Each of the beads on my rosary is prayed for someone or something. Sometimes I just let the people come into my mind from my memory (amazing jumps and associations my mind and memory make!); other times I imagine myself walking the streets of the parish and praying for the people who live there; and other times I pray myself around the world.
I may pray for the people of a particular part of the world: Chad, Senegal, Ghana; Syria, Iran and Iraq; etc. And then I feel hopeless. It strikes me how many of these countries are suffering poverty, injustice, war, rebellion. So many details of suffering come from my reading of and viewing and listening to the news. Why so much suffering?
I look at where the Church should be strong in its influence, so-called Catholic countries, and I am always horrified. Central and South America are nightmares and the Church is part of the nightmare. The injustice the native peoples have suffered (and still do), because of the conquests by Spain and Portugal, are frightening.
Pope Nicholas V handed the native people in perpetual slavery to those European powers. They are still enslaved by poverty and injustice and there are two Catholic Churches: one for the rich and educated middle class served by priests and bishops of those families and class, and the poor served by missionary priests. The poor, the peasants, have little or no chance of education because it suits the upper classes to leave them ignorant and uneducated. St Oscar Romero, shot dead as he raised the chalice at the consecration at mass, died because he spoke out for the poor – and was condemned by Church authorities, accused of being a communist – the accusing condemnation of anyone who speaks out on behalf of the poor.
When Communism speaks of the fair distribution of land, education, opportunity – it is right. When it is a frightening power bloc, as the Soviet Union was, it is wrong. When Fascism defends itself as a protector against Communism, it is right (Popes Pius XI and XII were fooled by Hitler who presented himself as a bulwork against Soviet Russian Communism), but when Fascism wants absolute and monstrous power and the Church is silent, it is wrong. And the Church shares the shame.
Hitler promised to favour Catholic schools and institutions as the price for Church silence about his treatment of the Jews. The brave priests who spoke out against the horrors of Naziism ended up in concentration camps, especially Dachau.
A few years ago ten priests in Central America wrote a letter to protest that the Papal Nuncio was often photographed at social events for the wealthy in society. Why was he never seen in a shantytown with the poor. They were suspended for six months.
My rosary takes me where I am not good enough to go because I have no voice, no position, only a terrible anger at the rich and powerful of every part of the world who own and control what should be shared with the poor.
“Say your prayers and leave the world to those who know how to manage it,” I am told. And who are they? Armaments manufacturers, politicians promising the Trident submarine, the makers and custodians of thousands of nuclear weapons, those who squeeze the income of the poor in order to make larger profits. Is that managing the world?
God bless us. God does, but evil economic, political, dictatorial powers prevent the blessings being shared. Does my Hail Mary weigh anything against worldly powers?
God be with us in our longing for a just world,
(6th September 2020)