So the world doesn’t seem to be getting any less prone to chaos and suffering, and sorry, if you’re experiencing Trump Derangement Syndrome, but he’s a symptom, not the cause. Things have been ugly from the beginning, and have just been getting uglier. Without God’s grace we’re nothing but beasts, red in tooth and claw. And most of us on this planet seem intent on rejecting His grace. The Church is riddled with various heresies, violence seems to be the ascendant vernacular in streets (and bars, hallways, bedrooms) around the world. Young women are seen by too many men as prey. Hunger and thirst and disease prowl the Earth. Meningitis boils the brains of the poor in Africa, cancer devours the flesh of loved ones here at home. A man will dropkick another man in the head for the cash in his wallet.
And so, I must confess, I can get really discouraged. I don’t like it when people suffer. Too many mirror neurons, I suppose. And everywhere I look, at home, abroad, suffering. What’s a useless servant of God to do? Pray, sure, but we’re told to pray like it’s all up to God, and to work like it’s all up to us. Clearly, though we can’t pretend to be saving ourselves with our good works, we ARE supposed to work. We’re supposed to be Christ’s hands and feet. And so, after a Nigerian man with whom I had already been conversing over the course of some months about the faith (he had approached me at Twitter, where I’m quite publicly Catholic, asking about Holy Mass, which his wife, dear soul, was trying to get him to participate in more regularly), and whose faith I had watched grow and deepen, expressed despair about his family’s situation, I’ve done what I could to help. Which isn’t nearly enough. So I started a gofundme a little over a month ago, thinking I could crowdsource the help they need. I had high hopes that during Lent, when we’re supposed to increase our almsgiving, with the right hashtags and a little cajoling, I might make a difference in this family’s life. Which wouldn’t make even a dent in the mountain of suffering that is the world, but it would be something. Like the guy throwing starfish back into the sea, I want to make a difference in at least this one family’s life.
And now I have to confess that I’m a little disappointed in Catholic Twitter. Other than a few retweets, I’ve seen nothing. The few donations I’ve received have all come from Facebook, and almost all of those from people I’ve known in real life. I’m sure I’m somehow at fault. I’m sure I could have tried harder, done something better, written something eminently moving that would have caused the thing to go viral. But in darker moments, I’ve wondered…is it because he’s Nigerian? Do people figure this is a scam? (Poor Nigerians…just because that dumb email scam featured a “Nigerian prince,” now folks equate a whole people with internet scams.) I don’t know. I think it’s possible. People’s minds are funny. Trust doesn’t happen easily, and it’s so easy to scroll past something that makes us doubt even a little.
But please believe me, this is a real family. I’ve Skyped with them while they opened a care package. I’ve spoken to them on the phone. They pray for my wayward children, my overworked husband. They pray for the Church in America, which is so sadly moribund, while theirs is all on fire with faith. My priest, a Kenyan, for whom I thank God on the regular, is beginning the process of twinning our parishes. (Ours is Immaculate Conception, and theirs is St Ann’s, in whose womb that immense mystery took place…it’s like it’s meant to be!) So please, if you can afford even a widow’s pence, please help me to help them. Not only does brother Michael need to start saving for his daughter’s education, but she’s recently contracted malaria, and all three of them are being treated for it. The bills are piling up. Here’s the link: Help Send Banks to School.