So, a couple of things. First, it’s rapidly becoming clear that New Orleans is a hot zone for the COVID-19 outbreak. While these are strange times all over, it feels extra strange and scary here. It doesn’t take a great leap of logic to assume that this contagion was silently spreading among us as the city celebrated Mardi Gras, just three weeks ago.
Second, I continue to read Tolstoy’s War and Peace. (Why wouldn’t I continue, now that isolation is the order of the day/week/month?) I’m at the spot in the story where Napoleon’s march on Moscow is imminent. This quote struck me in a particular way as I read it:
“As the enemy closed in on Moscow the attitude of the inhabitants to their situation, far from becoming all serious-minded, actually became more frivolous, as always happens with people who can see a terrible danger bearing down on them.”
Now, New Orleans is not Moscow, nor is this viral pandemic Napoleon. But New Orleans is no stranger to either war or epidemic. We had our own war in 1812, the same year Napoleon invaded Russia; and yellow fever was a major scourge to New Orleans for most of the 19th century.
Which brings me to the title of this post. It’s from a prayer, specific to the Archdiocese of New Orleans. I’m pretty fond of this prayer. While I don’t know all the details of its provenance, I assume it was crafted with the intention of stemming the tide of gun violence in our city. Now feels like a good time to share it.
A few notes, regarding some very New-Orleans-Catholic references: Our Lady of Prompt Succor is the Virgin Mary, a long-time patroness for the city. (Prompt succor means “quick aid.”) Mother Henriette DeLille was a woman of color who founded the Sisters of the Holy Family holy order in the 19th century.
Here’s the prayer. May you read it with the faith that we will get to the other side of all these scourges.
“Loving and faithful God, through the years the people of our archdiocese have appreciated the prayers and love of Our Lady of Prompt Succor in times of war, disaster, epidemic and illness. We come to you, Father, with Mary our Mother, and ask you to help us in the battle of today against violence, murder and racism.
We implore you to give us your wisdom that we may build a community founded on the values of Jesus, which gives respect to the life and dignity of all people.
Bless parents that they may form their children in faith. Bless and protect our youth that they may be peacemakers of our time. Give consolation to those who have lost loved ones through violence.
Hear our prayer and give us the perseverance to be a voice for life and human dignity in our community.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Our Lady of Prompt Succor, hasten to help us. Mother Henriette DeLille, pray for us that we may be a holy family.”