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  • Sarah Raad

Massacre

If I cannot be patient with the little things, how could I ever pray for my enemies on the big ones?

Roses Garden at UCA, El Salvador. The place where : Ignacio Ellacuría, Ignacio Martín-Baró, Segundo Montes, Juan Ramón Moreno, Amando López, Joaquín López y López, Elba Ramos y Celina Ramos, were killed 16 November 1989

On 16th November 1989 – during the Salvadoran Civil War – an elite commando unit of the Salvadoran army forced entry into a Jesuit presbytery and killed the six priests who were in residence there. They also killed their female housekeeper and her sixteen-year-old daughter.


I have only recently heard this terrible story, and since hearing about it, I have found myself reflecting more and more often on the terrible tragedy of such a massacre and the ramifications of it.


You see, the political ramifications were immediately quite obvious. The international community’s response to this massacre was instrumental in pressuring the opposing factions to bring about the end of the Salvadoran Civil War.


But there were more ramifications than that…


You see, in San Salvador, at the time of the massacre, it was not possible for the bereaved to offer prayers inside a Church. And so – after the deaths of these men, woman and child – a funeral was held in the detention camps in which some of their families and friends and other Catholics were being held.


At the funeral – because the mourners were unable to bring flowers – cards were made and painted with flowers instead. There was one card for each of the victims. And yet, there were more than eight cards displayed around the altar that day. There were nine…


And it is the story behind the additional, ninth card that has captivated my mind, since I first heard this story…


You see, the bereaved included the ninth card for the perpetrators of the crime. That ninth card was for the soldiers and army and people who had ordered and enacted this terrible massacre. For the people there understood very clearly that while it is important to forgive one’s enemies, it is equally important to pray for them. And this is because they understood the message of the Gospel of Saint Luke (6:27-38)…


“But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you...And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them. ‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them...But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.’” (Luke 6:27-38).

You see, it is one thing to be nice to my friends. That is easy. There is no great challenge in treating someone nicely when they are treating my nicely first. In fact, it is actually easier to continue to treat others nicely under those circumstances.

The difficulty sets in when I am expected to treat others nicely when they are simply not nice to me. And while it is fine in theory to say that we treat everyone nicely – in practice it is quite another thing.


You see, in practice, treating others as you would wish to be treated, means that I should ignore someone’s bad mood, or I should be patient with the girl who is walking in slow motion at the supermarket self-service checkout, or I should bite my tongue when I wish to offer a stinging retort!


When I first read the story of that massacre, somehow inside my mind I thought to myself, “Yes, they are right! If I were one of the bereaved at that time, I too would have prayed for the perpetrators of such a tragedy.”


Yes – please do not laugh – I really did say these sorts of things to myself when I thought about something so big… I really did – for a minute – think that I am capable of forgiving my enemy and praying for them…


And I thought that even knowing that I cannot even control my reactions or my patience or my reply in relation to some words or a bit of dawdling…


And so I pray for God to give me the fortitude to persevere in the practice of my faith… Because if I cannot be patient with the little things, how could I ever pray for my enemies on the big ones?


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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