever it is possible for us to do so. But that will not, in itself, achieve peace.
The very act of praying for peace gives recognition to this reality; it acknowledges that we are, at the broad level, powerless – only God can grant us peace. That peace begins in the individual human heart, ripples out within our local communities and then our nations and eventually across the whole world. Christ speaks of His own peace, that “peace the world cannot give” – and this is the peace we seek from the Lord.
Individual prayer offered for the intention of peace in the world is powerful – more powerful than we might imagine, more powerful than we might think possible. And so it is good for us to pray for this intention daily.
But far more powerful still is the prayer of many, offered in unison, offered by the entire Church across the world.
Pope Francis is very clearly aware of this. He has asked the Church – indeed, the whole world – to join him in prayer on several past occasions, notably during the pandemic.
And the Holy Father is presently extending a similar invitation to all of us.
This evening, at 6pm Rome time (which is 5pm UK time), the Pope will lead a global Rosary from the great Basilica of St Mary Major in Rome and he invites all people of good will to join him in this prayer.
If you would like to join in this prayer which reaches across the entire world, you can follow along live on YouTube on the Vatican Media Live page.