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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. Lupe :

    It is my belief that everything happens for a reason. We do not see what the reason is when we are going through the “valley of death”. However, our God is a mighty God. He always writes straight in crooked lines. He always brings good out of the most unhappy and unsavory situations. What is so good about the current world financial situation? We are becoming more aware that we can only count on God, our faith, our families, our friends and -if we are lucky to have a community, church or neighborhood-we will pull through this crisis. Let’s thank God for forums like Sacred Space and for all we have. Truly in Him we lack nothing.


  2. Nicholas :

    Times are hard for the three of us in our family, but we hang on. We don’t have much to look forward to for quite a while and we don’t have much extra cash at all – certainly no holidays. We have few friends and no family to help financially. But we stay reasonably happy. It is difficult. We are just about paying our way. We hang onto what we have just about, I mean our home. We can’t afford holidays or evenings out. We are stuck. We can do nothing. We can only pray and hang on. We have the basics. It is meant to be. It is God’s will. He carries us safely through each day. Things will change. We believe. We trust. Therein are our riches.


  3. mpgv :

    So how has this financial crisis changed me? I am more discouraged and scared than I was before this current crisis. I worry that I will have to work until I drop dead because I will have no means of retirement. I worry that I will lose my health insurance and home. I am agonized over the deceit of the people who took advantage of innocent people in this fiscal nightmare that did not have to happen.
    So…I work harder to keep only upright people in my life. So I work harder to keep my faith and to pray more deeply and honestly. So I work harder to count my blessings and to realize that what I have is ENOUGH. I pray to restrain my greed, to increase my trust when I am scared to pieces and I pray to quiet myself to listen to God in the stillness.
    I work harder to prioritize what is really important and I realize that family and friends will help me through the hard times and rough spots. I work harder to carry my cross and pray like mad when it feels unbearable. Are we all the risen Christ? If I am to carry on God’s mission, I must act more like Christ and be happy with what He gives me…which is more than I could have ever dreamed.


  4. Jane VanOsdol :

    Thank you for your message. I think what your Uncle Rory has is an appreciation for the blessings in his life. Hard times show us what is really important: our families and friends; good health and food on our tables; most of all, the assurance that our Savior has us in the palm of His hand. When we experience hard times, He walks through it with us and sustains us.
    Despite the difficult times we are going through, I see hope for this generation. One difference I have noticed between this generation and my generation (I grew up in the 70s) is the concern they have for social justice issues. The world is a smaller place than when I grew up. Just in my family, six of my nieces and nephews and my daughter have already served as teens on mission trips. Several of them are serving on long-term trips overseas.
    I see a love for the poor and lost that my generation did not have. For us, traveling abroad was reserved for the “called” missionaries. For this generation, it is a way of life. I see hope for our futures.
    Jane VanOsdol


  5. Maria :

    This financial crisis is a fantastic lesson for my children. It is teaching them to seek security in God and not in man, money, nor science. God is the only source of our security. Jesus is the rock and I choose to stand on Him as He chose to go to the cross for me. What greater sacrifice than His on the cross. My little (and it is little, thankfully) experience in this financial crisis must lead me to be a greater giver. Though my stocks have dropped along with my house price (I just sold my house at 2002 price) I still have a home and shoes and food and the list goes on. Due to this crisis the number of people throughout the world without food, clothing, health care, housing etc. has risen. I must reach out even further with the love of Jesus in tangible and intangible ways. Nothing compares to the love of Jesus. Life depends on it, and it alone.


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