In the wake of the tragic events in Charlottesville, Va. - in response to the anger, violence and loss of life - many communities across the country are leading prayer vigils.
I think that is a grand idea.
I’m no theologian or philosopher, but at the age of 55, one thing has become evident. There is good in this world and there is evil - there is love and there is hate - and with every decision we make every moment of every day, we are moving toward one and away from the other.
Greek philosophers had names for what is good. They believed that prudence, temperance, courage and justice were virtues that all people longed for and should strive to master. By mastering these virtues, we are better able to do good works.
And while we’re striving for good, we need to fight the bad: excessive pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth. These are known as the Seven Deadly Sins.
To be sure, this world is a battleground between good and evil, love and hate. That battle rages in every human heart. We saw hatefulness and violence rear its ugly head in Charlottesville, and we must denounce it forcefully.
And we must also pray.
Prayer, according to Dictionary.com, is a “petition or entreaty.” It is a conscious attempt to embrace good and root out evil by asking God to give us the grace to do so.
To me, prayer is like tuning a radio. It is a deliberate, conscious effort to hear and understand with greater clarity what good and truth and beauty are, and then, hopefully, align ourselves and our actions with them. Hopefully, with prayer, we become more understanding, forgiving, loving and peaceful.
Some may think the concept of prayer is silly - that reaching out to a higher power to get closer to truth is silly. But you know in your own heart that it makes sense - that we all long to be more virtuous in our deeds.
Would you really enjoy a movie in which the star is a coward who runs off when the pressure gets tough? Would you root for a character motivated by hatred, or for one who risks everything for love? We are always moved by the hero who risks his or her life to achieve a greater good. We always root for the hero who is willing to die because of the power of love and good and right, not hate.
The trouble is, even the most virtuous among us struggle to do good all the time, which is why we must pray.
I’m not very skilled at praying - I certainly struggle to embrace the virtues taught to me by my Catholic faith - but I pray for the grace to become more kind, giving and understanding.
I pray that those in my country whose hearts are filled with anger and hate will be given the grace they need to overcome these emotions.
I pray that our growing polarization and lack of civility in our politics give way to peaceful, constructive discussion and unity, so we may address the many other real challenges we are up against.
Multiple scientific studies confirm that people who pray recover more quickly from health issues than those who do not. Studies show also that people who have others praying on their behalf heal more quickly than those who do not.
Hopefully, the many prayer vigils taking place around the country will give all of us greater grace to become more virtuous - to become more understanding, forgiving, loving and peaceful.
Let us pray.
Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Send comments to Tom at Tom@TomPurcell.com.