As I have watched the brutal impacts of the war in Ukraine over the past few weeks, I have found myself longing and praying for peace in our world. The images and stories of children being killed and families fleeing for their lives are heartbreaking. War is devastating for all involved, and as a human family, we must heed the message repeated by our popes, “Never again war!”
Like many of you, I have found myself wondering what I can do. Certainly, one thing is to offer financial support to the people who are struggling. Catholic Relief Services, which is the international humanitarian arm of the church in the United States, is currently collecting monetary donations to support their work on the ground in Ukraine and surrounding countries. If you wish to contribute to their efforts, you can go to support.crs.org/donate/donate-ukraine.
Beyond financial support, something else I can do is pray. Sometimes in the face of such difficult circumstances, we can falsely believe that prayer is ineffective, but this could not be further from the truth. Prayer might be the only weapon we have strong enough to take on the violence we are witnessing.
On March 25, the church celebrates the Solemnity of the Annunciation, when Mary first learned that she would bear the Son of God. Mary’s “yes” to the angel Gabriel’s announcement makes the Incarnation possible and nine months later, Mary gives birth to Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Because of this, Mary is sometimes known as the Queen of Peace.
On the Solemnity of the Annunciation this year, Pope Francis will be consecrating Russia and the Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This is significant because Our Lady of Fatima insisted that Russia be consecrated to Mary over 100 years ago in order to stop the proliferation of secular atheism and communism. The pope is offering this consecration in response to a request from the Catholic bishops in the Ukraine.
In solidarity with Pope Francis, I will join in this prayer by celebrating on the Solemnity of the Annunciation the consecration at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. It is my sincere hope and prayer that through this act of consecration, peace may be brought to the people of the Ukraine and to all people in our world.
All are invited to join me at the shrine for this Mass, which will take place on Friday, March 25, at 6 p.m. You can also join the Mass via livestream through the Shrine’s Facebook page (facebook.com/championshrine) or their website (championshrine.org/pray-with-us/#watch). Whether in person or in spirit, I hope that you will join Pope Francis and me in praying for peace in our world.
Finally, friends, as I reflect on the need to pray for peace in our world, it is important for each of us to remember that peace begins in our own hearts. If we desire peace in our world, we have to be willing to root out any signs of hatred and violence in our own hearts. This work is not easy and requires consistent daily effort.
So, in addition to praying for peace in our world, I encourage you to use these days of Lent to ask God to bring peace into your heart. Ask God to uncover any places where hatred lurks and transform those places with his peace. As each of us commits to this work, we can begin to build a world rooted in peace.
Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!