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Becoming apostles of mercy as war rages in Ukraine

by | Mar 7, 2022

Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My mercy.

That stark appraisal was spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ to St. Faustina, a humble nun in Poland on the eve of the Second World War, a war that in the end, took the lives of tens of millions of human persons across the globe.

Did we learn anything about the evils of war from that cataclysmic loss? Apparently not. Dozens of wars have been fought in the decades since the Nazis and Imperial Japan were soundly defeated. Bullies seem to arise in every generation, goading other nations into defending the weak.

And just for perspective, keep in mind that World War I was known in its era as “The War to End All Wars.”

Now we sit in front of screens watching the conflict unfold in Ukraine. My mind goes back to a Catholic Sun interview in 2014 with Fr. Andriy Chirovsky, a Ukrainian Catholic priest living in Tucson, Arizona.

Commenting on the Russian invasion of Crimea at the time, Fr. Chirovsky told me, “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is an extremely dangerous situation that should be of concern to all Americans.”

When World War II ended, the Soviet Union, led by Josef Stalin, annexed Ukraine. Ukrainian Catholic bishops, priests, nuns and many laity were arrested, tortured, imprisoned and martyred. Still, the church endured.

Fr. Chirovsky feels deeply that connection to the persecuted church, having been ordained by a priest who spent 18 years in a Soviet concentration camp. He recalls Cardinal Josyf Slipyj asking him to turn on the lights one day — he could not bear the dark as it reminded him too much of his imprisonment in Siberia.

I sit back and ponder. After years spent writing about the massively persecuted Chaldean Catholic Church, headquartered in Iraq but having two dioceses in America, it feels like my heart can’t take much more. Etched on my mind the heartbreaking stories of unfathomable atrocities and deep suffering, I guard myself a bit from photos of the brutal conflict developing in Ukraine. The mamas and babies, the little children too young to understand what is transpiring. The elderly, too frail to withstand the fight. I’ve seen this before.

Instead, I read the stories of those forced to flee for their lives.

One such vignette struck a chord with me: a woman with septuagenarian parents who had both suffered strokes and were unable to walk. She was frantically trying to find a way to get them out of their home and into safety. The neighborhood was being shelled by the Russians, igniting fires and chaos, death and destruction.

The article didn’t mention the woman’s name, and the truth is that we’ll likely never know if she was able to save her parents.

I’ve decided to call her Nadia and made a commitment to pray for her from the heart daily, that she and her parents would be guarded by angels, that they would be protected as the bullets fly. That they would find refuge.

The Chaplet of Divine Mercy, the Rosary, the Mass, fasting — we must beseech the King of the Universe as we pray, pray, pray for an end to war and the protection of the many innocent souls who are now in the crucible of suffering. Donations to CNEWA, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, are urgently needed and can extend hope in a practical way. The agency is working closely with Caritas Ukraine, helping the local churches to respond to the needs of the thousands of refugees.

Now more than ever, we must become apostles of mercy, eager to share God’s love in our corner of the world, even as we grieve the terrible loss of life in Ukraine. By beginning each day asking the Lord to open our eyes to the pain of those around us, to place people in our path with whom we can share God’s love and mercy, we can little by little bring peace right here where we are.

“Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My mercy.”

Let us stand steadfast in our resolve to intercede on behalf of all those beleaguered by war and commit ourselves to draw deeply from the Fount of God’s mercy here and now.

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