A haunting image captures a solemn young boy waiting in line at a crematorium in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945. He carries on his back the small, lifeless body of his brother. The younger child died after the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb over Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945. During Pope Francis’ visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki last week, this photo stood on an easel near the platform where he spoke. Prayer cards he had printed with this image and distributed widely in late 2017 and early 2018 sent a stark message about “The fruit of war,” the phrase he wrote on the back of the prayer cards (Catholic News Service, 11-24-19).
Pope Francis reiterated his call for nuclear disarmament during visits to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan — which suffered catastrophic loss when the United States dropped atomic bombs on each city — the first and only use of nuclear weapons in war. The threat of mutually assured destruction hardly fosters a sense of peace, as the pope made clear in his reference to global tensions and to speeches “filled with discrimination and hate.”
This weekend, on Dec. 1, we enter the Advent season preparing to welcome the Prince of Peace. Our preparation should begin and continue with prayer, reflection and interactions with others that convey our yearning to welcome the Prince of Peace.
Peacemaking requires an investment of our precious time, perhaps a resetting of our priorities, to build relationships that create a ripple effect of love and understanding that extends from our hearts to our homes to our world. Some suggestions for preparing to welcome the Prince of Peace:
• Pray the Liturgy of the Hours (the universal prayer of the church), Lectio Divina, Centering Prayer, the rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet or other prayers that help you to get to know God and the people you encounter.
• Read daily Scripture, accompanied by commentary that you can find online or in your religious supply store. Bishop Robert Barron also offers short reflections on the daily Gospel reading (available at wordonfire.org). Read Pope Francis’ writings available for download at http://www.vatican.va/content/vatican/en.html.
• Participate in a parish or small-group Bible study. Check with your parish for groups.
• Participate in Advent retreats or other events that nourish the spirit and soul (read The Catholic Messenger’s calendar page for ideas).
• Pull out The Catholic Messenger’s Advent calendar in this week’s (Nov. 28) issue.
• Listen to faith-based podcasts or music that reflect on this Advent season.
• Create a personal prayer book with prayers of anticipation you have come across in your reading, including from your favorite social media blogs or websites.
• Keep a spiritual journal for personal reflection on the dynamic of prayer and God’s presence or absence in your life. Limit your entries to three questions to answer on a daily basis:
Where did you experience God’s presence or absence in your life today?
Where or how were you present or absent to God today?
Where or how did you reach out to others in kindness/love/service?
• Visit a friend living in an assisted living residence or nursing home. Visit on their time, not your time.
• Send a card in the snail mail containing a personal note of encouragement to someone struggling with physical or mental illness.
• Refrain from speaking or posting on social media disparaging comments. Make that a permanent goal.
• Write a letter to President Trump, asking him to extend the New START Treaty between the U.S. and Russia, to help reduce the risk of nuclear war.
• Ask members of Congress to encourage spending priorities that focus on people in need of food, shelter, clothing and health care (https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials). St. Paul VI said, “If you want peace, work for justice.”
“Today’s Missal” for Advent-Lent contains a hymn titled “Patience, People” by Father John Foley, S.J., with an especially appropriate verse for this Advent season. “Steady your hearts, for the Lord is close at hand. And do not grumble, one against the other. Patience, people, for the Lord is coming.”
The prayerful, peaceful patience we exercise now will help to ensure that no other little boy ever has to carry on his back the lifeless body of his brother or sister.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor