This past weekend, during our 8th annual Mission benefit concert, I listened to some very poignant folk songs of my youth from the 60’s.
Then, later that evening, I went on You Tube and listened to some of the songs sung by Airana Grande and today’s pop stars as they performed in England in memory of those who died and in hope for those who live.
One thing I’m sure of….the style and the beat may have changed over the past 50 years, but the kernel of truth is that generation after generation, speaks to the issues of their day.
One song, among many, speaks of both the pain and the promise. Some of you will remember:
Can you hear the prayer of the children….??
There is nothing that breaks my heart quite like hearing the cries of the children. Throughout my life, I’ve reflected on how it is always the children who get caught in the crossfires. I recall the Vietnam War, and I recall the civil war in Ireland and a movie that actually was entitled: “Children Caught in the Crossfire”.
Likewise, I recall the Croatian war, Desert Storm, the Israeli/Palestinian war, the civil war in Nicaragua and Central America and of course, the wars of our most recent decades. While the faces of war may have changed and the styles of terror and destruction have become more vicious, the reality hasn’t.
I recall accepting children into the elementary and Junior High school where I was principal back in the 80’s (and yes, sometimes the voices of those who objected tried to drown out the voices of the children). We accepted children from Lebanon, Ethiopia, the Middle East, the terror in the Phillipines, the civil wars and revolution in Central America, and many other places.
There is one thing that is absolutely clear to me amidst this murk and evil and hatred, i.e., we, as adults, have failed far too often, to hear the cries of the children. If we truly heard their cries, we’d be people of peace. And isn’t it a bit scary that it often seems that our misguided loyalty to country, to faith or to our family, can easily be twisted as our excuses to exclude the children of anyone or anywhere that do not look like our children???!! In my opinion, that is not patriotism and that is not faith and it sure isn’t love of the human community or of creation.
On my VERY first mission trip to Nicaragua, we stood in the midst of darkness on the Nino Jesus de Praga compound, with the only electricity around being the electric presence of the Holy Spirit. We used flashlights and candles as hundreds gathered together to pray and then, the locals sang to us as we departed during the night. In the midst of that emotional evening, a little girl came up to me and I bent over and she grabbed my face in her hands and whispered something in Spanish. She was maybe 4 or 5 years old. I grabbed a translator and asked her to repeat it. What she said to me was “thank you for hearing us, for coming to us”. I’m not sure I got the full impact of her words at that moment, but over the years, I’ve come to believe that this girl was a messenger from God, an angel who spoke to me when I least wanted to hear it, for you see, originally, I had no intention of continuing the Mission of Hope beyond one trip, one year. Hmmmm, and now we will celebrate our 20th anniversary as a Mission of Hope in just a few months.
So, day after day, year after year, consumed by hatred and evil and war, it is easy to get lost in the push back of despair and to live as if we have a right to “an eye for an eye” way of life. Yet, the psalm of this past weekend, and the folk concert in Peru, NY and the pop concert in Manchester, England, are reminders that our prayer must ask the Spirit of the Divine (whomever we believe that Divinity to be), to “send forth your Spirit and renew the face of the earth”. (Ps. 104)
As we walk the journey of life this week, perhaps we can focus on the cries of the children and be beacons of HOPE to them, and we can be bearers of peace and we can be the voices for the voiceless- the children in our midst- world wide. Perhaps we can hear the prayers of the children because they are watching us and they are still uttering their prayers. Will we listen to them?
Can you hear the prayer of the children
on bended knee, in the shadow of an unknown room?
Empty eyes with no more tears to cry
turning heavenward toward the light.
Crying,” Jesus, help me
to see the morning light of one more day,
but if I should die before I wake,
I pray my soul to take.”
Can you feel the hearts of the children
aching for home, for something of their very own.
Reaching hands with nothing to hold onto
but hope for a better day, a better day.
Crying,” Jesus, help me
to feel the love again in my own land,
but if unknown roads lead away from home,
give me loving arms, away from harm.”
(oooooo la la la la etc etc.)
Can you hear the voice of the children
softly pleading for silence in their shattered world?
Angry guns preach a gospel full of hate,
blood of the innocent on their hands.
Crying,” Jesus, help me
to feel the sun again upon my face?
For when darkness clears, I know you’re near,
bringing peace again.”
Can you hear the prayer of the children?
Sr. Debbie Blow, OP