There are few in the western world who have not been gravely disturbed by the recent invasion into Ukraine by Russian troops, initiated by Vladimir Putin of Russia apparently without provocation. This act of aggression is indicative of the frightful presence of evil in our world, an evil that has its roots in original sin and is manifest in the present day struggle against all that is good and holy. The desire for power and self-aggrandizement have all too often resulted in the incomprehensible reality of war, the worst of human aggression, leaving in its wake only terror, brokenness, death and grief. No one wins in war. No one.
While we fear that the terrible incursion into Ukraine by Russia may escalate into a blurring of geographic boundaries thus spreading to neighboring countries and beyond, we cannot close our eyes to the anguish of the people directly involved at this moment. Soldiers on either side who are fathers, mothers, daughters and sons, those who protest in Russia the unjust invasion (many of whom have been arrested and may likely disappear) as well as the citizenry of Ukraine, especially children, all bear the toll of the inconceivable misery of war. How does one comprehend any aggression, but especially that which seems to be wrought by a consuming desire for power?
We cannot wish evil on anyone. But neither can we stand idly by and simply hang our heads in sorrow for the suffering of our sisters and brothers in Eastern Europe. We long to take action that would alleviate the terror of the situation, stop the invasion and the bombing, the tanks and the anguish of those who long for peace. Yet we understand that there seems to be little that can be done by any government without resulting in further destruction and escalation of suffering for people on all sides. The one exception is prayer and sacrifice.
The words of St. John Paul II on prayer offer us great hope and a plan for action that cannot fail: “Prayer joined to sacrifice is the most powerful force in human history.” Now is the moment to write this on our hearts as we watch the news coming from Ukraine. Prayer is always powerful, but joined to sacrifice, our prayer will rise like incense to the Father (Psalm 141:2). This, more than military might or economic sanctions, has the power to confound the forces of war and restore peace to our troubled world.
As Lent begins, we, the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady, Mother of the Church, commit ourselves to prayer and sacrifice for peace in Ukraine and Russia, and for the prevention of war in Eastern Europe. During this time of deeper devotion to prayer and greater emphasis on self-denial for the love of God, we join with people all over the world who lift up to Our Lord our brothers and sisters who suffer greatly at the hands of tyrannical governments, especially in Ukraine. We implore St. John Paul II to intercede for the people he so loved while on earth, that peace may be granted to them. We unite our prayers and sacrifices to the perfect prayer and sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross as the powerful force, greater than hatred and war, that will hold back the scourge of evil threatening the world in so many places today, especially Eastern Europe.