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Prayer, faith action can change things in Iraq, the world

Posted By October 7, 2014 | 4:53 pm | Lead Story #3
‘We need prayer and fasting and
sacrifices. We 
cannot change the world, but we know the one who can.’

- Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart
‘We need prayer and fasting and sacrifices. We cannot change the world, but we know the one who can.’ - Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart

By Tanya Connor

WORCESTER – Seeking a way to bring peace in the Middle East, patriarchs and politicians gathered in Washington, D.C. But they fought with each other. A little Iraqi nun, however, left them with a big lesson.
Prayer and faith, raising awareness and action, are solutions to the problems, according to Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart who told this story.
Mother Olga, foundress of Daughters of Mary of Nazareth, was speaking Sept. 24 at Christ the King Parish as part of the 1230AM/970AM Emmanuel Radio Speaker Series.
“The problems of the world might look very big,” Mother Olga said. “Sometimes we turn the T.V. off. … It’s ongoing tragedy everywhere. … You feel like, ‘I just want to take care of my own backyard.’”
People have been asking her what they can do in response to attacks against Christians and others by ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), she said.
“As people of faith we are also people of hope,” because “we are people of resurrection,” she said. “The Lord is weeping over … what is happening to the human family. … We come every day in prayer because we believe there is nothing impossible for God.”
To illustrate the power of prayer, she told about the Sept. 9-11 In Defense of Christians summit she attended in Washington, D.C. Speakers included political officials and the patriarchs of the Eastern rites, who came from the Middle East.
During the summit, some audience members got angry, screamed and left when U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas spoke, Mother Olga said. She said 1,200 people had gathered in defense of Christians overseas, and here in the United States “we couldn’t deal with our differences for five minutes.”
So she took the microphone and said Christians are being persecuted today as they were in the early Church, where there was also division. But, she said, when Mary of Nazareth was in the Christians’ midst, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them.
“I want to invite all of us to surrender everything to Mary just like the early Church,” she told summit participants. She said she sang the “Magnificat,” then prayed the “Hail Mary” in Arabic, English and Aramaic. Later people told her that was the most powerful part of the summit, she said.
Asked what summit participants thought should be done, Mother Olga said the patriarchs “asked for help in terms of armed forces” to get ISIS out of Iraq.
Mother Olga said her opinion is that the United States and Western countries did too little, too late; ISIS attacked in June, but for a long time there was no action. At first the only media reporting about the persecution of Christians were the religious media, she said; the secular media didn’t pay much attention until an American journalist was beheaded.
“We need prayer and fasting and sacrifices,” she said. “We cannot change the world, but we know the one who can.”
Speaking of the need for faith, Mother Olga said people often focus on Peter’s doubt in the Gospel story of his attempt to walk on water. But he should be credited for having the faith to even get out of the boat. And when Jesus performed miracles in the Gospels, he often told people that their faith had saved them.
Speaking of the need for action, she said Jesus said all are called to be light and salt. She described salt as giving the flavor of the Gospel in little ways, and light as publicly speaking against wrongs. Truth spoken with compassion and love, not judgment and finger-pointing, builds up, she said.
“We are responsible not only for what we can do, but we are also responsible for the things we don’t do,” she said. She said we shouldn’t wait until ISIS makes itself known on our soil; we know they are out there.
“I don’t believe it’s a religious problem,” she said in response to a listener’s question. “They have used religion, but it’s in the name of politics.” It’s about who’s in power.
She said she grew up with Muslims and “we always respected their Ramadan, they respected our Christmas.” Most of the politicians and well-educated people in Iraq  – including Saddam Hussein’s children and grandchildren – went to Catholic schools, which provided the best education, she said.
People there don’t understand democracy as people in the West do, and more than half of them are illiterate, she said. They think they have to be powerful to stand against the culture of the West. So they need to be educated and empowered to stand up for their country.
“There are good Muslim people in the Middle East,” she said. “They are shocked and ashamed” about what’s being done in the name of their religion.
Mother Olga expressed appreciation for Americans offering to take in an Iraqi family or provide a scholarship for an Iraqi student, but said there is no quick, easy answer to the problems. It is better to work for safety there than to bring them to safety here, she said. But now, because of a lack of a stable government and infrastructure, it is difficult to make any lasting changes.
In response to a question, Mother Olga said that after she came into full communion with the Catholic Church, Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston asked her to found a religious community. (In 1995 she had established the order of Marth Maryam Sisters – Missionaries of the Virgin Mary, the first order for religious sisters in the Assyrian Church of the East in 700 years, according to the website www.dmnazareth.org.)
In 2011 she founded Daughters of Mary of Nazareth, which now has three novices, four postulants and nine candidates, all Americans age 22-32, she said.