This morning I’m remembering the candlelight vigil in Mission Plaza Park on the night of 9/11 and the interfaith service that followed in Holy Cross Church. After the final hymn concluded, in the moment of silence after the organ notes faded but before the rustling of departure began, a single spontaneous voice began to sing “God Bless America.” A few others joined in, Sister Barbara promptly took it up on the organ, and then we were all singing. It has become a cliché since then, a requisite but routine badge of patriotism, as satisfying and thoughtfree as the seventh inning stretch and singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” but that night it was pure and heartfelt.
I want to reclaim that prayer for the land that I love, now threatened in so many more ways from within and without than it was even on that awful day.
Stand beside her, O Beloved, and guide her through the night – through this COVID-19 pandemic, our fight to end racism, wildfires burning from the mountains to the oceans white with foam. Shed your light from above to show us our common ground. God bless America.
I wrote this prayer after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, but thinking of the Standing Rock water protectors and remembering the importance Pope Francis placed on water in his encyclical Laudato Si, I offer this again today on behalf of the earth, our common home, wherever there is water pollution.