A Prayer for Days of Terrorist Attacks, Mass-Shootings, and other Human-Made Catastrophes

Eternal, All-Compassionate God:
You are our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal home.

We lift our hearts and voices in lament to you this day
as we grieve the violence, the loss of life, and the destruction
in Orlando..

Have mercy, O God, have mercy.

We entrust to your infinite compassion all those who have died.
May they rest in your eternal peace.
We pray for those who are fighting for their lives, and for those who are maimed and injured in body, mind, and soul.
Grant them easing of their pain and healing.
We pray for those tasked with responding to this catastrophe.
Give them steadfastness and wisdom.
And, as you commanded us to do, we pray for our enemies.
Let them not be lost in violence and hatred.

To all of us, grant deep compassion for all that lives, and an abiding longing for your peace.

Lord, send out your Spirit
And renew the face of our marred and grieving world.


Moderator’s note: This prayer was first posted on March 23, 2016, after the mass shooting in Brussels. At the author’s request, it is posted again now after the shooting in Orlando, Florida.



  1. In the writings of Isaac of Nineveh we find these words.

    ‘When the Spirit dwells within a person, from the moment that person has become prayer, the Spirit never leaves them. For the Spirit never ceases to pray within us. Whether we are asleep or awake, from then on prayer never departs from our soul. Whether we are eating or drinking or sleeping or whatever else we may be doing, even if we are in the deepest of sleeps, the incense of prayer is rinsing without effort in our heart. Prayer never again deserts us. In every moment of our life, even when it appears to have ceased, prayer is secretly at work within us continuously.”

    This quotation from Isaac of Nineveh is worth keeping in mind when
    dark and difficult times come to us. Can anyone indicate its source?

    I used it in a recent article and have mislaid the reference.

  2. The violence in Orlando was appalling. It is understandable that it touches US citizens particularly deeply. I believe that as human beings and as Christians we must broaden the canvas. Our prayer must include also those who are killed and maimed in the ongoing violence in Iraq and Afghanistan and Syria, and so many other places far more war-torn than Florida; and including air attacks on hospitals. These acts of violence do not receive the same media coverage as Orlando. We are called to be truly catholic in our grief and our responses.
    As Pope Francis has commented this week, we cannot afford to address the part played in this violence by those involved in the production and trading of arms.

    1. @Padraig McCarthy:
      Yes, I agree with you, Padraig. Our prayers must look beyond our own neighborhoods (and what the media covers most) and be ever more all-encompassing. So: I hope people will use this prayer in and for different situations all round the world!
      At the same time, we also should not be ashamed to acknowledge that a mass killing in our back yard or a place we know well affects us viscerally more than killings half a world away. Certainly, every human life is precious in God’s eyes — yet if the life of my child were taken, I would experience this differently from any other life being taken.

      1. @Teresa Berger:
        “We also should not be ashamed to acknowledge that a mass killing in our back yard or a place we know well affects us viscerally more than killings half a world away.”
        Yes, this is the normal human experience, and it is an occasion for human and spiritual growth. When six young people – five Irish and one Irish-American – died in a balcony collapse in Berkeley CA this day last year, we in Ireland, perhaps 6,000 miles away, felt it. I too felt it when I heard of the events in Orlando. This is where we start.
        The challenge is to realise that our back yard is globalised, although we may not be affected viscerally by distant violence. (Jesus was affected viscerally – that’s the Greek – when he came across the funeral of a young unnamed man leaving Nain.) Our deeply personal visceral experiences are not transferable, but our awareness and solidarity are to be stretched. Compassion need not fade with distance. There are Books of Condolence here in Ireland today for those affected by Orlando, and we have had much media coverage. We have relatively little coverage of recent deaths elsewhere, and no Books of Condolence. And yet, here in Dublin, Ireland, we are geographically closer to the Middle East than to Florida. I hope we not need not be spiritually more distant.
        Mary Lou Kownacki OSB wrote:
        If I hear
        a child cry
        There is
        my home.
        Thank you, Teresa, for your prayer. What I have written is not a criticism. It is a plea that we universalise the compassion.

      2. @Padraig McCarthy:
        Thank you for your compelling thoughts, Padraig. The more I ponder this issue, the more I think it has less to do with geographic distance per se than with the media filters that shape which news and “facts” come to us, and how. Starkly put: the mass shooting in Orlando is big news (at least for a few days); a mass drowning of 50 migrants in the Mediterranean has become medium news; car bombs killing 50 people in Bagdad is routine news; and 50 people being killed in Africa is no news.
        How to break through this?

    1. @matt foley:
      I wrote this prayer, Matt. I wrote it in response to the attacks in Belgium in March, but in the sad certainty that the time would surely come when the prayer would be used again in response to another attack.

  3. #9 Teresa
    Unfortunately it is only when it comes home that the full impact of terrorist action is recognised, suffering in our streets in our town.

    Dan Berrigan, who died at the end of April this year, was interviewed on Democracy Now, on the first anniversary of 9/11. When a friend phoned to tell him of the attack on the Trade Centre in NYC his response was direct and brief :- “so it’s come home at last”.
    The reality of our modern news values expressed in a few words. So sad, but so true.

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