Call it the "Ash Wednesday Massacre," with the most widely circulated photo of the Florida school shooting that of one horrified young mom cradling another, the ashes of Lent in a Cross on her forehead.
Surely, this says something. It says that her act of devotion brought a reminder of Lent to an entire nation; it says that Lent is a time of spiritual battle; it also is a call for us not simply to watch the news, but to pray for those involved in the articles and video clips we watch.
When, watching the TV news, a dentist from Bogota, Colombia, named Dr. Gloria Polo saw a news story about a woman who was left a widow and her child fatherless when the landlord, eager to evict them (and resisted by the father), hired thugs to murder him, she writes:
"I was really grieved for that poor woman. It was the Lord that permitted this! I gave attention to what was being said, and I realized that these events took place at Venadillo, Tulima: my birthplace!
"But immediately afterwards, the daily programs began and they spoke about a phenomenal diet, and so I completely forgot about the peasant woman. I never thought of her again."
Years later, during a near-death experience, Dr. Polo, raised Catholic but now utterly worldly and materialistic and finding herself in a dark place, her life being reviewed, says she was told by the Lord she had seen that news clip because He'd wanted her to pray -- to get on her knees and pray for the woman and her family -- and that if she had, the Holy Spirit would have inspired her to mention the event to a priest who lived nearby and knew another priest in Venadillo who in his turn could have helped the devastated peasant family.
The Lord then showed her how, years later, driving with her young son through the red light district of Bogota, the boy had pointed to one of the streetwalkers and asked why she was dressed the way she was.
"Do not look!" she told her son. "They are contemptible women who sell their bodies for pleasure and money."
Jesus showed her, writes the dentist (in Struck By Lightning) that the streetwalker was the widow! -- that without money or assistance, the woman in that news story had been forced into prostitution in order to support her family, which would not have occurred if Dr. Polo had simply taken a moment to pray.
And so we think of all the victims we see on news these days -- the wars, the terrorism, the constant shootings, so horrible now in Florida -- where seventeen people were shot to death -- and it reminds us not only to watch with passing sympathy or a quick supplication but to pray meaningfully for the families, for we have no idea the effect these deaths may have. (See here for the victims.) Let us also keep in prayer the family of the heroic coach who saved lives by shielding students -- but lost his own. (Ironic it was that the Mass reading that very day was about laying down one's life for another, Luke 9)...
Also, to pray, however odious it seems, for the suspected killer, for while the first tendency is to despise him, we have no idea what caused him to become the way he is. (We do know he was adopted and that his adopted mother died last November.)
In whatever we are viewing on television or on internet sites such as Spirit Daily, this is the call of news: they are posted not just to consume but to see the "signs" of our times and respond to those whether in Florida or far-off places such as Iraq and Syria.
Let us be "struck" by news, including the more obscure stories and trends.
As the Virgin Mary, in a real Lenten lesson, once said: with prayer and fasting we can stop wars and even suspend the laws of nature...
[resources: Struck By Lightning]