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The insidious nature of violence

Patricia McCarthy, CND

The insidious nature of violence on a daily basis is that we get used to it. We often don’t even notice it. Domestic violence, child abuse, violence in sports and language, the violence of poverty, street crime, racism and even war become background to our daily existence. Until someone we love or know is immediately involved we live with the violence as the natural way of life. Violence is neither natural nor necessary. Our tolerance of violence has been highly developed through intense exposure to it. The start of changing our reality to a more peaceful one is to stop tolerating violence, to stop accepting it as a necessary reality in our lives.

We begin again our Lenten season, the time to reflect and look seriously at ourselves and our world and see how we can reconcile both to the risen Christ who died without defending himself and began every Resurrection conversation with the word, “peace.” It is time for conversion, for drastic change in the way we live. The basic three for Lent have been prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It’s hard to improve on the clarity of this approach. Perhaps this year we can nuance it toward peace, so as to be ready to pray with Jesus who died rather than seek revenge.

Fasting:  Imagine if just Catholics fasted from violence this Lent. If Catholics abstained from abortion, racism, personal rage, violent sports, support of the death penalty and war and all militarism, extravagant lifestyles, and domestic violence. The face of America certainly would change. In Congress alone, Catholics are the largest single religious denomination; the same goes for the Marines. In certain parts of the country, especially some New England states, Catholics are the majority of the population. A forty-day fast from violence would alter every aspect of life and improve it.

Almsgiving: Poverty is a sin, not just a tragedy. In our global economy, poverty is the direct result of polices and political choices. We can’t support war and education, nuclear weapons and health care, multi-millionaire business leaders and a living minimum wage. Almsgiving is about justice not charity. In an age when super bowl tickets, play tickets and eating out are measured by the hundreds of dollars, we still think it satisfactory to drop $10 or $20 into a collection for the poor. If the money we spent on entertainment alone were to be given to the poor for one month, we might find it an extravagant gesture. Lent is the time for such extravagance.

Prayer: After the New York City Twin Towers attack, the churches were filled with people praying for peace. Once the wars started, the atmosphere changed drastically. It became unpatriotic and unsupportive of troops to speak of peace. The prayers changed to ones for victory, even in a war in Afghanistan that has gone on longer than any other war in our history. We need a sea-change in our thinking about war. It is not inevitable or the only way to resolve issues; it doesn’t work. It is contrary to the life and teachings of Jesus. It takes generations to heal; no one involved ever really survives without deep scars. The longer a war drags on, the less it stays in the forefront of our psyche. We mumble prayers that we don’t even believe. We pray halfheartedly for a peace we think is impossible. We act as if God and goodness are beyond our reach. I suggest the following prayer from an elementary school child in Japan as one we might all pray for the season of Lent.

“O God, now there is war. Children not much different in age than me are suffering unspeakably from hunger and sickness and leading a horrible life. I ask myself why people must hate and kill each other in wars. Therefore, every night before sleeping, I put my hands together, praying that all these suffering people will again experience happiness as soon as possible. Also, I pray that all wars would end. I tried to think of something I could do for all the suffering people but couldn’t think of anything except that I could pray, thinking of all those suffering people. I will continue to pray for the end of war and suffering and this is my first priority. O God, please bring peace to our world. This is my prayer.”

Article first published by the Rhode Island Catholic

 

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