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The Feast of Saint James the Great
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When the world’s unmet needs are overwhelming, the Archbishop Romero Prayer keeps us steady



Anna O'Neil - published on 10/03/17

Somebody has to do something ... but we are workers, not master builders.

Somebody has to do something. That’s what keeps going through my head, in the wake of yet another massacre, this time a shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead, and more than 500 injured.

The tragedy feels both much too close, and astronomically removed from my life. On the one hand, I live across the country from Nevada. On the other, there’s no reason why a similar shooting couldn’t happen in my home state. Or to anyone I know, since people I care about live spread out over North America. Somebody has to do something.

What should we do? We should be praying, and there are needs to be met — the wounded need blood donations urgently. Even if you don’t live nearby, local blood banks are able to share resources with other states when there’s need, so your donation is still beyond valuable. Those in politics, law enforcement, and security have their work cut out for them. But what else can we do when the world needs so much help? There are grieving souls who I can’t reach, and infinite needs that I can’t meet, needs that I don’t even understand. What can I do? The needs of mankind are staggering.

I found a bit of peace in Archbishop Romero’s Prayer. The prayer wasn’t written by Blessed Oscar Romero. It’s by Bishop Ken Untener, and it was actually written before Blessed Romero’s assassination. It isn’t even a prayer, so much as it is a meditation. But it’s named after him because, according to Bishop Untener, it exemplifies the holy man’s attitude toward life. Blessed Romero was a man who faced overwhelming chaos, violence, and unmet needs at every turn. It’s a reminder we all need of what our job is in this world, no matter what dent we are able to make in the suffering around us.

It’s worth printing and putting up on your desk, fridge, or mirror, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by suffering around you that you can’t fix. Keep working, keep praying and loving, but remember that “We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.”

A Step Along the Way: Archbishop Romero’s Prayer

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders;
ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own. Amen.


Read more:
How this prayer to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, can set you free

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