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A situation that can be changed only by prayer and fasting

Never before in my almost 100 years have I seen such tensions, such near and real hatreds, such unChristian and unAmerican incivilities.

A man in Florissant, Mo., holds a flag in front of police officers during a protest against police brutality June 27, 2020. (CNS photo/Lawrence Bryant, Reuters)

Like many of my fellow Americans, I have been stunned, shocked, perplexed, alarmed and angered by recent public demonstrations. What is happening to our law-abiding, peaceful country? Never before in my almost 100 years have I seen such tensions, such near and real hatreds, such unChristian and unAmerican incivilities.  There is little or no dialogue—just rage, shouting, property destruction, injury, lies, theft and looting. The intimidation is reminiscent of the Gestapo or the Brown Shirts of Hitler’s Germany.

A bad apple cop caused the unnecessary and brutal death of a black man, George Floyd, who had been caught in a petty, low-level offense.  It ignited legitimate protest, but also unleashed blatant criminality and a huge torrent of real hatred for this country and its law-abiding citizens. Peaceful and legitimate protests were hijacked by seditionists and thugs. Even people who seemed balanced and reasoned got swept up by the anarchists and some became raging, violent protesters, tossing fire bombs and destroying private and public property.

It is not a one-sided problem. People are blameworthy from all directions. Putting all the blame on a rogue cop is simplistic. The principle of Causality is always operating.  An effect is in response to a cause. Why are all these things happening in this way at this point in time?  Why?  Will someone explain to me the link between bias and stealing a Rolex from a Fifth Avenue store? I want justice for the murdered man but I also demand protection from  violent looters who have no respect for the rights of others.  Attacking innocent people never solved social problems.

Is this a demonic force?  How does one explain the loss of reason and the total embrace of  violence and disruption?  There is near 100% agreement that the cop is a bad dude and that there is real room for stricter guidelines for law enforcement.  Effective law enforcement doesn’t need brutality or murder to keep the peace. 90% of police (at a basic minimum) know and practice such a common sense attitude.

I know whereof what I speak. I was a Police chaplain for over 20 years (NYPD) and found the law enforcement officers generally to be decent, hard-working men, anxious to do the right thing as they faced serious life-threatening situations every day.  Most of them were God-fearing family men.  Most adhere to the strict regulations of their own calling.

I am also a priest. Most priests are sincere men but we have bad apples.  We do not throw all priests under the bus because of some disgusting Cardinal or priest.  That is neither reasonable nor fair.  We must fix the problem, not kill the entity.  Similarly, we don’t engage in unbelievably dumb rhetoric, screaming for the abolition of police departments, like Chirlane McCray, the wife of a NYC’s Mayor De Blasio, who said that life without police “would be like a nirvana, a utopia that we are nowhere close to getting to.”  This must rank very high on any historic list of stupidities.  She must know little of human nature.  I learned in  the first grade about a reality called Original Sin—a given for any real insight how human beings function.

But our country, our beloved country; the country where we laughed together no matter one’s  background, where we relaxed enjoyed hot dogs and Baseball, where we gathered around campfires and sang “I’ve been workin’ on the railroad”, where I could worship without interference from government, where I could say whatever I liked without fear of retribution or of a wild eyed bigot screaming at me should I say the “wrong thing”, where everyone had a shot at life as black Americans became President, Secretaries of State, advisors to Presidents, members of Congress, millionaire movie stars, millionaire sports figures, prominent religious leaders.  We are all guaranteed opportunity, not outcome. Outcome usually depends on personal initiative, sacrifice, and character.   Ask Ben Carson or Clarence Thomas or Candace Owen!  The real American spirit asks not for handouts but only a fair shot at a happy life.

Yet in some sections of our country there was (and still is) definite bias against black people. That is unconscionable and wrong.  But it is also incorrect to call this ‘systemic racism.’  I lived under systemic racism for seven years in South Africa, where Apartheid made American bigotry look like Sodality Boys Clubs.  Honest Americans are ashamed and would like to redress this evil—and certainly most try.  How to do it is the question. No solution is ever really possible unless one sees the problem through the other’s eyes.  Don’t criticize someone until you have walked in his shoes. Could that ever be possible?

The underlying factor is the history of slavery, the national shame which decent people have tried to redress with considerable success.  No one has any right to own another person, as that person is made in God’s image and is God’s child.  This is a sacrilege which calls to heaven for vengeance!

Is the scar of slavery so deep that it can never be healed? Is there an element in the deep recesses that refuses to be healed?  Is there some kind of self destruction that leads people to a feeling of victimization, no matter how well they do in life?  Analogously, in my Jewish soul is there some element that whispers to me that the centuries of discrimination and humiliation have marked me with a self-doubting DNA, in spite of my achievements and successes? I know that had I lived in Germany in my youth, I would most likely not be alive today. That was systemic racism. I understand that it would be difficult to dialogue with Nazis!  The difference today is that in the United States, 99.9% of Americans are horrified at the murder of George Floyd, want justice for him, and want bad police removed.  We are all on the same page!

Murder is never right. Nor is brutality. Looting and mayhem are never right. It is never right to redress a wrong by doing “the wrong thing”.

I was raised in the tenements of the West Side.  Seven people crowded into a railway flat with one bathroom. No car.  Vacation was a day trip to Coney Island with the 5 cent subway fare and homemade sandwiches. The parish school was free, sponsored by the Paulist Fathers; high school tuition also paid by the priests, at $10 per month. College was CCNY and later a scholarship to St Francis in Brooklyn. I was a Duns Scotus Scholar.  My father went gray overnight in the Depression. We ate sufficiently but sparsely and survived.

We “made do.” We wore clothes until they fell apart.  We laughed.  We loved. We prayed.  My sister became a college professor.  I received a PhD from NYU. My maiden aunt earned a PhD from Columbia.  We all made it and never felt victimized.  It was never easy but obviously doable. There was no social security or supplemental funding.  Those were challenging times.

Being half Jewish and half Irish, I endured sneers and innuendos of being a “ Jew  b- – – d”,  an “Irish pig”, and ignorant and low class. I too was hurt and embarrassed by many in my formative years. Yet by God’s grace and with gratitude for opportunity, we kept healthy goals and got out of our ghetto.  Almost anyone can if they are willing to pay the price of hard work and sacrifice. Clearly having a supportive and encouraging mother and father helps tremendously, but that is for another essay . The “poor me” cry is a cop-out and ultimately self sabotage. At the very least we can all make our tough situations a little bit better.

Now, I am almost 100 years old and am near nauseated when I see so many young people  crying victimization as they carry their cell phones and wear expensive sneakers and drive expensive cars and plan their winter break in warm climates. The opportunities (even with college debts) are enormous today for anyone who is willing to shake a leg and work. Is it that people don’t even see their possibilities?  Or is it that people want not just a good living but rather the fantasy life of Hollywood and the media? On the proverbial platter? Is it revenge that is the goal and not justice?  Isn’t life a series of balances between having and not having?

Perhaps looters, crummy cops, and hired protestors could benefit from a serious conversation with God wherein one might ask for the grace to see the beauty of what one has without any bitterness relating to what one does not have. And for the grace to attain the basic America dream because, granting limitations, there are many wide open chances for a happy life, pursuing happiness and personal destiny.

It begins to look as if all the “sit-downs” and dialogues and ranting sessions will never really do the job of healing.  I suspect both sides need a spiritual approach to help see God in his fellow man.  We all need the help of God, not smooth-talking ambitious politicians.  It is, as the Lord said, a situation that can be changed only by prayer and fasting.

(Editor’s note: This essay originally appeared in a slightly different form on Fr. Lloyd’s Facebook page on June 27, 2020.)

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About Fr. James Lloyd, CSP 1 Article
Fr. James Lloyd, CSP, was born in 1921, and was ordained a priest in 1948. He has a doctorate in psychology and has been the chaplain for the Courage apostolate for over 25 years.


  1. “It is, as the Lord said, a situation that can be changed only by prayer and fasting.” Yes, but also maybe more real listening combined with dumb luck. . .

    In the early 1970s I enrolled in an elective graduate course taught by sociologist Pierre van den Berghe (1933-2019) whose field research on ethnic tensions found him in Mexico, Guatemala, Iran, Lebanon, Nigeria, Peru, and Israel—and especially, for two years (1960-61), as a researcher/interviewer—therefore distrusted on all sides—into the “”bandustans” (so-called “tribal homelands”) set aside for separated Blacks in then Apartheid South Africa (ended in 1991).

    The opening day of class in 1973 he remarked that colored people often score poorly on IQ tests. . . and on the second day only whites remained in the diminished class.

    With chalk in hand, Van den Berghe had been turned to the board when he made this brief comment, and he failed to notice the reaction/misunderstanding on day one. On the second day he continued, matter-of-factly, that the disadvantage was not in the coloredness but in academic inequality, e.g, from his experience as a lecturer in Natal, and often the cultural slant of the test itself.

    Ships passing in the night. With some better luck—on both sides—there could have been some really good “dialogue” over the next several weeks. Van den Berghe, like his missing students and so many of every color, was anything but a racist.

  2. “Is the scar of slavery so deep that it cannot be healed?”

    NO – it CAN be healed but there are many among us who benefit from keeping it open and bleeding. THEY know who they are, and gradually they are exposing themselves by over-playing their hands, one by one.

    This problem can be solved, but only through prayer and silence. Those who continue to benefit from the bleeding will oppose any silence at all, because they know instinctively that silence is their enemy.

  3. ‘Prayer and fasting ..’ ; thank you and Amen , for the sharing , like sitting around on the deck , listening to a good wise sharing the fmly history ; the 1st comment above , by Mr. Peter Beulieu also adding to the depth of same .
    The roots of racial divides from the desire to protect the mating appeal – innate in our fallen nature with its tendency to fall for the enemy lies and ways , instead of trust in God and His goodness .
    Christianity alone has the medicine , prepared through the truths in Judaism , of the grace as holiness given us all in The Lord alone as being our deepest desire and destiny .
    St Maria Goretti , whose Feast Day is today knew that, even in her tender age –
    her attacker , said to have come under influence of bad books .
    The Nazi system too , said to have come under influences of new age and carnal lies ..
    the chaos in our midst , indirectly related , by claiming as fathers those who have catered to same spirits –

    True , many in such systems too would have benefitted from the prevailing Spirit of Christianity , since we as the Priesthood in The Lord are to stand for all invoking His Blood and Water , its graces for deliverance from the generational spirits that deny the truth of The Incarnation and all that come with same .
    Thus ,the light of truth of our innate dignity given as holiness in The Lord , to pierce through the thick walls of such lies and spirits and wounds , that are there in the heads and hearts and the body .
    Those students listening to the words that could have added to their wounds , if instead had come prepared , invoking The Mother of all that she touch all the hearts around them too , could have stayed , in the same strength of The Spirit that had prepared her to be with The Son , in The Passion ..
    that helped the people of Rwanda to heal , invoking her as The Mother of Sorrows , to bring every wound unto her , seeing the oneness in all our wounds , to be lifted up , along with the good prayers of the Head – of our good Holy Father too ..

    St.Maria Goretti , pray for us all , against every lie and evil through the media too , to instead have a taste for the sweetness and holiness in The Lord .

    Blessings !

  4. Bravo, Father Lloyd!! That was a beautiful testament. We have all been given crosses to bear…never more than we can handle, with God’s help, of course. It is with great sadness we witness these young people who are like lost sheep, thinking and doing the things they are doing. May Jesus send his bountiful mercy upon them.

  5. Thank you for this voice of reason amidst all the chaos. We need more of this to stem the tide of irrationality that, like a demon, seeks above all else wanton destruction at any cost. Reasonable people can no longer wait in silence for the storm to pass.

  6. Fr. Lloyd thank you for the article – Prayer CAN save this county from a repeat of history. This whole current affair reminds me of what I read from Julian Marias in commenting on the life of St. Augustine; That the problem with youth of every generation is: Being and Boredom.

  7. Thank you Fr. Lloyd. I only hope that many lay Catholics and clergy will speak out like you have. May God richly bless you and Our Lady keep you in her prayers. May the Holy Spirit guide us all in these turbulent times.

  8. What a clear and lucid assessment of our present crisis! Fr. James Lloyd you were ordained the same year I was born (1948). Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us and may our dear Lord Bless and keep you.

  9. This is spiritual warfare played out in the streets of our society like the Devil’s favorite game of hate and divide. It is indeed demonic.

  10. Thank you Father Lloyd, and all fatherly priests of Our Lord.

    Father Lloyd’s title indicated the spiritual war being waged: this is 1st a spiritual war against the demonic, and also a physical confrontation that must be fought and defeated.

    Just a note about the fraudulent and violent money-grabbers of the self-titled “Black Lives Matter.” They are well-heeled financial predators who stoke violence to get rich, like the fraud Shaun King, now “barricaded” inside Harvard Yard, having moved from one luxury home (his former 4000 Sq Foot mansion in Marietta, GA) after he curiously failed to build the Church he promised his donors, despite successfully landing the luxury pad near Atlanta. His former colleague DeRay McKesson is exposing this money-grubbing thug for what he is, in this most recent expose:

    Shaun King, in between shaking down Bank of America for ONE BILLION DOLLARS, has “cancelled” real reformers like McKesson and others, when they dared ask King about where the money was going.

  11. Taking it further…I must restore fastingtwice weekly…against the evil without…and the evil that lurks within…and find the mind and heart of Jesus and His justice…and be a citizen worthy of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas…and Martin Luther King Jr.

  12. Thank you…..for the fasting reminder. I now know I must fast on Bread and water on Wednesdays and Fridays…funny thing….I had just made my fasting bread 2 weeks ago….not knowing I really am obligated to fast now…it’s the only thing left….prayer AND fasting He asks of us…..

  13. I believe that the recent madness was caused to some extent by the widespread use of cellphones. Scientific studies in developed countries have shown that IQ’s have been declining in the developed world, and especially in Europe. My longtime doctor, who passed away in 2018, was an internationally renowned authority on environmental medicine who attracted patients from all over the world to his clinic. He once remarked to me that the use of cellphones leads to lower IQ’s. One thing that Americans can do to improve themselves is throw away their cellphones.

  14. When I was in High School we studdied Karl Marx, the founder of Communism. His directions were that the way we win is to create struggles and wars between different classes and levels of people. That is what is going on in the states at this time. In Fatima, Akita and Medjugorje the Blessed Mother stated that only through prayer and fasting can we expect to solve world problems

  15. When I was in High School we studdied Karl Marx, the founder of Communism. His directions were that the way we win is to create struggles and wars between different classes and levels of people. That is what is going on in the states at this time.

  16. You are mistaken if you think the death of George Floyd is the reason for all this mayhem.His death was really just the perfect excuse for the socialists and radical left to create havocin order to sway the elections.It is also right out of the satanic communist playbook on how to destroy a nation from within.Why do you think everything that stands for our nation and founding fathers is under attack?they seek to demoralize and destroy our heritage.The media is also guilty and in on the plot.Our universities,schools,entertainment,and news outlets are saturated with atheist commies.He who controls the minds controls the future.The use of labeling people racist and firing them from their jobs for not accepting the madness going on is what prevents good people from standing up for truth.We are at a dangerous crossroad where a line will be crossed and they’ll be no turning back.He who would trade their freedom in order to be safe deserve neither.

    • Well said, John. It is unbelievable the size of the atheistic left in our country. But then there are the ultra rightists. A friend of mine in Minneapolis, of moderate beliefs, said that there were plenty of ultra right behind the scenes, urging on the destruction. Kind of like smart Timothy McVeigh types but very careful to not confront the police like the Antifa. I did not research any of this but passing on what he said. He said over 1500 buildings were destroyed or damaged in Minneapolis area. The common ground as you said would be atheism. We also need to evolve as a people to not overreact to images. If Garabandal really happened, I am haunted by what Conchita Gonzalez said in an interview in 1965 that all that was prophesied would happen when communism returned.

    • Seems that you are a dedicated fox news junkie. Try prayer and fasting instead of mumbling many words thinking your salvation will come from that.

  17. We live in the age of the useful idiots – millions of them, and the supply seems endless. And might I comment on what the press somehow seems to have missed – the connection between the recent protests which turned to riots and the entirely predictable increase in Covid-19 cases.

  18. People want to feel as if they are doing something important and that they are alive. When one is an atheist, the worship of God and any relationship with God is absent. One is bound to feel empty and excited by causes and attracted to revolutions and violent action. Marx infamously said that religion was the opiate of the people. But causes that ignore God’s will, embrace revolutions, and violent action and heightened emotionalism can also be very addictive and of course very destructive. We who worship God and try to go to daily Mass and adoration are anything but addicted. If everyone was at least church going Christians or temple going Jews in this country, none of this would have happened. Derek Chauvin would not be on the police force, black people could trust law enforcement to do their job in this case, local and state governments would have reformed the police, and Christian black leadership would have pressed African Americans to call out their brethren to stop being part of the problem. You may say this is naïve but the ripple effect of Christian devotion and worship, especially Catholic devotion and worship would be remarkable. One would sense the presence of a loving God and the attraction of revolution and violent action to solve problems and make an empty life meaningful would not be there. God raised up Gandhi and Dr. King in the previous century to show us the way but too many are seduced by the violent alternatives and with increasing atheism, feel no guilt in wanton destruction. But unfortunately, the prolonged promulgation of atheism has led to increasing nihilism and we know who else comes in to fill the gap. The so called “brights” as Christopher Hitchens like to refer to enlightened atheists have exercised no leadership in this crisis though reason alone should have presented much more attractive solutions than what has happened. As Curtis Martin said in a talk I attended, there are significant numbers of people who are spiritually very dark in this country and the response to the death of George Floyd has reminded us of their presence and goals.

  19. “Is this a demonic force?”
    Well, yes, this is , let’s just remember St Paul ” …we dont fight against bone and flesh, but against principalities, evil spirits…” It is corroborated by using a simple political analysis , let’s just answer the following question: who, what group, benefited the most during the last government to the point that the highest legal authority of state redefined institutions that were even created before a state in the world existed and created a legal system? Do they realized that nature of things do not change by law? Of course they do, that is why they are not interested in discussing who is right, they just cancel you out, and that is why they form alliances with BLM, anarchists, communists , etc, … and they seek to be seen as the good ones, justice fighters , and the ones who oppose them the bad ones, …and so they can capture the minds , support of average people, and create an socio psycho, political environment where they can defend their achievements gained during the last government and even obtain further achievements, and cancel out whoever opposes….the Father is wise when he says ”
    The intimidation is reminiscent of the Gestapo or the Brown Shirts of Hitler’s Germany”…that is the same evil spirit that St Paul talks about ……………….”the one with ears to listen, listen…”

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