When Pope Francis called on Catholic parishes and religious houses throughout Europe to provide temporary homes for refugees, (see here), we had already decided that our circumstances would make that difficult. Our community is small, rural, and I have an illness that makes me vulnerable to infection. We had decided, therefore, that we would give the equivalent of one month’s living expenses to an appropriate charity to provide relief to a refugee family. That may sound small, even a bit of a cop-out, but it will be something, and, importantly, it will not be easy for us to achieve. We won’t be giving from a comfortable excess. I mention it only because a number of people have asked what they can do and are anxious that they may not be doing enough. Like us, they are not really able to open their homes to others or give vast sums, but how do they decide what to give? The cheque sent to CAFOD or OXFAM or wherever can seem an abstraction, a more-or-less arbitrary figure calculated according to some strange arithmetic of our own and bearing little relationship to our daily lives. Here, by contrast, is something concrete, something that will cost. You may think it a good idea, or you may not. It is, at least, a suggestion.
Our giving will be only a droplet in the ocean of need but it will be accompanied by prayer; and prayer is the most powerful thing we can contribute. Prayer opens hearts (and borders, and wallets), ends animosities and brings about peace and reconciliation. When people talk about ‘solving the refugee crisis’ they often overlook an important point. The true solution is not opening our borders, giving temporary accommodation or granting asylum. It is solving the complex web of hatreds and opposing ideologies that caused the crisis in the first place. No one imagines that will take place any time soon, but unless we pray, and pray perseveringly, the process will never begin. Even if we are unable to give anything at all in material terms, let us be generous in giving prayer.