In Times of Crisis

by Catherine Doherty

The following is a letter to the members of Madonna House written at another time of crisis—the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1963. Though the times and situation then were obviously very different, Catherine’s words, which came out of the depths of her prayer and her experiences during the Russian Revolution, speak to any time of crisis.


There was no denying that, after the speech of the President, the world was breathless, awaiting the answer of Russia to the challenge.

It was a suspended moment when the world, especially Americans, had to face the possibility of a nuclear war with Cuba’s missiles descending in a fiery death upon Washington, New York, and other cities. It was a breathless, fearsome, and tragic moment.

But we must be prepared for these moments. To us they mean all that they mean to any other human being. It will be normal for us to have an ordinary fear. This is a legitimate, not an illusory fear.

However, we belong to him who is perfect love. Perfect love casts out all fears and makes human fears of destruction and death bearable with his graces.

So for us, the first step in such emergencies is to come together in prayer… prayer for peace, prayer that the dark clouds pass, prayer for people to keep their sanity, and remember that God is with us.

After the collective prayer at Mass we should be praying individually all day for the same thing, beseeching and calling upon the mercy of God and his intervention in these affairs.

Those of us who are far removed from the scene of the conflict must then go about our business, which is the business of God, as we normally do in the days of peace.

The greatest contribution that we can make is to go about the duty of the moment and offer it up for the same intentions as our prayers.

At no time can we, the apostles of the Lord, show panic in the face of destruction and death, for many will rely upon us.

We should not have any fear of death since we have faith. Nevertheless, we must take every precaution to prolong our lives, and, of course, the lives of others.

We prolong our lives, not for ourselves alone, but so that we may serve others should an emergency arise. At all times our thoughts must be of peace and love, and for others, not for ourselves.

We must also be prepared for those emergencies. It would be well to update our First Aid courses, so that we might be of better assistance to our neighbour.

Let us also be men and women of peace, bringing God’s peace into the troubled and frightened hearts of others.

During the Cuban Crisis a friend of ours was called by a panic-stricken friend. She asked her if she was going to stop a certain project because of the crisis. “Surely,” the woman said, “you are not going to continue, with nuclear war hanging over our heads!”

Our friend very calmly said “Of course we will!” and began to talk peacefully and quietly to the panic-stricken woman and calm her. So thus she was able to stop panic and fear in the heart of the mother of a family. We must do likewise.

Let us truly remember that these are moments when we should bring peace to those who are so emotionally fearful that they can’t think straight.

Let us never spread rumours about the crisis. Let us be truthful, but let us never exaggerate. Let us never pass on unconfirmed reports, but discuss only official information.

Let our voices always be calm and quiet, our steps unhurried, the routine of the day, whenever possible, unchanged. Let our houses be refuges of peace and calm.

Let us stand ready to be of any assistance to our governments in the way of directing, helping with the organization of feeding or First Aid stations, and whatever else we are capable of doing to help.

Whatever we do in public or in private, let us be efficient, peaceful, and quiet. Let us be, at these critical times, men and women of constant prayer. Let us be ready to serve God and our neighbour without counting the cost.

If possible during these emergencies let us keep in touch with each other. If it is not possible, let us commend each other to God in complete peace, faith, confidence, and hope because of his love for us and our love for him, who is Lord of life and death.

—From Dearly Beloved Vol. 1 (a collection of letters to the Madonna House staff from our foundress), pp. 307 – 308, April 4, 1963