Preparing For War Praying For Peace

Bishop Michael D. Pfeifer, OMI
Reprint with permission
October, 2001

My dear priests, sisters, deacons, pastoral coordinators, pastoral leaders and all people of the Diocese of San Angelo:

In this present moment of crisis in our country, I strongly encourage all to continue to pray first for all the victims of the Day of Terror, and secondly that God will give wisdom, light, courage, truth, and compassion to our President and other leaders as they make decisions that will have great impact on the future of our country and the world. I am deeply grateful to our diocesan community for their continued outpouring of support, comfort and concern for those seriously affected by the terrorist attacks on September 11, and for the support offered our country.

We need to urgently heed the plea of Pope John Paul II that “This inhuman act will awaken in the hearts of all the world's peoples a firm resolve to reject violence, combat the causes of hatred, and work for a new era of international cooperation and peace.” God calls us to be people of peace. Nothing in our Holy Scriptures, nothing in our understanding of God's revelation, nothing that is Christian, Islamic, or Jewish justifies terrorist acts and disruption of millions of lives as we have witnessed in this catastrophe. These actions need to be condemned as ewl and diametrically opposed to true religion. I strongly urge all of our people both as Christians and American citizens to unify in this national tragedy and encourage cooperation among all ethnic, cultural, racial and religious groups constituting the mosaic of our society. I continue to appeal to all of our people to come to the assistance of the countless victims of this criminal tragedy and the victims of any crimes of hate in the aftermath of these awful events.

We also need to join in support of our government and the pursuit of those responsible for these barbaric acts, always mindful of the maral imperative to act with restraint and respect for civilian lives. Such a crime that has brought about this disaster demands a response on the basis of justice and law, not of vengeance. In our efforts to prevent such outrages in the future, we need to reflect on the causes of violence and the context out of which violence springs. Everything done to overcome gross economic, social and political inequalities contributes to building up peace and avoiding war. As we undertake the heavy burden of defending the common good, in morally appropriate ways, against global terrorism, we must not lose sight of the ultimate goal and responsibility of using our nation's considerable influence and power to contribute to a more just and peaceful world. Among other things, our foreign policy must give new emphasis to deepening our engagement with the Arab and Muslim worlds and, in particular, to continue to make every effort to press for a just and peaceful resolution of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. In the face of escalating violence in our world, as followers of Christ, we must make every effort to escalate love. We must never become the evil we want to eradicate. If we want peace, we must work for justice, justice based on the rule of law and the precepts of our faith traditions. The spirit of violence, the spirit of evil, can only be overcome by the spirit of love. We have countless ways to reduce violence in our world by reducing the strife and tension right where we live each day.

President Bush has ordered U.S. troops to get ready for war and is preparing Americans for a long and difficult campaign to stop the terrorists who carried out these deadliest of attacks on our nation. As plans are made for war and retaliation for barbaric acts committed against innocent civilians, I ask all, but especially our priests and those who lead prayer services, to offer prayers for divine light and wisdom so that God's justice and righteousness may be furfilled for our nation and the world in this moment of crisis. I especially encourage our priests when possible to offer Masses using prayers in the time of War and Civil Disturbance as found in the Sacramentary, #23–Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Occasions. It would seem especially appropriate to use the Second Eucharistic Prayer of Reconciliation. This is a time to preach about the virtue of Patriotism — love, service and support for our country as we work for peace. I encourage our priests to offer extra Masses, and our priests and pastoral leaders to organize prayer services within the Catholic community and with other Christians, and with people of other religions, to ask for God's direction and light in these troubled times.

Offer special prayers for all military personnel. Military people, this is a time to come closer to Christ to put life in order. Receive God's mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Don't wait until you might be in a far away land, perhaps on a battle front with no priests available. Simply put, if necessary, make a good confession. Participate frequently in the Mass and receive Christ in the Eucharist.

I ask all of our parents and teachers to discuss with their children in a prayerful and patient way this critical situation. Our children will be receiving much information from the media, and more than ever parents and teachers need to give them guidance and direction, helping them to deal with what fears they might have. This is the time for the family to pray together about these issues.

This is a time when our nation needs to unite in a spirit of faith and hope and prayer.I have already seen as I traveled through the Diocese that so many of our people want to come to church and pray with our leaders. I ask that all of our churches be left open during the day, with proper vigilance, so that people can come to pray before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament to ask for the guidance that our country and we all need at this time. I know there are certain risks from vandalism, but if there are people praying in the church, I believe this is the best deterrence to any harm that might happen.

I encourage our people to continue to be blood donors for the many victims who are still in need of blood. As has already been announced, I have asked all the communities of our Diocese to take up a special collection to assist the victims of this disaster. Your donations will be sent to them through the proper Church authorities. At the end of September, already nearly $50,000 has been collected and sent to the victims of the Day of Terror.

I call upon all to renew their trust in God and to turn away from the bitter fruits of the kind of hatred which is the source of this tragedy. Especially let us not engage in ethnic, religious, or national stereotyping for what may be the acts of a group of irrational terrorists, or religiously depraved, deranged and fanatic individuals. We should never repeat what happened to many good Japanese–Americans when Pearl Harbor occurred. The ones who committed these cowardly acts in no way can claim to have the approval of God. Violence is simply not part of what it means to be a true Muslim, Jew, or Christian.

It is ultimately by joining our sorrow, our anguish, even our anger to the agonizing Christ on the cross where we will find the new life that is offered to us by Jesus in His resurrection. Let us ask Jesus our Good Shepherd, the Prince of Peace, to lead us, and Mary, our Mother, the Queen of Peace, to watch over us.

Your servant in Christ and Mary,
Most Rev. Michael D. Pfeifer. OMI
Bishop of San Angelo