The terrorist attacks in Paris surely make everyone think…though what we think about depends, I imagine, on one’s orientation (or lack thereof) toward God.
One thing that bothers me is the immediate outpouring on Facebook of memes and whatnot exhorting everyone to “Pray for Paris” or “Pray for Roseburg” or “Pray for Whatever Crisis Has Caught Your Attention Today”. Of course I’m not saying that praying for the people involved in these horrific events is not a good thing; it most certainly IS a good thing.
But these “Pray for” campaigns seem to me to trivialize prayer.
Just what are people praying for? For comfort for the survivors? For the salvation of souls of those who were killed? For the conversion of the survivors? For divine retribution? For the conversion of terrorists? For the salvation of the souls of the killers? And how many people say “I’m praying for Paris” (or whatever), and really have no idea what they are praying for?
And why are people praying for this situation? Why this particular catastrophe? It was pointed out in several places that 40-some people died in a terrorist attack in Beirut the day before. I didn’t see “Pray for Beirut” memes and hashtags arising from that event.
Every day, every hour, maybe even every minute, someone dies. The death of the person who dies in a car crash caused by a drunk driver is no less tragic than that of the person who died in the Paris massacre. Any death that occurs suddenly, taking life like a thief in the night, is tragic, because the victim has died without the sacraments. We should keep this possibility before us always. Our death can occur at any moment, and we should always have that thought in our minds.
Someone will die today, this hour. We can keep our own death in mind while we pray for others. Here’s a prayer that I find useful, from my little Blessed Be God prayer book:
O My God, I offer Thee all the holy Masses which will be said this day throughout the whole world for poor sinners who are now in their death agony and who will die this day. May the Precious Blood of our Savior Jesus Christ obtain for them mercy. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.