What can we do? Practical steps for living in an age of terror
God, I’m sick of this.
I’m sick of opening my computer in the morning and seeing the latest body count splashed across my newsfeed. Of my husband cautiously, almost furtively asking me over the din of a weekend breakfast table, masking the gravity of the situation from tiny ears, “did you see the news about Orlando?”
You don’t even have to wonder, anymore, when someone asks “Did you see …” Heart sinking, thoughts racing, inevitably, another terror attack.
Maybe it’s not any more dangerous to raise children in this age than in any other, and maybe that’s the illusion of an unceasing news cycle and the flat, digital world we dwell in, but it seems a hell of a time, just the same.
One week we’re agitating for more death, for death enshrined by law, slickly sterilized for public consumption by that convenient mechanism dubbed “privacy,” and the next we’re reeling from another mortal blow, more death, death in unprecedented numbers, death by ambush.
Death begets death.
And reading the news today makes me want to cry. To curl up into a ball and gather my children under my arms – not that they all quite fit there – and hide.
I didn’t sign up for this. For raising kids in a culture that is self destructing. For growing a family in an age of terror and hatred and so much uncertainty.
Except that I did.
Yesterday at Mass, before we’d had news of Orlando, our parish welcomed two new Christians into the family. As their parents held squirming toddlers over the baptismal font and their godparents clutched newly-lit flames kindled from the Easter candle, from Christ Himself, the adults promised on behalf of those squirming babies to reject Satan, and all his works, and all his empty promises.
To reject the glamor of death, the allure of evil.
Because it’s real.
And, for reasons God felt sufficient to merit the decision, our free will allows us to choose evil.
I choose evil every day. I give in to a surge of anger at a traffic light, tapping my horn in frustration, muttering under my breath about a texting driver (like I’ve never done the same.) I raise my voice to my children. I spend too much time surfing the internet and not enough time on my knees. I have a moment of pure rage towards someone well up in my heart, and rather than reject it outright, I nurse it, just for a moment or two, relishing the feeling of being angry. Of being right.
The only real answer to the problem of evil in our world is the very same answer to the problem of evil in my own life: conversion.
Continual, frustrating, and sometimes humiliating conversion. Because life without Christ is hopeless.
This world is a mess, and truthfully, it always has been. And yet He saw fit to redeem it.
But we must participate in that redemption, because He loves us so much He drew up the contract along those lines: active participation.
So here are some practical ways we can fight terror in our own homes.
1. Mother Teresa will be canonized this Fall, and one of my favorite one-liners from her is the best medicine for our age:
“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”
Love begins at home, in the family. It is where our children will learn – or will not learn – their intrinsic value. It is where they will learn to share, to give and receive a sincere gift of self, to witness sacrificial love, to be heard and to be seen, to be convicted of the inestimable value of every single human life. Give your children, your siblings, your family members more love than you can bear to give. Ask God for more patience, more humility, more courage, and love your children and your spouse with a love that is truly outside your self. I fail at this every day. I must keep trying.
2. Frequent confession and reception of Holy Communion.
Look, the world we’re living in, even if the internet is contributing a bit to the impression, is bat.shit.crazy. It’s not okay that I think about terrorism when I’m queuing up for my next flight, when I take my kids to a museum or a baseball game. But the number one thing I can do to protect them – and myself – is to live, as much as possible, in a sacramental state of grace. That means daily Mass when possible (note to self: even when 2 year old is kicking me in the throat), Confession every couple of weeks, and making a daily examination of conscience.
Not only does this contribute to a higher likelihood that I will die in a state of grace, please Lord, but it makes me a better person.
Without Jesus and the grace of the Sacraments, I am, as I’m sure is evident in some way from this blog, a fairly miserable loser. That’s just me being honest. If I can continually be redeemed and recreated as a better, happier, holier person, how far might that go in influencing my immediate neighbors for the good?
3. Devotion to the Rosary, and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
We’ve been meaning to get our home enshrined to the Sacred Heart for a couple months now. We bought a beautiful icon, hung it in a prominent place, and have since somehow failed to have a priest come over for the official “enthronement,” despite knowing, oh, 2 dozen or so, personally. (If that’s not commitment to laziness, I don’t know what is. But I digress.)
We do plan to do it soon. But just having the image in our living room has me stopping multiple times per day to place a finger or a kiss across Jesus’ heart, reminding myself as I look at His image what I’m supposed to be doing, and for Whom. (For a quick explanation of how keeping pictures of your loved ones in your home is not idolatry, click here.)
I try (and mostly fail) to pray a Rosary each night. We’ve had off and on success praying a decade with the kids at some point during the day, this season being more on the “fail” side. Our kids sleep with rosaries at their bedsides for easy access during the night. They’re comforting sacramentals – tangible reminders of the real graces available to us through prayer and devotion – and, as my 4-year-old likes to remind us, “Mary kicks the devil’s butt.”
Yeah she does.
Smile at strangers. Stop and help someone who’s car is broken down, if you’re in a safe area and you’re able to do so. Give that guy a dollar. Buy someone’s coffee behind you in line. Call your sister or your friend and offer to pick up some extra milk and diapers while you’re at Costco. Tell your husband to sleep in while you get up and make the oatmeal. Call your mother in law and tell her you love her. Put your phone away and talk to the checker, the barista, the girl sitting next to you at the pool. Tell your server if you like her nails, his glasses, her hair cut.
Reach out, reach out, reach out.
We live in a lonely world. We can each be a little light in the loneliness, and give someone else the gift of knowing that, at least in that moment, they aren’t living in an age of terror.
Hatred needn’t have the final word.
Yet another fantastic reflection, thank you. Your words articulate beautifully the real message we need.
thank you Lucy!
I’m sure there are many appropriate, deep and profound things to say about this wonderful post. But my main question is…do you have a link to your icon of the Sacred Heart you got?
Thank you! For the peace of mind and for the reminder that there is good in this world… we must spread it! God trumps evil! We must fight on! One smile at a time, one prayer at a time and of course with the help of God’s grace which we must except through our Sacrements!
For family Rosary we’ve started the rutine of praying a decade with our 5 children (ages 6 and under) at bed time. We all fit on the couch so the kids and I sit there while dad kneels. We pray (some nights are very squeamish…) brush teeth, go potty, than head up to rooms for pjs and books. Girls in one room boys in the other.
We will pray that you guys will find a rutine that works for you all to pray together!
Ps I’m impressed you make it to daily Mass! I will keep you and your kiddos in mind to help give me the push to start doing so again!
gonna copy that rosary strategy for sure.
(And only once or twice a week on the daily mass front, hope I didn’t give anyone the impression that I’m tougher than that, haha)
You know as I was feeling overwhelmed with the news of this attack, wondering how on earth could I raise my children in this world, your blog popped in my head. Somehow I knew you would put into words what us Mothers need to hear. Thank you for leading us, and giving us direction that always points us back to Christ.
“Reach out, reach out, reach out.
We live in a lonely world. We can each be a little light in the loneliness, and give someone else the gift of knowing that, at least in that moment, they aren’t living in an age of terror.”
Exactly right, Jenny: Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good. (Romans 12:21) For some spiritual reflection, read the entire chapter 12 of Romans. Pax Christi!
Ugh. Such awful times, but such beautiful words. Thank you.
Thanks so much for that, Jenny.
A sincere thank you for writing this. I needed this.
Thanks Jenny! It’s certainly been overwhelming lately…and we don’t even have kids yet. It honestly some days makes me want to be a few hundred acres in the middle of nowhere or an some island and homestead and raise our future family. But there is go rambling again. Thanks for being an inspiration as always! God Bless!!
This was so encouraging! Thank you!!!
Shortly after reading this, I read Mark 9:14-29 about the healing of a boy with a demon. The disciples were unable to drive it out, Jesus says “Everything is possible to one who has faith.” “Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief.'” … Jesus says, “This kind can only come out through prayer.”
Lord I believe, help my unbelief in my prayers for my family and our world.
Well said (written), especially smiling. I have never been a “smiler”(and was often asked why I did not smile) but lately, as I get older, heading toward my 80’s, I find myself smiling a lot at strangers as well as friends. It MUST be the grace of God, because it is not natural. I read recently that as we grow in the grace of God we become more grateful, and I’ve noticed that, also. Thanksgiving is something I seldom thought of doing in the past, unless a “big prayer request” was given, but being thankful is a good habit to cultivate… and it does become a habit, as does smiling after awhile…
Hi Jenny…In line with the practical steps theme, I thought I’d share my Rosary strategy. First, pray to be able to say the Rosary.
Second, try the Five Whys problem-solving system. Apparently Toyota uses this and it has been written about in research journals, but it’s simply the process of going back five steps of “whys” about a problem. For example: Why did I hit snooze instead of getting up to say the Rosary? Because I went to bed late. Why did I go to bed late? Because the kids went to bed late. Why did the kids get to bed late? Because dinner was late. Why was dinner late? Because I lost track of time in the afternoon and didn’t start making it. Solution: Set alarm for the time to start making dinner.
Third, view your goal of saying the Rosary as an evolving process. Don’t give up or think bad thoughts about yourself if you miss a day or days. DO write down your plan so you can revisit it and make changes until you find a plan that works for you pretty consistently. Most plans will need changes over time as your family changes.
We’ll never find time for daily prayer; we have to make time. The key for me is seeing this as an evolving strategy, not making a resolution and then beating myself up when it’s not working.
I read your blog often, and I always find something that I can relate to. Thanks for taking the time to write your thoughts and to be honest. It is encouraging to say the least. Blessings to you and your family. God bless you!
How about learning situational awareness and how to defend yourself and your loved ones with deadly force if necessary?
I get it………..women don’t naturally think this way.
Don’t be so quick to generalize about how women do or do not naturally think, Practically. I took training and it came in handy when I was followed into a parking lot by someone stalking me in a mall. Didn’t require deadly force, but the actions I took sent him running. I do agree with you about learning situational awareness and self defense – something that should be taught in schools, church and community groups.
I totally understand you. I was talking to someone about that awful Charlie Charlie challenge. His defense for doing it: “Nothing’s gonna happen to me.” And he say’s he’s a Catholic, too! Even those of our own fail to realize anymore that Satan and evil are real and out to lead you away from God.
H Charlie Seger
When GK Chesterton was asked by his editors to write a column on ” What’s wrong with the world”, he wrote ” I am.”
Seems fitting to your piece.