A Prayer in April
Everyone is but a breath. (Psalm 39:5)
if I had never read of our time in Eden,
of your breath in our lungs,
of our in-spir-ation into paradise,
I would have assumed
that the world had been born into burning.
We seem blissfully unaware
like frogs in a pot
(as the old adage goes)
that we are in danger
unless we catch a glimpse of
flames licking the sides of our steel vessel,
or devouring the spire
of the Notre Dame,
or consuming the sanctuaries of
Mount Pleasant, St. Mary & Greater Union.
Our friend Solomon reminds us that
all things are wearisome-
but nothing is as tiring as
or putting out fires,
while we sing mournful songs to you
like Ave Maria
and We Shall Overcome.
“Destroy this temple and in 3 days I’ll raise it up,”
the Christ said,
but little did anyone know
which temple he meant-
until he returned.
he had breathed on his disciples,
the Spirit filling their lungs,
his open wounds now proving
that anything is possible.
Is it true, God,
that the breath he left us
is the same breath that helps me
preach a sermon,
or blow out candles
to celebrate another year of life?
Is it the same breath I hold
when I pause to hear the death toll
of yet another shooting-
this time at
or New Zealand’s Al Noor Mosque?
Is it the same breath
I inhale and exhale in tandem
with my son wrapped
around my chest in quietness and trust?
Is it the same breath that escapes
in a sharp gasp when news reports
flood the media,
saying that more lives had been taken,
this time at UNC Charlotte?
what should I do?
For I am not Ezekiel
who could prophesy breath
into the slain and let them live.
In all my years,
I only know how to
blow on the tender, pink scrape
on Joseph’s knee
after he falls chasing bubbles
in the wind.
I can only whisper
in small quiet breaths
the truth of your love
to a friend who has nothing left.
I can only squeeze the hand
of the patient whose lungs
inflate and deflate
with the rhythmic timing of
On my best days,
I can run on adrenaline and coffee,
air pumping through my lungs,
while I sprint down hospital corridors
from trauma to trauma.
On my worst days it feels like
all I can do is inhale and exhale
and be grateful that my participation
in the process requires nothing from me.
I used to pray that you would stop all this.
I used to beg that you would change the minds
of rich people and politicians,
so they would spend their money
not on shattered rose windows,
but for clean water in Flint,
for help in Puerto Rico,
for literally anything else,
but another damn building.
I used to pray that you would change
the hardened hearts,
who delight in the extermination of
your people simply because
of the color you made them.
I used to pray that I would be more educated,
more influential, more powerful,
(and yes, even more religious)
just so I could fix anything at all.
My anger starts to catch like a spark,
but it’s extinguished quickly
with an intentional warm breeze
on a not-so-warm day
and I can swear I
hear you say
I close my eyes,
And place two fingers
to the crook of my wrist.
A sea green vein protrudes
like a river on a map
to let me know where to touch
and I inhale.
with each perfect beat
might as well be yours,
and then I realize that it is-
and so it is
with every person
who might stop to listen
in the midst of their grief and confusion.
And I realize that all passes away
and returns to you-
that for every fire that is kindled
something new grows
beneath the rubble.
Your truth comes not as a platitude,
but as a fortitude,
to breathe and move when I am ready,
not just to rebuild buildings,
not just to extinguish fires,
but to plant new life.
And just as soon as the words leave my mouth
to ask you for another thing,
you breathed in me,
just as your Son breathed so long ago
“I am sending you.”
Janine Carambot Santoro is an Associate Chaplain at St. Luke’s University Hospital and a Library Technician at Bethlehem Area Public Library, in Bethlehem, PA. Janine received her B.A. in English and Psychology from Rutgers University (NJ) and her M.Div from Drew Theological School (NJ). Her recent research interests include public theology, Christian ethics, and pedagogies of healing. She currently enjoys reading, writing, traveling, and creating curriculum and workshops for sacred, (w)holistic work to be done in secular places.