My Prayer as I Struggle With Our Nation After the Capitol Riot

The U.S. Capitol in Washington is seen behind heavy-duty security fencing Jan. 7, 2021, one day after supporters of President Donald Trump stormed Capitol Hill. (CNS photo/Erin Scott, Reuters)

I feel a cramped sense of emptiness. I don’t know how to hold this moment.
I don’t know how to hold all of us—Americans.
I wonder what holds us together.

I hold those who violently betrayed democracy.
I see your bruises from elitism, your fury from being ignored, your lament for the lack of opportunity to climb the ladder as your father did. I see the ways in which the American dream has failed to deliver on its promise, has left so many in empty towns with hollowed echoes of an economic future. I’ve repeatedly witnessed your despair explode into white supremacy, xenophobia, toxic masculinity and violence. You’re being targeted, manipulated and lied to for President Trump’s gain.

I hold those pushed to the margins.
I see you drowning in a system you did not choose and cannot escape; a system designed to belittle you, to keep you sick, unequally educated, addicted, incarcerated and materially poor—a system vehemently defended by those in power.

I feel a cramped sense of emptiness. I don’t know how to hold this moment. I don’t know how to hold all of us—Americans. I wonder what holds us together.

I hold those who fight for the recognition that their lives matter.
I have broken bread with you as your story tumbled from your mouth: fleeing, running, trudging, working, hoping that your daughter will have a chance at a full life.

I have sat with you at the trolly stop as you explain it will take two more buses and a train to arrive just in time for your second job. And you opened up, sharing you can barely make ends meet. You are the ones deeply affected by unjust policies and the status quo. You are resilient and stronger than I’ll ever be.

I hold my family and friends who still support Donald J. Trump.
After four years of his crime, lies, injustice, attacks on democracy, manipulation, chaos and blatant hatred, I am at a loss. Your vote, opinions and what you spread in conversation or online have real-life consequences.

Before the attack on the Capitol and democracy itself, those views and votes mostly affected those on the margins, so you did not see the results of your ideology. I think this moment is an invitation to step closer to the poor until they become more than “the poor” or “immigrants” or “Black” to you; until they become friends. Because if they were friends, I cannot imagine you would stand for this level of injustice.

Please stop hiding behind “Love of country” because I love this country just as much. I think you are better than President Trump and his vision for our nation. I don’t understand how you can be so loving and stand alongside much hate.

I hold the Republican Party.
You are weak. Your leadership has failed you.

I hold the Democrats.
You are smug. It is annoying, and it is fueling this backlash.
Stop pushing those who hold pro-life views to the other side.
You are not blameless.

I hold Catholics.
We need to do better. Priests and deacons, if you did not speak about radical justice, love and peace from the pulpit; if you did not guide your flock toward building a more just world with a full range of life issues, take responsibility now and find courage. Your ability to serve in this way is a privilege that women who dare to speak out will never have. Please do not waste it.

After 28 years as a practicing Catholic, I am still asking what it means to love as Christ loves. Love means something more in the face of this moment, this woundedness.

I hold myself and all my baggage and sin.

And I am left wondering:

Is my heart big enough to hold all this?
Can I reach that far?
Can I love that much?

And as I sit here processing in prayer, trying to create some understanding of this insurgency and the build-up to it; as I try to reconcile that people I love still stand with this madness; as I work to acknowledge my role in this mess fully, I look up at a vibrant cross fastened to my wall. Its colors splash over the brutal depiction.

And I am struck by the span of Jesus’ arms.
Jesus’ arms reached that far—to all of us.
The arm span is bloody, but it conquered the darkness, not with an attack but with boundless love.

What does that even mean?

What does it mean to have a love that conquers hate and darkness? After 28 years as a practicing Catholic, I am still asking what it means to love as Christ loves. Love means something more in the face of this moment, this woundedness, polarization and violence.

I still do not know how to hold this moment.

But I know who is holding us.

More from America

The latest from america

The disciples of Jesus were not pursuing ideas as they were coming to love and to understand a person.  
Terrance KleinJanuary 20, 2021
President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden are seen at the U.S. Capitol in Washington Jan 20, 2021, before his inauguration as the 46th president of the United States. (CNS photo/Jim Bourg, Reuters)
Archbishop Jose Gomez, president of the U.S.C.C.B., wished the new president well, but he also condemned the nation’s second Catholic president’s support for abortion rights.
Michael J. O’LoughlinJanuary 20, 2021
The full context of Augustine’s line is perhaps not as rosy as Joe Biden might have suggested.
Bill McCormick, S.J.January 20, 2021
Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, expressed hope the incoming administration "will work with the church and others of goodwill."