Several hours after learning of the Haiti earthquake, I called my friend and former coworker, photojournalist  Karen Callaway, who is the photo editor at the Catholic New World, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago. She was in a somber mood. “There’s always a place in my heart for Haiti,” she said.
In the early ‘90s, Karen went to Haiti and photographed the people and conditions in which they lived. The images, shot and published in black and white, were haunting, and so powerful one could almost smell the sewage that flowed in the streets, the infection oozing from children’s open sores.
I recalled the frustration she felt in wanting to “do something” to help the people she had met, but not knowing what to do and if what she would do would even be enough. She continued to show and tell the story of what she had witnessed, supported organizations that brought relief to Haiti, and always kept that place in her heart for those she had met. Many have described the desolation and destruction that engulfs Haiti, but it is Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services, who provides us with an image that speaks to our faith. The archbishop noted that after he learned of the earthquake, he went to St. Peter’s Basilica where he prayed before the Pieta.
“Haiti is the broken, bloody body of Jesus in the arms of his mother,” Archbishop Dolan said of why he chose to pray there.
If you have ever studied the Pieta you understand the archbishop’s thinking. Haiti is about Christ’s brokenness and bloodiness. Even before the earthquake, Haiti was broken and bloody. Now, there are more breaks and more blood flowing. One is reminded of the adage that God doesn’t give us any more than we can handle. If that is true, there is no group of people handling more than the Haitians.   
Reading the accounts of Tuesday’s earthquake and looking at dozens of photos that have been posted from Haiti since then, the only words I could use in reply were in the form of a prayer: “God, please help them.” I have no doubt God is helping – through us. The donations that have been made and which will be made this weekend are certainly part of what God will do through us.
But the value of prayer cannot be overlooked. As Archbishop Dolan put it, “It is impossible to exaggerate the high power of prayer.” Prayer forces us to focus on what we see and hear from Haiti. It is more than a mumbled “Lord, hear our prayer” to a petition in the Prayer of the Faithful. It is more than waiting for the next big news story to occupy our minds. It is connecting with the broken and the bloodied; it is making them part of our lives, being cognizant that once their story no longer garners headlines it is still our story.
Our financial contributions are a short-term response; our prayers are a long-term commitment. And always, as Karen Callaway noted, a place in our hearts.