Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

‘I Am Praying, But What More Can I Do?’

Published March 29, 2007

There are the names of people struggling with addictions; people who have lost their faith; those suffering from diseases; and those who are so very lonely.

Over the years, I have seen many prayers answered, of course. There was the relative who suffered in a series of horrendous relationships but pulled herself out, met a fine young man and got married. There were numerous operations that friends emerged from, feeling fine and fit as ever.

But when it comes to many people on my prayer list, I get impatient. I want to do something to shake things up. It just breaks my heart to think of all the people who are suffering.

Just this last week, I wanted to do something to ease the emotional agony of my Aunt Rita and cousins in Florida, who were at the bedside of Uncle Ray, who was dying.

“I am praying, I really am, but what more can I do?” I asked my spiritual director. And he assured me of what I already knew in my heart: Sometimes prayer is all you can do.

This Lent, I decided to bring my petitions directly to Jesus Christ, in a more real and direct way than ever before. I am going to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle each week.

And I will name the people on my list in His presence.

A person who does not believe in God might think I am doing nothing at all. They would see me sitting there in the pew, staring at the Blessed Sacrament, and apparently day-dreaming.

But anyone who believes in Jesus—and in His very real presence in the Eucharist—will know that I am doing something very important.

In a wonderful book of Lenten meditations called “The Pain of Christ and the Sorrow of God,” Gerald Vann mentions how the Blessed Mother at the foot of the cross seemed to be doing nothing at all.

On the other hand, the throngs of Christ’s enemies, who were intent on harming Him, were rushing around and yelling and cursing. They were making a huge amount of noise and commotion. As they brought death into the world, they couldn’t sit still for a moment.

But Mary was quiet and didn’t move: She was simply there with her Son.

Vann points out that sometimes, as far as outward activity is concerned, there may be nothing we can do to alleviate the suffering of those we love. There may be nothing we can do about wars, crime and other terrible things in the world.

But we should not give up hope. Instead, Vann says:

If your heart is with Christ, who suffered for the sins that made this suffering, then you will long to do something to lessen it, to heal and to help, but perhaps you will have the bitterness of knowing that as far as outward activity is concerned, there is nothing you can do. Never mind … you can co-suffer in your heart, and it is love that heals.

It is love that heals: Mary was silent at the foot of the Cross, but Jesus knew she was there. And surely she was not inactive, really: She was simply doing something that appears invisible on the surface.

She was praying in silence.

As I was writing this article, my cousin Julie called to say that Uncle Ray had died last night. I told her we had prayed that his death would be peaceful and that God would comfort Aunt Rita and the rest of the family.

Julie assured me that our prayers had been answered. Her father had died in peace, and the family had felt Christ’s presence in the hospice.

It is possible that Mary at the foot of the cross had the thought, “Oh, God, isn’t there something more that I can do?” She was, after all, a mother, and she was facing a mother’s worst nightmare that day.

But once the horror of that day was over, Mary realized her Son was still alive in a beautiful and real way. She knew that death was not the final answer.

And so it is for us today, as we look at our ever-growing prayer lists. As long as we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, we know that whatever suffering our loved ones are facing, there is no reason to give up hope.

It is love that heals. God promises us that He will, in the end, wipe every tear from our eyes. By praying before the Blessed Sacrament, we are like Mary at the foot of the Cross: keeping watch with Jesus and apparently doing nothing.

But in reality, we are doing the most important thing in the world.

Lorraine’s latest book, “How Shall We Celebrate? Embracing Jesus in Every Season” has reflections on Lent, Easter and other special seasons. Artwork is by Jef Murray, who also illustrates her columns. Lorraine’s e-mail address is