Originally Published in Issue #5 on April 23, 2021
As of my writing of this letter, there have been over 18,000 deaths in my state, 580,000 deaths in my country, and 3.1 million deaths worldwide related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, as I was telling my wife, it’s strange that there is little or no communal lament for the loss of so many people. The United States has experienced more than twice as many deaths from COVID-19 than World War II and is rapidly approaching the total death count of the bloodiest war for Americans: the civil war.
I’m not sure what the reason for this is, though I have some guesses. In war, our sons, husbands, and young fathers are the ones affected in the greatest proportion, but with this pandemic, the elderly are the greatest affected. Perhaps we simply feel the impact of the deaths less if it’s the elderly who die early. We certainly don’t view the elderly as the storehouses of wisdom and insight we once did. American culture, at least, idolizes youth.
It could be that we are so focused on how to “solve” the pandemic that we have not taken the time to feel the impact of those we have lost. Or perhaps we don’t care as much about the people who die as we do about our partisan understandings of the pandemic and our responses to it.
It could be all of those in some measure, or it could be none of them. Whatever the case may be, I would ask you to stop and consider the impact of three million untimely deaths in the last year. If you are willing, pray this prayer with me:
Christ Our King,
Our world is overtaken by unexpected calamity, and by a host of attending fears, worries, and insecurities.
We witness suffering, confusion, and hardship multiplied around us, and we find ourselves swept up in these same anxieties and troubles, dismayed by so many uncertainties.
Now we turn to you, O God, in this season of our common distress.
Be merciful, O Christ, to those who suffer, to those who worry, to those who grieve, to those who are threatened or harmed in any way by this upheaval. Let your holy compassions be active throughout the world even now—tending the afflicted, comforting the brokenhearted, and bringing hope to many who are hopeless.
Use even these hardships to woo our hearts nearer to you, O God.
This is a portion of a prayer from the book Every Moment Holy: Volume 2 by Douglas McKelvey. The entire prayer is called A Liturgy for a Time of Widespread Suffering and is available for free. I will have more to say about this wonderful book in a future letter.