The entire chapter in Lamentations 2 grips me; however, this verse laid siege to my heart:

In vain they ask their mothers,

“Where is the grain?”

As they faint away like the wounded

in the streets of the city,

And breathe their last

in their mothers’ arms.

Children dying in their mothers’ arms while we live in comfort. This happens thousands of times every day. If it is not drought and a lack of food, it is contaminated water that takes a toll. As I lament I am plagued by the picture a photographer took several years ago—a squatting, emaciated starving-to-death child being watched by a vulture. The photographer Carter “eventually won the Pulitzer Prize for this photo, but he couldn’t enjoy it. ‘I’m really, really sorry I didn’t pick the child up,’ he confided in a friend. Consumed with the violence he’d witnessed, and haunted by the questions as to the little girl’s fate, he committed suicide three months later.” (

Lamentation, like praise, has a place in our prayers. Lamentation can be a powerful tool as we just sit with tragedy and loss. Several years ago, Richard Rohr had a conference where we were invited to don sackcloth stoles and choose a place and position for lamentation. Lamentation is about sorrow,

Weeping and grieving. Faced with war and rumors of war, greedy banksters, the demise of the economy, starvation, poverty, environmental destruction, the decline of the middle class, political acrimony and the like we have plenty to grieve.

John Jacob Niles, famous Kentucky composer, and Thomas Merton, famous Kentucky monk, came together in what is known as the Niles-Merton Songs—Merton lamentation poems put to music. Kathleen Deignan describes Merton’s lament for the destruction of the environment (

Maybe we can use the famous photograph to grieve our way into action, gratitude and, eventually, blessing for all.

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