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Gerry O’Hanlon SJ, author of The recession and God reflects on praying in recessionary times

I meet many people who are worried and fed up these days. There seems to be no end to the bad news – unemployment rising, pensions wiped out, uncertainty everywhere and an ugly mood of discontent. I wonder was it like this for Job? Or for the Psalmist who asked ‘how long must we wait?’

Funny how that visit to my 86 year old Uncle Rory last week was one of God’s ways of helping me to see things in a different light. Rory lived with my dad and the rest of their large family in a 3-storey house in Hardwick Street, in the heart of Dublin, back in the 1920s. He described how they had a toilet and tap in the yard: there they washed, and fetched water in a bucket for the cooking. “It was all we knew”, he said “and we were happy”.

I know, Lord, that Rory is not some kind of grumpy Luddite, full of nostalgia for times past. He appreciates so much the real progress we have made, the beautiful houses we live in. But he does regret the passing of those other values which affluence has tended to suppress – like the time we had for one another, the kind of solidarity which excessive competition destroys. I can understand better now what the French poet Charles Péguy meant when he wrote that ‘everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics’.

And so, Lord, help me like Job to be patient, to listen to the many reassurances of Jesus telling me ‘do not be afraid’, to imagine a future in which economic growth will seek a ‘richness of sufficiency’ which will respect our planet and the common good of all – rich and poor – who live on it. Help me to believe that this is possible, because in the resurrection of Jesus you have shown that evil is, in the end, defeated. Fill me with confident hope in your love.

40 Responses to “Praying in the recession”

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  1. Catherine :

    My Dad lived through the Depression and ‘doesn’t know what all the fuss is about’. But then he has few needs and lives frugally within his income. We, who have so much, have little to complain about. The current recession has much to teach us.


  2. Dianne :

    I spent sometime in war torn Iraq as a doctor with the Coalition forces a few years ago before the current crisis and became reconnected to my faith – in a place where the very basics of life were denied to many I was amazed at the strength of faith I saw in the people I treated and when I returned to my affluent and very safe life in Australia I had a new perspective on what was important – if you have your health and your family and friends, if you can make a positive difference each day to the people around you then you should be thankful to God that you have such a rich life. I pray that this economic down turn results in greater cohesion in families and communities – that we learn once again the value of being together, helping each other and supporting those in need – the world will be a richer place despite the economic gloom.


  3. BWB :

    With Christ, material blessings are properly understood and received gracefully. Without Christ, materialism becomes religion and affluence becomes cultural cancer. Work is our friend…..


  4. John :

    It is very hard to understand the crisis-the orignis are not obvious. But we should not lose track of how many people all over the world have enjoyed an improved quality of life over the past 20 years because of financial progress. And that improved life has made many people happier and heathier than we seem to be willing to acknowledge. Not everyting that happened was bad. People were able to enjoy homes that added to their happiness and to the overall happiness of their community. And those are good things.


  5. jeff jordan :

    Times certainly are hard. Not as hard as they have been in past generations. But the bond between people doesn’t seem as string either.
    “everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics” I pray that people become more important than policy. And that we make truth our authority rather than “Authority” the truth. With all respect I have to ask.
    The phrase “richness of sufficiency” , where’s the line? I have not much in my environment, but I have much more than many alive on earth. I am truly blessed by God. But I can’t make it in my society. I believe we are close to “richness of sufficiency” but policy gets in the way. Thank you sacred place. Thank you Lord. Please gracefully gently break the hearts of our policy makers that they might but people first.


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