What 'Thoughts And Prayers' Really Mean, As Told By A Catholic
Politics and Activism

Your Prayers Aren’t Magic And Your Faith Won’t Save You, Sincerely, A Born-And-Raised Mexican Catholic

"Do you want proof, ignoramus, that faith without works is useless?" (James 2:20)

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The horrific events of this past weekend were devastating. As a daughter of two immigrants, the shooting in El Paso, Texas, is my worst fear come to life. But I cannot speak on it. I am tired of having to defend myself again and again from people who believe Hispanics like my family do not belong in this country. I will fight as long as I have to for mine and my family's right to belong, but not against twisted and murderous minds which there is no changing. I will not dignify any one of those persons with a personal address. So this is not a response, nor a cry for help, and especially not a promise of "thoughts and prayers."

Thoughts and prayers. This phrase is thrown out and slapped over events like these, like a bandage over a deep wound, essentially, useless. Lawmakers and politicians believe that expressing their so-called faith and sympathy will magically correct the wrongs being constantly committed in America. Some have even gone so far as to blame these shootings on a lack of thoughts and prayers. The former governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, claims that only thoughts and prayers will help the situation.

Spoiler: they won't.

Hear me out. As a young woman raised in a devoutly Mexican-based Catholic household, I'd like to think I have at least a basic grasp on the beliefs and teachings of the Catholic Church. So let me tell you that our Church does not revolve around thoughts and prayers alone.

Prayer isn't magic. You don't cast a spell or summon a solution by sending a tweet. Prayer is a private conversation between yourself and God. It is not a list of complaints you may have, nor a wishlist. That's another thing I think everyone gets confused on. God isn't Santa Claus or a genie. He won't grant a request because we ask. Humanity was given free will and the ability to act for ourselves. So prayer alone won't get anything done. The conversation with God isn't supposed to fix any problems, but it's meant to help you understand you have the ability to fix things and to give you the courage to do so.

But sometimes, it seems like faith is all we have. Faith in God, in ourselves, in those who swore to protect us. And when we get let down, it's easy to get discouraged. But that doesn't mean that faith or God is to blame. Instead, we must realize that we are missing the second part of the equation. "So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead" (James 2:17). There is no point in tweeting "thoughts and prayers" or changing your profile picture to blue or black or any other color if you are not going to act.

It might seem near impossible to act as an individual but as a lawmaker? Not to overwhelm you with Bible verses, but my boy Ezra is literally telling you to: "Rise, then, for this is your duty!" (Ezra 10:4). Just open the Bible, and you'll find chapters upon chapters of the importance of lawmakers' duties. So if Congress and government officials truly claim to be religious, they should know that if they have the power to make the right choice, it is their duty to do so.

A relative of Jesus Christ even says that those who have the ability to do the right thing but don't are sinners (James 4:17). If Jesus' relative is saying people like our American lawmakers are sinners, maybe those Christian lawmakers should change their actions. More specifically, they should change their inaction to action and work for policy changes that keep Americans safe.

This is not a response to the shootings of this weekend. This is not a cry for help. This is a call to action, a direct address to the lawmakers of this country. Band-Aids aren't going to help anymore. Tweets and condolences are no longer enough. As James says, "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?" (James 2:14).

I apologize if it's hard to hear, but faith alone can't save you. Faith and action, however, just might. So please, act.

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