Welcome to the Novena for Peace, eighty-one days of prayer for justice, peace, and racial reconciliation in the United States. We will
begin praying on August 20, the Feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and conclude on November 8, the birthday of our patron, Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement. If you plan to join us in whole or in part, please let us know by “liking” our Facebook page.

The Novena for Peace is inspired by the Novena of Novenas for Peace, Justice & Creation, prayed every summer by the Blessed Oscar Romero Catholic Worker Community of Oklahoma City. That community is not responsible for the content here, but please support their works of mercy and justice

What is a novena?
A novena is nine consecutive days of prayer, modeled on the nine days that the disciples of Jesus spent in the Upper Room between Ascension and Pentecost. Our Novena for Peace is actually a novena of novenas: nine cycles of prayer over 81 days.
Who should pray?
Any person of goodwill is invited to pray the novena with us. It was written by Catholics, and therefore strongly reflects the Catholic spiritual tradition. But it may be adapted for use by anyone. A novena isn’t magic, it’s a discipline. Feel free to innovate. Keep what you want. Discard what you don’t. Join us for all 81 days, nine days, or just one day.
How to pray.
It only takes 5 to 10 minutes to pray the novena. Find a quiet place in your home or outdoors. Spend a few minutes in repose. Deep breathing or whispered recitation of the Jesus Prayer can help you slow down and come into the presence of God. At the conclusion, do the same. Take your time. The purpose of a novena is not the mechanical recitation of words, but the experience of genuine communion with the living God.

The Nine Novenas

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August 20-28

Click on the blue bar below to open the prayers for this cycle.

 

August 20-28: For an End to the Injustice of Poverty

General Intentions: For an end to the injustice of poverty. For the conversion of the rich and powerful. For a just and equitable distribution of the world’s goods.

Particular Intentions: For those people known to us who are experiencing poverty, unemployment, and underemployment. For healing of our own attitudes toward the poor and destitute. For those who work tirelessly on behalf of the poor, both in our own communities and around the world.

Introductory Prayers

Lord, open my lips and my mouth will proclaim your praise. Let us pray together in peace ✚ in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Invitatory Psalm (Psalm 67)

O God, be gracious and bless us / and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth / and all nations learn your saving help.

Let the nations be glad and exult / for you rule the world with justice.
With fairness you rule the peoples, / you guide the nations on earth.

The earth has yielded its fruit / for God, our God, has blessed us.
May God still give us his blessing / till the ends of the earth revere him.

Magnificat

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for He has looked with favor on His lowly servant.
From this day all generations shall call me blessed.
The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name.
He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation.
He has shown the strength of His arm, He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of His servant Israel for He has remembered His promise of mercy,
the promise He made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.

Glory Be

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

First Reading: Letter of James 5:1-8

Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance.

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You too must be patient. Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Second Reading: Blessed Frederic Ozanam, Founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul

If we do not know how to love God as the saints loved him, that is something for which we can be blamed. The same is true if our weakness is suggested as a reason for our being excused, since it seems that in order to love we must be able to see, and we see God only through faith, and our faith is so weak! But we see people, the poor, with human sight, we have them in front of us, we can touch their wounds with our hands and make out the marks of the crown of thorns on their foreheads. So, we cannot not believe, and we should fall at their feet and say with the Apostle, “You are my Lord and my God!” You are our masters, and we will be your servants. You are for us the sacred images of that God whom we do not see, and being unable to love Him in any other way, we love him in your people …

The problem which divides people today is not a political problem, it is a social one. It is a matter of knowing which will get the upper hand, the spirit of selfishness or the spirit of sacrifice; whenther society will go for ever increasing enjoyment and profit, or for everyone devoting themselves to the general good, and above all to the defense of the weakest.

Third Reading: Pope Francis, from Evangelii Gaudium, #48, 53-54

We have to state, without mincing words, that there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor. May we never abandon them. Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.

How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality.

Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime, all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.

Reflection

The Church’s “preferential option for the poor” isn’t about God loving this individual person over that one. No, the option for the poor is about providing a counterweight to the inordinate prestige and privilege that our fallen world accords to the wealthy and powerful. It is a call to justice, which in the biblical tradition implies the restoration of balance and equity in the relationships between individuals and among social classes. The option for the poor reminds the wealthy that the goods they possess are not ends in themselves, but means for promoting the common good, including the amelioration of poverty. And since both wealth and poverty are relative terms, the option for the poor is a demand that each of us, whatever our net worth, be of service to those in need.

Structurally, the poor share an intimate identity with Christ that demands our special solicitude, service, and love. It can be hard work. The poor are not always victims of ot
hers; often they are victims of their own undisciplined appetites. The poor, like the rest of us, are not generally noble. Many wouldn’t give you the shirt off their backs, but they might take yours. Still, we are called to love and serve them, not because they are lovable, but because they are our brothers and sisters, and because in their suffering – even self-inflicted – they are Christ. Jesus does not say, “I was legal, and you clothed me,” or “I was sober, and you fed me,” or “I thanked you profusely when you gave me something to drink.”

Our responsibility to the poor is defined not by whether they make us comfortable, whether we see the logic of it, but by their need. After all, “God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5). We were loved unconditionally before we “deserved” it, and we are called to do the same.

Mother of Perpetual Help

Mother of Perpetual Help, refuge of sinners and friend of the poor, today we face so many difficulties. Help us to reach out and help those in need. Help us understand that our lives belong to others as much as they belong to us. Mary, Model of Christian love, we know we cannot heal every ill or solve every problem. But with God’s grace, we intend to do what we can. May we be true witnesses to the world that love for one another really matters. May our daily actions proclaim how fully our lives are modeled after yours, Mother of Perpetual Help.

Closing Prayer

Lord Jesus, you came to announce Good News to the poor. You promised a place in your Kingdom to those who serve you through the hungry, the thirsty, the imprisoned, and the naked. Give us the vision to see destitution in our nation and in our world. Give us the courage to demand economic justice, the strength to reform institutions and change laws, the humility to serve the poor with our own hands, and the hope that one day the water of your justice will gush forth into the wilderness of poverty like streams in the desert. 

✚ May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to eternal life. Amen.

Work of Mercy

“If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James, 2:16-17

In reparation for the injustice of poverty, perform one of these corporal works of mercy: volunteer to serve meals at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen; bring a bag of groceries to a food pantry; collect the unused clothing in your home and donate it to a clothing closet; offer your home as emergency shelter for a homeless family.

Models

saints_dayDorothy Day was an early advocate for women’s rights who wrote for radical leftist newspapers in the early years of the 20th Century. She was a bohemian, a friend and drinking companion of artists and writers like Eugene O’Neill. But when she looked into her heart, she found it empty. By the grace and providence of God, she found our Lord and was baptized into the Catholic Church. She went on to found the Catholic Worker movement with Peter Maurin and others in 1933. Dorothy’s writings and witness have inspired generations of Catholics and others to embrace voluntary poverty, identify with the poor, and serve the most destitute. The cause for her canonization is proceeding.  Learn more about Dorothy here. An online archive of her columns in the Catholic Worker newspaper can be found here.

 

This icon of Blessed Frederic OZANAM is at the Vincentian Shrine in St Peter's Church, Phibsborough, Dublin 7, Eire.Blessed Frederic Ozanam was a 20 year-old student at the Sorbonne during the unrest in Paris known as the June Rebellion of 1832 (depicted in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables). In a debate the following academic year, Ozanam was challenged over the Catholic Church’s supposed interest in the poor. “What is your church doing now?” his opponents demanded. “What is she doing for the poor of Paris? Show us your works and we will believe you!” Frederic and his companions had to concede that the Church had in fact become indifferent to the poor. And so, with the help of a Vincentian nun, Blessed Rosalie Rendu, they went into the slums of Paris to seek and serve the needy. Along the way, they founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a lay apostolate that today serves the poor in over 180 countries. Learn more about Frederic here.

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August 29-September 6

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August 29 - September 6: For an End to the Injustice of Exploitation

General Intentions: For an end to the injustice of exploitation. For the redemption of structures that enable the powerful to abuse the Earth, bind women and children in sexual slavery, promote pornography, and deprive workers of just wages. For the spread of an integral ecology that protects nature, promotes the dignity of the human person, and seeks the common good.

Particular Intentions: For those people known to us who suffer from exploitation, and in reparation for our sinful overconsumption, wastefulness, and participation in systems of exploitation. For those who work to save the Earth and relieve the suffering of exploited persons, animals, and ecosystems.

Introductory Prayers

Lord, open my lips and my mouth will proclaim your praise. Let us pray together in peace ✚ in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Invitatory Psalm (Psalm 67)

O God, be gracious and bless us / and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth / and all nations learn your saving help.

Let the nations be glad and exult / for you rule the world with justice.
With fairness you rule the peoples, / you guide the nations on earth.

The earth has yielded its fruit / for God, our God, has blessed us.
May God still give us his blessing / till the ends of the earth revere him.

Magnificat

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for He has looked with favor on His lowly servant.
From this day all generations shall call me blessed.
The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name.
He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation.
He has shown the strength of His arm, He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of His servant Israel for He has remembered His promise of mercy,
the promise He made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.

Glory Be

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

First Reading: Isaiah 58:1-14

Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God. ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?

Second Reading: St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on I Thessalonians

And what is the specious plea of the many [for loving wealth]? I have children, one says, and I am afraid lest I myself be reduced to the extremity of hunger and want, lest I should stand in need of others. I am ashamed to beg. For that reason therefore do you cause others to beg? I cannot, you say, endure hunger. For that reason do you expose others to hunger? Do you know what a dreadful thing it is to beg, how dreadful to be perishing by hunger? Spare also your brethren! Are you ashamed, tell me, to be hungry, and are you not ashamed to rob? Are you afraid to perish by hunger, and not afraid to destroy others? And yet to be hungry is neither a disgrace nor a crime; but to cast others into such a state brings not only disgrace, but extreme punishment.

Third Reading: Pope Francis, from Laudato Si, #66

The creation accounts in the book of Genesis contain, in their own symbolic and narrative language, profound teachings about human existence and its historical reality. They suggest that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour and with the earth itself. According to the Bible, these three vital relationships have been broken, both outwardly and within us. This rupture is sin. The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations. This in turn distorted our mandate to “have dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), to “till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). As a result, the originally harmonious relationship between human beings and nature became conflictual (cf. Gen 3:17-19). It is significant that the harmony which Saint Francis of Assisi experienced with all creatures was seen as a healing of that rupture. Saint Bonaventure held that, through universal reconciliation with every creature, Saint Francis in some way returned to the state of original innocence. This is a far cry from our situation today, where sin is manifest in all its destructive power in wars, the various forms of violence and abuse, the abandonment of the most vulnerable, and attacks on nature.

Reflection

As the people of Israel were preparing to enter the Promised Land, the Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai and directed that every fiftieth year should be a year of jubilee: “On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan. That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines.” (Leviticus 25: 9-11)

The jubilee year was a prescription for restoring social and religious equilibrium to the social system. Beginning on the Day of Atonement, it restored worship, the right relationship between Israel and the God who had brought them safely into Canaan. As a year of relief from debts, bondage, and familial estrangement, it restored justice, the right relationship between men and women. And as a year of letting the fields rest from sowing and reaping, it restored ecology, the right relationship between the people and the earth.

The year of grand jubilee was echoed by a minor sabbatical “jubilee” declared every seven years. The function of this jubilee was also the restoration of equilibrium: “For six years you may sow your land and gather in its produce. But the seventh year you shall let the land lie untilled and unharvested, that the poor among you may eat of it and the beasts of the field may eat what the poor leave …” (Exodus 23:10-11) and, “At the end of every seven-year period you shall have a relaxation of debts, which shall be observed as follows. Every creditor shall relax his claim on what he has loaned his neighbor; he must not press his neighbor, his kinsman, because a relaxation in honor of the LORD has been proclaimed.” (Deuteronomy 15:1-2)

To be sure, the biblical evidence suggests that the people of Israel were less than faithful in observing both the minor and major jubilee years. Down through the centuries, the prophets routinely chastised Israel and her leaders for failing to observe the prescriptions of the Lord, including the practice of jubilee. It is against that backdrop that Isaiah puts these words on the lips of his prophesied Messiah, words Jesus himself would announce in the synagogue at Nazareth: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lords favor.” (Isaiah 61: 1-2)

Only by restoring right relationships between humanity and the earth, God and man, and human beings themselves will the global system, now so out of control, be restored to balance. The practice of jubilee is at the heart of an “integral ecology,” and it is not intended just for the mighty and powerful of the world, those who command nations, far-flung businesses, institutions or social movements. It is also intended for each of us in a profoundly personal way.

Holy Mary, Undoer of Knots

Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exists in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exist in our lives. 
You know how deeply implicated we are bound to structures of exploitation, to the social and personal tangles of sinfulness that keep us from imitating you.  
Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of his children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life. 
No one, not even the Evil One himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone. 
Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today these knots and free us!

Closing Prayer

Lord Jesus, you came to set captives free and reconcile all creation with the Father. Give us the vision to see the unjust systems that lie behind our everyday comforts and conveniences. Give us ears to hear the groans of women, children, the poor, and the earth itself. Fill us with a holy indignation at the injustice of exploitation, the courage to change ourselves and to challenge others, and peace in knowing that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied.

Work of Mercy

“If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James, 2:16-17

In reparation for the injustice of exploitation, perform one of these works of mercy: find an opportunity to instruct others on the reality of sex trafficking; reduce your carbon footprint by walking or biking instead of driving, or by turning off your air conditioning; educate yourself about the exploitation of labor at the heart of the fashion, electronics, and food industries, and resolve to change your consumption patterns.

Models

94St. Peter Claver, “Slave of the Slaves,” was born at Verdu, Catalonia, Spain, in 1580, of impoverished parents descended from ancient and distinguished families. He studied at the Jesuit college of Barcelona, entered the Jesuit novitiate at Tarragona in 1602 and took his final vows on August 8th, 1604. While studying philosophy at Majorca, the young religious was influenced by St. Alphonsus Rodriguez to go to the Indies and save “millions of perishing souls.”

In 1610, he landed at Cartagena (modern Colombia), the principle slave market of the New World, where a thousand slaves were landed every month. After his ordination in 1616, he dedicated himself by special vow to the service of the Negro slaves-a work that was to last for thirty-three years. He labored unceasingly for the salvation of the African slaves and the abolition of the Negro slave trade, and the love he lavished on them was something that transcended the natural order.

Boarding the slave ships as they entered the harbor, he would hurry to the revolting inferno of the hold, and offer whatever poor refreshments he could afford; he would care for the sick and dying, and instruct the slaves through Negro catechists before administering the Sacraments. Through his efforts three hundred thousand souls entered the Church. Furthermore, he did not lose sight of his converts when they left the ships, but followed them to the plantations to which they were sent, encouraged them to live as Christians, and prevailed on their masters to treat them humanely. He died in 1654. Learn more about St. Peter Claver here.

Wangari Maathai

Dr. Wangari Maathai was a Kenyan environmental activist, women’s rights advocate, and her country’s assistant minister of environment, natural resources and wildlife. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, the first African woman so honored. Maathai was educated in the United States, but returned to live and work in Kenya, where she was frequently the target of political violence. Her life’s project was to end the devastation of Kenya’s forests and lands caused by development, and provide opportunities for women and girls. In 1977, she launched the Green Belt Movement to reforest her beloved country while helping the nation’s women. The movement has been responsible for the planting of more than 30 million trees in Kenya and has provided roughly 30,000 women with new skills and opportunities. Dr. Maathai died in 2011 of cancer. Her story is here.

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September 7-15

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September 7-15: For an End to the Injustice of Exclusion

General Intentions: For an end to the injustice of exclusion. For the redemption of structures that create and enable racism, sexism, and exclusion based on religion, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, immigration status, or whether a human person is born or unborn.

Particular Intentions: For those people known to us who suffer from exclusion, those who have felt the sting of bias, hatred and discrimination. In reparation for the times we have hated, insulted, or excluded those who are different from us. For those who work toward inclusion and full participation.

Introductory Prayers

Lord, open my lips and my mouth will proclaim your praise. Let us pray together in peace ✚ in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Invitatory Psalm (Psalm 67)

O God, be gracious and bless us / and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth / and all nations learn your saving help.

Let the nations be glad and exult / for you rule the world with justice.
With fairness you rule the peoples, / you guide the nations on earth.

The earth has yielded its fruit / for God, our God, has blessed us.
May God still give us his blessing / till the ends of the earth revere him.

Magnificat

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for He has looked with favor on His lowly servant.
From this day all generations shall call me blessed.
The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name.
He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation.
He has shown the strength of His arm, He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of His servant Israel for He has remembered His promise of mercy,
the promise He made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.

Glory Be

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

First Reading: Leviticus 19:9-18, 33

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God. Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another. Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord. Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight. Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord.

Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord. Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord …

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

Second Reading: Matthew 15:21-31

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

Third Reading: Blessed Oscar Romero, from “The Violence of Love”

The human progress that Christ wants to promote is that of whole persons in their transcendent dimension and their historical dimension, in their spiritual dimension and their bodily dimension. Whole persons must be saved, persons in their social relationships, who won’t consider some people more human than others, but will view all as brothers and sisters, and give preference to the weakest and neediest. This is the integral human salvation that the church wants to bring about – a hard mission! Often the church will be cataloged with communistic or revolutionary subversives. But the church knows what its revolution is: the revolution of Christ’s love.

Reflection

In this Novena, we are reflecting on the injustice of exclusion. But who are the excluded, and what do we owe them?

They are the unborn, excluded even from the elementary right to life. They are immigrants, who often leave one form of disenfranchisement only to find another in this country. They are refugees, the dispossessed of the earth, who own nothing but their lives, memories, and hopes. They are workers whose jobs have disappeared, leaving them adrift in an economy that privileges efficiency and short-term profit at all costs. They are the elderly, often abandoned and institutionalized. They are racial and religious minorities. They are former soldiers, used up and discarded by the nation for which they sacrificed so much.

They are people suffering from chronic illnesses, including addiction and mental illness, who fade from view in their struggle to survive day after agonizing day. The are the disabled and the physically handicapped. They are gay, lesbian, and transgendered persons, including young people, who endure cruel words, discrimination, and often violence. They are the imprisoned, especially those without adequate legal representation and those returning to society without a vote. They are the lonely, the loveless, the alienated, those who don’t or can’t fit society’s expectations. The excluded are all those on the margins, the ridiculed and dismissed, the invisible and the weak. And, of course, they are the homeless and the poor.

And yet, we learn in Scripture that “God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” (I Corinthians 1:27) Of all the ways Christ could have come to be among us, he chose the condition of exclusion: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him; he was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” (Isaiah 53:2,3)

What do we owe the excluded, with whom Christ shares such an intimate identity? We owe them what we owe him: LOVE.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

O Mary, blessed Lady of Guadalupe, bright dawn of the new world, Mother of the living, to you do we entrust the cause of human life and dignity. Look down, O Mother, upon the excluded: the unborn, the homeless, the poor, the marginalized, the elderly and sick, the lonely and mentally ill, refugees and immigrants. Grant that all who believe in your Son may proclaim the Gospel of human life and dignity to the people of our time. Obtain for them the grace to accept that Gospel as a gift ever new, the joy of celebrating it with gratitude throughout their lives, and the courage to bear witness to it resolutely, in order to build, together with all people of good will, a civilization of love and truth, to the glory of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Closing prayer

Lord, in your time with us you chose to identify with those who suffer from the injustice of exclusion. Open our eyes to see those who are invisible to the larger society, open our ears to hear their pleas for justice, open our mouths to announce the beauty and value of their lives to a culture that would rather not know, and open our hands to join with theirs as we work for the day when all human persons will enjoy full participation in the human family.

✚ May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to eternal life. Amen

Work of Mercy

In reparation for the injustice of exclusion, go out of your way to find one of society’s “invisible” people and befriend them. Don’t be afraid to tell them why you’re doing it, just explain that you’re trying to be a better Christian. Who should you approach? It could be the refugee family that was placed in an apartment down the street, the Central American dishwasher or cook at your favorite restaurant, the gay man or woman you work with, the woman at church who always looks so lonely. If you look closely enough, you’ll not only see the invisible people, but you’ll see that they’re all around you. Alternatively, spend a Saturday morning in silent witness at an abortion clinic near you. No signs, no shouting. Just witness to the lives of our brothers and sisters.

Models

Blessed Oscar Romero was born in El Salvador in 1917, ordained to the priesthood in 1942, and made auxiliary bishop of San oscar_romero_-2Salvador in 1970. The first thirty years of his ministry were rather ordinary. Romero was known as a quiet, non-political, even conservative cleric. But his final six years in ministry, especially the three he spent as Archbishop of San Salvador, were momentous.

In 1974, Romero was named bishop of Santiago de María, a poor, rural region of El Salvador. In Santiago de María, Romero came to understand for the first time the degree of exclusion and oppression suffered by the landless peasants of El Salvador. He witnessed the violence visited upon the campesinos by the Salvadoran government on behalf of wealthy landowners and international corporations, all underwritten by the United States.

When in 1977 Romero was named Archbishop of San Salvador, he resolved to be a voice for the poor majority of Salvadorans, those excluded from ownership and governance. Romero repeatedly used his cathedral chair and the archdiocesan radio transmitter to denounce the violence of the regime and the structural injustice of Salvadoran society. As his popularity with the poor of El Salvador grew – he was known as ‘the Voice of the Voiceless’ – his unpopularity with the powers that be plummeted, especially members of the country’s right-wing death squads. Oscar Romero was

On March 24, 1980, Romero was shot dead while celebrating Mass at a hospital chapel in San Salvador. He was posthumously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize the following year. Read a more expansive biography here.

Malala-Yousafzai_Antonio-OlmosMalala Yousafzai was born on July 12, 1997, in Mingora, the largest city in Pakistan’s infamous Swat Valley, a longtime stronghold of the Taliban. She attended a school founded by her father, but when the Taliban regained control of the Swat Valley in 2008, they banned the education of girls and destroyed some 400 schools. Malala would not be silenced or go uneducated. At 11 years old she became an advocate for the education of girls, appearing regularly on Pakistani national television and blogging on the BBC’s Urdu language website. The Taliban retaliated by threatening Malala’s life, and in 2009 she and her family were forced to leave the Swat Valley. But danger followed her. On October 9, 2012, a Taliban gunman shot the 15 year-old Malala in the face three times while she was taking a bus home from school. She survived, and has continued to speak out on the importance of education. In 2014, Malala was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace, becoming the youngest Nobel laureate in history. “”This award is not just for me,” she said at the Nobel award ceremony, “it is for those forgotten children who want education. It is for those frightened children who want peace. It is for those voiceless children who want change.” Here is a link to her book, “I Am Malala.”

In 1964, Jean Vanier was a University of Toronto professor. In his conversations with a priest friend, Fr. Thomas Phillipe, Vanier VanierJean_Aubecame aware of the vast network of impersonal institutions that warehoused the developmentally disabled. Believing there was a better, more humane and Christian way to treat these invisible people, Vanier invited two developmentally disabled men to leave their institution and share their lives with him in a house in Trosly-Breuil, France. They did, and so began the L’Arche Community. Today, Vanier still lives in the house in Trosly-Breuil, but L’Arche has grown to include 147 communities in 35 countries on all five continents. In 1971, Vanier co-founded Faith and Light, an international movement for people with developmental disabilities, their family and friends. Today there are over 1,800 Faith and Light communities in 80 countries around the world.

Vanier has summed up the underlying philosophy of L’Arche this way: “The belief in the inner beauty of each and every human being is at the heart of L’Arche… We do not discover who we are, we do not reach true humanness, in a solitary state; we discover it through mutual dependency, in weakness, in learning through belonging.” Read more about L’Arche and Jean Vanier here.

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September 16-24

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September 16-24: For an End to War and Terrorism

General Intentions: For an end to war and terrorism. For the redemption of an international order based on domination and violence. For an end to groups and movements that promote violence in any form, but especially against the innocent. For the conversion of workers in the arms and entertainment industries.

Particular Intentions: For those people known to us who have suffered as a result of war or terrorism. For families, communities, and nations that mourn their dead. For refugees and others displaced by war and terrorism. For soldiers, who bear the psychological and physical wounds of violence. In reparation for our own participation in structures that encourage and enable war and terrorism.

Introductory Prayers

Lord, open my lips and my mouth will proclaim your praise. Let us pray together in peace ✚ in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Invitatory Psalm (Psalm 67)

O God, be gracious and bless us / and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth / and all nations learn your saving help.

Let the nations be glad and exult / for you rule the world with justice.
With fairness you rule the peoples, / you guide the nations on earth.

The earth has yielded its fruit / for God, our God, has blessed us.
May God still give us his blessing / till the ends of the earth revere him.

Magnificat

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for He has looked with favor on His lowly servant.
From this day all generations shall call me blessed.
The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name.
He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation.
He has shown the strength of His arm, He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of His servant Israel for He has remembered His promise of mercy,
the promise He made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.

Glory Be

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

First Reading: Romans 12: 14-21

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Second Reading: Isaiah 11:1-9

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.

Third Reading: Thomas Merton, from “The Root of War is Fear,” in New Seeds of Contemplation

At the root of all war is fear; not so much the fear men have of one another as the fear they have of everything.  It is not merely that they do not trust one another; they do not even trust themselves.  They cannot trust anything because they have ceased to believe in God.  It is not only our hatred of others that is dangerous but also and above all else our hatred of ourselves.  For it is this that makes us see our own evil in others and unable to see it in ourselves …

If men really wanted peace they would sincerely ask God for it and He would give it to them.  But why should He give the world a peace it really does not want.  The peace the world pretends to desire is really no peace at all.  Many men like these have asked God for what they thought was peace and wondered why their prayer was not answered.  They could not understand that it actually was answered.  God left them with what they desired, for their idea of peace was only another form of war.  The cold war is simply the normal consequence of our corrupt idea of a peace based on a policy of every man for himself in ethics, economics and political life.  It is absurd to hope for a solid peace based on fictions and illusions.

So instead of loving what you think is peace, love other men and love God above all.  And instead of hating the people you think are war makers, hate the appetites and the disorders in your own soul, which are the causes of war.  If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed – but hate these things first in your own self, not in another.

Reflection (from Borderline: Reflections on War, Sex, and the Church, by Stan Goff. Used with permission)

Jesus’s teachings and example were meant for real people, for us, and they were not meant to be foreclosed by pragmatism. Jesus’s ethic of self-giving, neighbor-love, enemy-love, and sacrificial service are not anachronisms that apply only to first-century Palestine. Nothing in Jesus’s teachings or example suggests that Christians must take up the “responsibilities” of political power, compromise self-giving, turn neighbor-love into clientelism, set aside enemy-love in defense of nation, or eschew sacrificial service in the name of political pragmatism.

Jesus’s teachings and example do have actual social significance for us, now, and cannot be launched into an extraterrestrial orbit and deferred until we are all conveniently dead.

The Gospels provide us with a way of being that transcends time and place understood as “the way of the cross.”

Works and faith are inseparable.

The world is redeemed in Christ, and not by progress, technology, democracy, political revolution, money, education, or any other idol.

These assertions form the basis of my own conviction …  that the good news of the Gospels is that we have moved beyond violence. Violence and domination characterize a world in rebellion. Yet we can embody the kingdom of heaven as the body of Christ – the peaceable kingdom – here and now, as testimony to the redemptive lordship of Christ to a broken world.

That is where I start.

Our Lady, Queen of Peace

Mary, Queen of Peace, save us all, who have so much trust in you, from wars, hatred, and oppression. Make us all learn to live in peace, and educate ourselves for peace, do what is demanded by justice and respect the rights of every person, so that peace may be firmly established. Amen.

Closing Prayer

Lord, in this time of war and terrorism, we turn to you, our only hope. Heal our disordered desires for power, prestige, wealth, revenge, and domination. Heal the fears and resentments we stoke into lethal violence. Heal our sinful devotion to the idols of nation, race, or religion. Forgive us for the severity of our judgments and the purity of our righteousness. In the midst of this present darkness, send your Spirit into the hearts of all men and women. Give us humility to serve one another. Show us the path to peace.

✚ May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to eternal life. Amen

Works of Mercy

Real peace rests on truth-telling, repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation And so, during this cycle, seek opportunities to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. That friend who hurt you by something she said? Get in touch, tell her how it felt, then forgive her. That co-worker you hurt years ago? Call him, ask to be forgiven, and make a gesture toward reconciliation. That relative you’ve been estranged from since Lord knows when? Text or email her, tell her you want to put the past behind you both. During these nine days, reconcile with at least one person in your life. If you do, you will have opened the path to peace for all of us.

Models

thibirineThe Martyr-Monks of Tibhirine. During the Algerian Civil War, the Trappist monks of Atlas Abbey near Médéa, Algeria, were warned time and again that Islamist rebels operating nearby represented a grave threat to their safety. Even the French Embassy in Algiers insisted that the brothers and priests leave their abbey and wait out the civil war in a safer place, preferably France itself. But the nine Trappists refused to abandon the people of Tibhirine, among whom they had made their home. They provided food, medical care, and employment to local people, all Muslims. They sold their produce and wares in the local market. They attended weddings, celebrated births, mourned the dead, and regularly met with local imams to mourn the state of the world.

Then, during the night of March 26-27, 1996, the Islamist rebels came. Seven of the Trappists –  Dom Christian de Chergé, Brother Luc Dochier, Father Christophe Lebreton, Brother Michel Fleury, Father Bruno Lemarchand, Father Célestin Ringeard, and Brother Paul Favre-Miville – were kidnapped and marched into the mountains. They were executed by decapitation on May 21. Two monks eluded their would-be captors.

In a letter composed before the kidnapping, Dom Christian, the leader of the Trappists, wrote: “If it should happen one day – and it could be today – that I become a victim of the terrorism that now seems to encompass all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to Algeria; and that they accept that the sole Master of all life was not a stranger to this brutal departure. I would like, when the time comes, to have a space of clearness that would allow me to beg forgiveness of God and of my fellow human beings, and at the same time to forgive with all my heart the one who will strike me down … My death, obviously, will appear to confirm those who hastily judged me naïve or idealistic: ‘Let him tell us now what he thinks of it!’ But they should know that… for this life lost, I give thanks to God. In this ‘thank you,’ which is said for everything in my life from now on, I certainly include you, my last-minute friend who will not have known what you are doing… I commend you to the God in whose face I see yours. And may we find each other, happy ‘good thieves’ in Paradise, if it please God, the Father of us both.

Learn more about the Martyr-Monks of Tibhirine HERE.

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September 25-October 3

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September 25-October 3: For an End to Violence in American Society

General Intentions: For an end to violence in American society. For the redemption of social, cultural, and economic structures that implicitly or explicitly teach violence as the proper response to injustice or wrongdoing. For an end to the deification of guns, the barbarous practice of capital punishment, and the conversion of an entertainment industry that glorifies violence in all its forms. For an end to the Culture of Death and a flourishing of the Culture of Life.

Particular Intentions: For those people known to us who have suffered from the culture of violence in American society. For African Americans and others who have suffered violence at the hands of police. For police who have suffered violence at the hands of criminals. For current and former prisoners who have suffered violence in our unreformed prison system. For the families of those who have been killed in senseless gang or mass shootings. In reparation for our own contributions to the culture of violence in American society.

Introductory Prayers

Lord, open my lips and my mouth will proclaim your praise. Let us pray together in peace ✚ in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Invitatory Psalm (Psalm 67)

O God, be gracious and bless us / and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth / and all nations learn your saving help.

Let the nations be glad and exult / for you rule the world with justice.
With fairness you rule the peoples, / you guide the nations on earth.

The earth has yielded its fruit / for God, our God, has blessed us.
May God still give us his blessing / till the ends of the earth revere him.

Magnificat

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for He has looked with favor on His lowly servant.
From this day all generations shall call me blessed.
The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name.
He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation.
He has shown the strength of His arm, He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of His servant Israel for He has remembered His promise of mercy,
the promise He made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.

Glory Be

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

First Reading (Genesis 4:3-12)

In the course of time Cain brought an offering to the LORD from the fruit of the ground, while Abel, for his part, brought the fatty portion of the firstlings of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry and dejected.

Then the LORD said to Cain: Why are you angry? Why are you dejected? If you act rightly, you will be accepted; but if not, sin lies in wait at the door: its urge is for you, yet you can rule over it.

Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out in the field.” When they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD asked Cain, Where is your brother Abel? He answered, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

God then said: What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! Now you are banned from the ground that opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. If you till the ground, it shall no longer give you its produce. You shall become a constant wanderer on the earth.

Second Reading (Galatians 5:13-25)

For you were called for freedom. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another. I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want. But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ [Jesus] have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.

Third Reading (Matthew 5:38-48)

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors* do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Reflection, from a letter of Fr. Daniel Berrigan, SJ, to Ernesto Cardenal

Alas, I have never seen anyone morally improved by killing; neither the one who aimed the bullet, nor the one who received it in his or her flesh.

Of course we have choices, of course we must decide. When all is said, we find that the gospel makes sense, that it strikes against our motives and actions or it does not. Can that word make sense at all today, can it be something more than utopian or extravagant? The gospel is after all a document out of a simpler age, a different culture. It may even be our duty to construct for ourselves another ethic, based on our own impasse or insights or ego. And go from there, with whatever assurance we can muster, amid the encircling gloom.

Or on the other hand, we can bow our heads before a few truths, crude, exigent, obscure as they are. The outcome of obedience we cannot know, the outcome of disobedience we can deceive ourselves about, indefinitely and sweetly. Thou shalt not kill. Love one another as I have loved you. If your enemy strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other. Practically everyone in the world, citizens and believers alike, consign such words to the images on church walls, or the embroideries in front parlors.

We really are stuck. Christians are stuck with this Christ, the impossible, unteachable, irreformable loser. Revolutionaries must correct him, act him aright. That absurd form, shivering under the crosswinds of power, must be made acceptable, relevant. So a gun is painted into his empty hands. Now he is human! Now he is like us.

Does it all have a familiar ring? In the old empires, the ragged rabbi must be cleaned up, invested in Byzantine robes of state, raised in glittering splendor to the dome of heaven. Correction! correction! we cry to those ignorant gospel scribes, Matthew and the rest. He was not like that, he was not helpless, he was not gentle, he was under no one’s heel, no one pushed him around! He would have taken up a gun if one had been at hand, he would have taken up arms, “solely for one reason; on account of his love for the kingdom of God.” Did he not have fantasies like ours, in hours out of the public glare, when he too itched for the quick solution, his eyes narrowed like gun sights?

How tricky it all gets! We look around at our culture: an uneasy mix of gunmen, gun makers, gun hucksters, gun researchers, gun runners, guards with guns, property owners with guns. A culture in which the guns put out contracts on the people, the guns own the people, the guns buy and sell the people, the guns practice targets on the people, the guns kill the people. The guns are our second nature, and the first nature is all but obliterated; it is gunned down.

And who will raise it up, that corpse with the neat hole in its temple, ourselves? It is impossible, it is against nature.

Christ asks the literally impossible. And then, our radical helplessness confessed, he confers what was impossible.

The Immaculate Conception, Patroness of the United States

Most holy and immaculate Virgin, Mother of Jesus and our loving Mother, we pray that your intercession may protect us and all people from hate and discord. Direct our hearts into the ways of peace and justice which your Son, the Prince of Peace, taught and exemplified. We ask your maternal care for our Holy Father who works to reconcile the nations in peace. We seek your guidance for our President, Members of Congress and the Supreme Court, governors, state legislators and judges, and all who hold authority in our nation. Inspire them and all Americans to renounce violence, reject the Culture of Death, and build a Culture of Life.

Closing Prayer

Lord, heal the American addiction to violence. Only you can cleanse us of our fascination with the means and methods of killing: on our streets, in our entertainments, our families, our politics, and our relations with other nations.  Renew the vision of a peaceable republic, where free and equal citizens can build communities of understanding and justice, and where all persons can flourish. Make that vision a reality in our time.

✚ May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to eternal life. Amen

Work of Mercy

In the Closing Prayer, above, we refer to the American “fascination with the means and methods of killing.” The word ‘fascination’ derives from the Latin word ‘fascinatio,’ which means “a bewitching.” American culture has been bewitched by violence, and the best way to break that spell is for each of us to practice nonviolence in our daily lives. And so, during this cycle make a decision to live nonviolently: permanently abstain from depictions of violence in entertainment; reform your rhetoric in political discussions; make a conscious effort to react gently to provocations in your family and workplace, defuse conflict when it inevitably arises with the goal of achieving a just resolution and reconciliation. Study nonviolence using these resources. Learn and practice Dr. Martin Luther King’s Six Principles of Nonviolence:

1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
2. The Beloved Community is the framework for the future.
3. Attack the forces of evil not persons doing evil.
4. Accept suffering without retaliation for the sake of the cause to achieve the goal
5. Avoid internal violence of the spirit as well as external physical violence.
6. The Universe is on the side of justice.

Models

greg-boyleGreg Boyle, SJ, is the founder and director of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, California. Fr. Boyle was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1984. In 1986, he was assigned to the Dolores Mission Church in a poor Latino neighborhood in East Los Angeles. The church was positioned between two large public housing projects and at the crossroads of several overlapping gang territories.

By 1988, having buried an ever growing number of young people killed in gang violence, Father Boyle and parish and community members sought to address the escalating problems and unmet needs of gang-involved youth by developing positive opportunities for them, including establishing an alternative school and day care program, and seeking out legitimate employment.  They called this initial effort Jobs for a Future.  “Gang violence is about a lethal absence of hope,” Father Boyle has said.  “Nobody has ever met a hopeful kid who joined a gang.”

In the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Jobs for a Future and Proyecto Pastoral, a community-organizing project begun at the parish, launched their first social enterprise business, Homeboy Bakery. In the ensuing years, the success of the bakery created the groundwork for additional social enterprise businesses, leading Jobs for a Future to become an independent nonprofit organization, Homeboy Industries.

Homeboy Industries is the largest and most successful gang rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world. Homeboy offers an “exit ramp” for those stuck in a cycle of violence and incarceration. The organization’s holistic approach, with free services and programs, supports 10,000 men and women a year as they work to overcome their pasts, re-imagine their futures, and break the inter-generational cycles of gang violence. Therapeutic and educational offerings (case management, counseling, and classes), practical services (e.g., tattoo removal, work readiness, and legal assistance), and job training-focused business (e.g., Homeboy Bakery, Homegirl Café, and Homeboy Silkscreen & Embroidery) provide healing alternatives to gang life, while creating safer and healthier communities.

Fr. Boyle is the author of Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion.

hanan-al-hroubHanan Al Hroub, of the Samiha Khalil Secondary School in Palestine is the recipient of the 2016 Global Teacher Prize. Hanan grew up in the Palestinian refugee camp, Bethlehem, where she was regularly exposed to acts of violence. She went into primary education after her children were left deeply traumatized by a shooting incident they witnessed on their way home from school. Her experiences in meetings and consultations to discuss her children’s behavior, development and academic performance in the years that followed led Hanan to try to help others who, having grown up in similar circumstances, require special handling at school.

With so many troubled children in the region, Palestinian classrooms can be tense environments. Hanan embraces the slogan ‘No to Violence’ and uses a specialist approach she developed herself, detailed in her book, ‘We Play and Learn’. She focuses on developing trusting, respectful, honest and affectionate relationships with her students and emphasizes the importance of literacy. She encourages her students to work together, pays close attention to individual needs and rewards positive behavior. Her approach has led to a decline in violent behavior in schools where this is usually a frequent occurrence; she has inspired her colleagues to review the way they teach, their classroom management strategies and the sanctions they use.

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October 4-12

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October 4-12: For an End to Violence Against the Vulnerable

General Intentions: For an end to violence against the weak and vulnerable. For the redemption of social, economic, and political structures that enable spousal and child abuse, abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and sex trafficking. For a flourishing of the Culture of Life and an end to the Culture of Death.

Particular Intentions: For persons known to us who are vulnerable to violence, especially the elderly, the physically sick or disabled, the mentally ill, the unborn, women in abusive relationships or at risk of rape, children in violent families, and young people subject to bullying. In reparation for our own participation in structures that promote these evils. For those who work to protect the vulnerable from such violence.

Introductory Prayers

Lord, open my lips and my mouth will proclaim your praise. Let us pray together in peace ✚ in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Invitatory Psalm (Psalm 67)

O God, be gracious and bless us / and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth / and all nations learn your saving help.

Let the nations be glad and exult / for you rule the world with justice.
With fairness you rule the peoples, / you guide the nations on earth.

The earth has yielded its fruit / for God, our God, has blessed us.
May God still give us his blessing / till the ends of the earth revere him.

Magnificat

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for He has looked with favor on His lowly servant.
From this day all generations shall call me blessed.
The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name.
He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation.
He has shown the strength of His arm, He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of His servant Israel for He has remembered His promise of mercy,
the promise He made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.

Glory Be

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

First Reading (Psalm 140:2-14)

Deliver me, LORD, from the wicked;
preserve me from the violent,
From those who plan evil in their hearts,
who stir up conflicts every day,
Who sharpen their tongue like a serpent,
venom of asps upon their lips.

Keep me, LORD, from the clutches of the wicked;
preserve me from the violent,
who plot to trip me up.
The arrogant have set a trap for me;
they have spread out ropes for a net,
laid snares for me by the wayside.

I say to the LORD: You are my God;
listen, LORD, to the words of my pleas.
LORD, my master, my strong deliverer,
you cover my head on the day of armed conflict.
LORD, do not grant the desires of the wicked one;
do not let his plot succeed.

Those who surround me raise their heads;
may the mischief they threaten overwhelm them.
Drop burning coals upon them;
cast them into the watery pit never more to rise.
Slanderers will not survive on earth;
evil will hunt down the man of violence to overthrow him.

For I know the LORD will take up the cause of the needy,
justice for the poor.
Then the righteous will give thanks to your name;
the upright will dwell in your presence.

Second Reading (Gospel of John 11:45-53)

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah / are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; / since from you shall come a ruler, / who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet: “A voice was heard in Ramah, / sobbing and loud lamentation; / Rachel weeping for her children, / and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.”

Third Reading (Pope St. John Paul II, from Evangelium Vitae, #8)

At the root of every act of violence against one’s neighbor there is a concession to the “thinking” of the evil one, the one who “was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). As the Apostle John reminds us: “For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, and not be like Cain who was of the evil one and murdered his brother” (1 John 3:11-12). Cain’s killing of his brother at the very dawn of history is thus a sad witness of how evil spreads with amazing speed: man’s revolt against God in the earthly paradise is followed by the deadly combat of man against man.

After the crime, God intervenes to avenge the one killed. Before God, who asks him about the fate of Abel, Cain, instead of showing remorse and apologizing, arrogantly eludes the question: “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). “I do not know”: Cain tries to cover up his crime with a lie. This was and still is the case, when all kinds of ideologies try to justify and disguise the most atrocious crimes against human beings. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”: Cain does not wish to think about his brother and refuses to accept the responsibility which every person has towards others. We cannot but think of today’s tendency for people to refuse to accept responsibility for their brothers and sisters. Symptoms of this trend include the lack of solidarity towards society’s weakest members-such as the elderly, the infirm, immigrants, children- and the indifference frequently found in relations between the world’s peoples even when basic values such as survival, freedom and peace are involved.

Reflection (From Salt and Light: Living the Sermon on the Mount, by Eberhard Arnold. © 1998 Plough Publishing House, www.plough.com. Used with permission. First published in German as “Gegen Blut und Gewalt“ in Das Neue Werk, April 15, 1921. The book is available as a download at the link above.)

Life means growth and development, the unfolding of love. Violence and coercion do not allow life to grow—they stifle it. We have been commissioned to serve life and build it up, no matter whether this seems evolutionary or revolutionary. The character of life rejects what is dying and awakens what is living to new life. This means development and upheaval. Yet no evolution, no upheaval, is able to eradicate the deepest root of world suffering: universal guilt, the poison of evil in hate, lust, depravity, and killing.

Organic life brings new birth. It springs from God who is at work in all living things. Yet a new beginning always brings with it a separation, a painful liberation, a revolutionizing of the old. Every individual—indeed all of humankind—needs this new birth.

We believe in this new birth—a life of light from God. We believe in a future of love and constructive fellowship. We believe in the peace of God’s kingdom and that he will come to this earth. This faith does not mean we are imagining things only for the future—God will bring this future and give us his heart and spirit today. Christ lives in his church, which is the embodiment of his life. As the hidden, living seed of the future kingdom, the church has been entrusted with the peace that is characteristic of her and the love-spirit of the future. Therefore she shows herself in the present too, as justice, peace, and joy in this world.

No matter what its origin, we must speak up in protest against every instance of bloodshed and every power of violence and death. Our witness and will for peace, for love at any cost, even at the cost of our own lives, has never been more necessary than it is today. Those who tell us that questions such as nonviolence, conscientious objection, and discipleship of Jesus are not relevant today are wrong. Today these questions are more relevant than ever. They will require perseverance in an absolute love that gives one the courage to die for one’s beliefs.

Jesus knew he would never conquer the spirit of the world with more violence, but only by greater love. This is why he overcame the temptation to seize power over the kingdoms of this earth. What he proclaimed was God’s rulership in the present and the future. God’s will was present in his life, his deeds, his words, and his suffering. This is why in the Sermon on the Mount he speaks of those who are strong in love, the peacemakers, those with heart who will inherit the land and possess the earth. The kingdom of God belongs to them. He took up the ancient proclamation of peace and justice which belongs to the future kingdom of God. He deepened the crucial “Thou shalt not kill” which ruled out all murder. He showed that any cruelty—any brutal violation of the inner life—injures body, soul, and, in fact, God, just as much as killing the body.

Our Lady of the Poor

Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, we beg you to intercede with your divine Son on behalf of the poor. Obtain protection for the vulnerable, comfort for the afflicted, strength for the weak, peace for those in turmoil, and health for the ill. Through your intercession, may the whole world be converted and may violence cease.

Closing Prayer

Lord Jesus, you chose to be born into conditions of poverty and vulnerability. In Pilate’s house you were beaten and mocked. On the Way of Sorrows you were stripped of your dignity. On Calvary your life was taken from you in a brutal act of legal violence. Help us to always take the side of the weak, and thereby stand in solidarity with you in your sufferings. Give us the courage to resist abuses of power for the sake of our brothers and sisters. And make us worthy to share in your Resurrection.

✚ May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to eternal life. Amen.

Work of Mercy

This cycle, stand in solidarity with the weak and vulnerable by volunteering to visit the sick or attend to the dying. Many hospitals, nursing homes, and hospice organizations have opportunities for people to sit with the ill and dying. Sometimes, you just sit there while the person drifts in and out of sleep. Other times, the patient wants to talk. Sometimes, they want you to read to them. Volunteer for an hour a week. Lay down the prerogatives of your relative power (and wealth, and health). Accompany the most vulnerable on their journey and thereby come to understand more fully the Lord’s words to St. Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Models

ira_byockIra Byock, M.D., is chief medical officer of the Providence Institute for Human Caring, is one of the nation’s foremost experts in palliative care. He is the author of the seminal books on the topic, “Dying Well”, “The Four Things that Matter Most” and “The Best Care Possible.” Prior to joining Providence, Dr. Byock served as director of palliative medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., from 2003 through June 2014.  He is a professor of medicine and of community and family medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.

Dr. Byock has been involved in hospice and palliative care since 1978, during his residency. At that time, he helped found a hospice home-care program for the indigent population served by the university hospital and county clinics of Fresno, Calif. He is a past president (1997) of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

During the 1990s, he was a co-founder and principal investigator for the Missoula Demonstration Project, a community-based organization in Montana dedicated to the research and transformation of end-of-life experience locally, as a demonstration of what is possible nationally. From 1996 through 2006, he served as director for Promoting Excellence in End-of-Life Care, a national grant program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Dr. Byock has been a consistent advocate for the rights of dying patients and their families. His awards include: National Hospice Organization’s Person of the Year (1995); National Coalition of Cancer Survivorship’s Natalie Davis Spingarn Writers Award (2000); National Association of Catholic Chaplains’ Outstanding Colleague Award (2008); American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine’s Community Leadership Award (2011)

WHM146809William Wilberforce (24 August 1759 – 29 July 1833) was an English politician, philanthropist, and abolitionist. A native of Kingston upon Hull, Yorkshire, he began his political career in 1780, eventually becoming the independent Member of Parliament for Yorkshire (1784–1812). In 1785, he became an Evangelical Christian, which resulted in major changes to his lifestyle and a lifelong concern for reform.

In 1787, he came into contact with Thomas Clarkson and a group of anti-slave-trade activists. They persuaded Wilberforce to take on the cause of abolition, and he soon became one of the leading English abolitionists. He headed the parliamentary campaign against the British slave trade for twenty years until the passage of the Slave Trade Act of 1807. Wilberforce championed causes and campaigns such as the Society for the Suppression of Vice, British missionary work in India, the creation of a free colony in Sierra Leone, the foundation of the Church Mission Society, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. His underlying conservatism led him to support politically and socially controversial legislation, resulting in criticism that he ignored injustices at home while campaigning for the enslaved abroad.

Despite his failing health, Wilberforce continued supporting the campaign for the complete abolition of slavery after his resignation from Parliament in 1826. His work contributed to the ratification of the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, which abolished slavery in most of the British Empire. Wilberforce died just three days after learning of the law’s passing, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, close to his friend William Pitt.

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October 13-21

Click on the yellow bar below to open the prayers for this cycle.

 

October 13-21: For Racial Reconciliation the United States

General Intentions: For racial reconciliation in the political, economic, cultural, and social life of the United States. For justice, without which peace is not possible. For peace, without which reconciliation is not possible. For the wounds of slavery and segregation to finally be healed in our land, and for the dismantling of institutions and habits of mind that continue to oppress our African American brothers and sisters.

Particular Intentions: For those of us who struggle to abandon old prejudices, biases and hatreds. For those in the grip of anger or resentment because of the racial divide. For those who work tirelessly every day to heal the breach between all races and ethnic groups, but especially between white and black.

Introductory Prayers

Lord, open my lips and my mouth will proclaim your praise. Let us pray together in peace ✚ in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Invitatory Psalm (Psalm 67)

O God, be gracious and bless us / and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth / and all nations learn your saving help.

Let the nations be glad and exult / for you rule the world with justice.
With fairness you rule the peoples, / you guide the nations on earth.

The earth has yielded its fruit / for God, our God, has blessed us.
May God still give us his blessing / till the ends of the earth revere him.

Magnificat

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for He has looked with favor on His lowly servant.
From this day all generations shall call me blessed.
The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name.
He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation.
He has shown the strength of His arm, He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of His servant Israel for He has remembered His promise of mercy,
the promise He made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.

Glory Be

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

First Reading (The reconciliation of Jacob and Esau, Genesis 32:4-12, 33:1-11)

Jacob sent messengers ahead to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom, ordering them: “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: ‘Thus says your servant Jacob: I have been residing with Laban and have been delayed until now. I own oxen, donkeys and sheep, as well as male and female servants. I have sent my lord this message in the hope of gaining your favor.’” When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, “We found your brother Esau. He is now coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” Jacob was very much frightened. In his anxiety, he divided the people who were with him, as well as his flocks, herds and camels, into two camps. “If Esau should come and attack one camp,” he reasoned, “the remaining camp may still escape.

Then Jacob prayed: “God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac! You, LORD, who said to me, ‘Go back to your land and your relatives, and I will be good to you …’ save me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau! Otherwise I fear that he will come and strike me down and the mothers with the children …

Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming, and with him four hundred men. So he divided his children among Leah, Rachel, and the two maidservants, putting the maidservants and their children first, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. He himself went on ahead of them, bowing to the ground seven times, until he reached his brother. Esau ran to meet him, embraced him, and flinging himself on his neck, kissed him as he wept. Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children and asked, “Who are these with you?” Jacob answered, “They are the children with whom God has graciously favored your servant …

Then Esau asked, “What did you intend with all those herds that I encountered?” Jacob answered, “It was to gain my lord’s favor.” Esau replied, “I have plenty; my brother, you should keep what is yours.” “No, I beg you!” said Jacob. “If you will do me the favor, accept this gift from me, since to see your face is for me like seeing the face of God—and you have received me so kindly. Accept the gift I have brought you. For God has been generous toward me, and I have an abundance.” Since he urged him strongly, Esau accepted.

Second Reading (Acts 17:24-31)

The God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything. Rather it is he who gives to everyone life and breath and everything. He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions, so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us.

For ‘In him we live and move and have our being,’ as even some of your poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’ Since therefore we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the divinity is like an image fashioned from gold, silver, or stone by human art and imagination. God has overlooked the times of ignorance, but now he demands that all people everywhere repent because he has established a day on which he will ‘judge the world with justice’ through a man he has appointed, and he has provided confirmation for all by raising him from the dead.

Third Reading (“Lift Every Voice and Sing,” James Weldon Johnson)

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise,
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee,
Shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand,
True to our God, true to our native land.

Reflection (James H. Cone, from The Cross and the Lynching Tree, Orbis Books, 2011)

Great preachers preach the cross as the heart of the Christian message. The Apostle Paul preached the cross and transformed a Jewish sect into a faith for the world. Martin Luther preached the cross and started the Protestant Reformation. Karl Barth preached the cross and created a Copernican revolution in European theology. Reinhold Niebuhr preached the cross and developed a creative perspective on Christian social ethics in America. Fannie Lou Hamer sang and preached the cross and ignited a grassroots revolution in Mississippi. Martin Luther King Jr. preached the cross and transformed the social and political life in America, pointing to an American dream of justice, for which he gave his life.

One has to have a powerful religious imagination to see redemption in the cross, to discover life in death and hope in tragedy. What kind of salvation is that? No human language can fully describe what salvation through the cross means. Salvation through the cross is a mystery and can only be apprehended through faith, repentance, and humility. The cross is an “opening to the transcendent” for the poor who have nowhere else to turn—that transcendence of the spirit that no one can take away, no matter what they do. Salvation is broken spirits being healed, voiceless people speaking out, and black people empowered to love their own blackness.

And yet another type of imagination is necessary—the imagination to relate the message of the cross to one’s own social reality, to see that “They are crucifying again the Son of God” (Heb 6:6). Both Jesus and blacks were “strange fruit.” Theologically speaking, Jesus was the “first lynchee,” who foreshadowed all the lynched black bodies on American soil. He was crucified by the same principalities and powers that lynched black people in America. Because God was present with Jesus on the cross and thereby refused to let Satan and death have the last word about his meaning, God was also present at every lynching in the United States. God saw what whites did to innocent and helpless blacks and claimed their suffering as God’s own. God transformed lynched black bodies into the recrucified body of Christ. Every time a white mob lynched a black person, they lynched Jesus. The lynching tree is the cross in America. When American Christians realize that they can meet Jesus only in the crucified bodies in our midst, they will encounter the real scandal of the cross.

Our Lady, Queen of Heaven

O Mary, Queen of the New Jerusalem, draw all men and women to your Immaculate Heart. Give us eyes to see each other as brothers and sisters. Give us ears to hear each other’s voices. Give us tongues to taste the bitterness of division and the sweetness of reconciliation. Give us skin to feel the bloody wounds of violence and the soothing caress of friendship and love. Lead us to life! Lead us to each other! Lead us to your divine Son, in whom all the children of Adam live and move and have their being.

Closing Prayer (by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Thou Eternal God, out of whose absolute power and infinite intelligence the whole universe has come into being, we humbly confess that we have not loved thee with our hearts, souls and minds, and we have not loved our neighbors as Christ loved us. We have all too often lived by our own selfish impulses rather than by the life of sacrificial love as revealed by Christ. We often give in order to receive. We love our friends and hate our enemies. We go the first mile but dare not travel the second. We forgive but dare not forget. And so as we look within ourselves, we are confronted with the appalling fact that the history of our lives is the history of an eternal revolt against you. But thou, O God, have mercy upon us. Forgive us for what we could have been but failed to be. Give us the intelligence to know your will. Give us the courage to do your will. Give us the devotion to love your will. In the name and spirit of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

✚ May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to eternal life. Amen.

Works of Mercy

The initiative for racial reconciliation rests largely with white people because the history of race in America is the story of white people treating black people unjustly. It is therefore the unique responsibility of white people to own up to the past and the present, acknowledge our privilege, change our attitudes, confront racism, and listen – really listen – to what our brothers and sisters are saying. During this cycle, if you are white take a fearless inventory of the attitudes you still harbor and the privileges you enjoy. Take the time to read one of several excellent recent books by contemporary black writers. If you have black friends, ask them to speak honestly with you about how they view things … and how they view you! If you’re black, pray for your white friends and their discernment, look for opportunities to “instruct the ignorant” with loving firmness, and please be willing to extend forgiveness.

Models

tracesofthetrade-katrina-browne-85x85Katrina Browne grew up in a wealthy old New England family, the seventh-generation descendant of Mark Anthony DeWolf (Bristol, RI). She graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. in cultural anthropology and worked on the film adaptation of Anna Deavere Smith’s critically acclaimed play about the 1992 Los Angeles riots, “Twilight: Los Angeles.” Shortly after entering the Pacific School of Religion, a seminary in Berkeley, California, Browne discovered for the first time that her distinguished DeWolf forebears had been part of the largest slave-trading dynasty in American history.

Appalled by what she learned in her research, Browne invited over 200 members of the DeWolf family back to Bristol to confront the origins of their family’s wealth, power, and prestige. This family process led to a film, “Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North,” and the founding of the Tracing Center, a Providence-based nonprofit. The Tracing Center’s mission is “to create greater awareness of the full extent of the nation’s complicity in slavery and the transatlantic slave trade and to inspire acknowledgement, dialogue and active response to this history and its many legacies. We do this for the purpose of racial justice, healing, and reconciliation, for the benefit of all.”

latashaLatasha Morrison is the founder of “Be the Bridge,” a community of people with a common goal to see healthy dialogue around the topic of race. Their goal is to influence racial reconciliation within our communities and to become bridges-builders of awareness. They aim to promote and engage positive dialogue around racialization; to educate others on disparities and injustices and thereby become credible witnesses to true biblical oneness for the Glory of God. Latasha is a native of North Carolina attended East Carolina University. She recently completed a Masters in Business from Liberty University and currently lives in Austin, TX.

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October 22-30

Click on the yellow bar below to open the prayers for this cycle.

 

October 22-30: For Racial Reconciliation in Our Faith Communities

General Intentions: For racial reconciliation in the Body of Christ. For the redemption of religious structures, attitudes, and practices that have for so long been used to create division and sow hatred. In reparation for the sins inflicted by white Christians upon our brothers and sisters. That we will forever renounce the very concept of race and embrace the truth that “he has made of one flesh all the nations of the earth.”

Particular Intentions: For ourselves, that we will look at our brothers and sisters of other races and see the face of Christ. And for our our brothers and sisters, that when they look at us they will see the same Christ. That we will have the courage to look at ourselves honestly and root out any vestiges of prejudice or hatred. For those who have suffered discrimination and exclusion in the name of Christ. For those who take risks to bridge the divide in the Body of Christ.

Introductory Prayers

Lord, open my lips and my mouth will proclaim your praise. Let us pray together in peace ✚ in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Invitatory Psalm (Psalm 67)

O God, be gracious and bless us / and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth / and all nations learn your saving help.

Let the nations be glad and exult / for you rule the world with justice.
With fairness you rule the peoples, / you guide the nations on earth.

The earth has yielded its fruit / for God, our God, has blessed us.
May God still give us his blessing / till the ends of the earth revere him.

Magnificat

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for He has looked with favor on His lowly servant.
From this day all generations shall call me blessed.
The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name.
He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation.
He has shown the strength of His arm, He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of His servant Israel for He has remembered His promise of mercy,
the promise He made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.

Glory Be

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

First Reading (Ezekiel 34:1-10)

The word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to them: To the shepherds, thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds pasture the flock? You consumed milk, wore wool, and slaughtered fatlings, but the flock you did not pasture. You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the stray or seek the lost but ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and became food for all the wild beasts. They were scattered and wandered over all the mountains and high hills; over the entire surface of the earth my sheep were scattered. No one looked after them or searched for them.

Therefore, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: As I live—oracle of the Lord GOD—because my sheep became plunder, because my sheep became food for wild beasts, for lack of a shepherd, because my shepherds did not look after my sheep, but pastured themselves and did not pasture my sheep, therefore, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: Thus says the Lord GOD: Look! I am coming against these shepherds. I will take my sheep out of their hand and put a stop to their shepherding my flock, so that these shepherds will no longer pasture them. I will deliver my flock from their mouths so it will not become their food.

Second Reading (Ephesians 4:17-32)

So I declare and testify in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; darkened in understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance, because of their hardness of heart, they have become callous and have handed themselves over to licentiousness for the practice of every kind of impurity to excess. That is not how you learned Christ, assuming that you have heard of him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus, that you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.

Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger, and do not leave room for the devil. The thief must no longer steal, but rather labor, doing honest work with his [own] hands, so that he may have something to share with one in need. No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. [And] be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.

Third Reading (John 17:5-21)

Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began. “I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified i them. And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are …

When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely. I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.

They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth. “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.

Reflection (From Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr’s, “Letter From Birmingham Jail”)

There was a time when the church was very powerful in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests.

Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Par from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ecclesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom, They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jai with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment.

I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham, and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.

Our Lady, Mother of the Church

Holy Mary, Mother of the Word Incarnate and Mother of the Church, extend your maternal protection to all your sons and daughters. Bring us together in a spirit of Christian unity, forsaking all pride and privilege, abandoning all prejudice and resentment, so that by our love we will testify to the presence of your Divine Son in the world.

Closing Prayer

Lord Jesus, in your High Priestly Prayer, you begged that we be kept one, as you are one with the Father. Sadly, we have broken the bonds of unity in many ways. We have divided race against race, class against class, male against female, and nation against nation. Forgive the scandal of our brokenness. Infuse in us that original spirit of unity for which you prayed so desperately. Lead us to your Sacred Heart, where sins are forgiven, losses restored, wounds healed, and brothers and sisters reconciled.

✚ May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to eternal life. Amen.

Work of Mercy

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said that “the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” We will not find reconciliation in our faith communities until we worship and work together. This cycle, seek out a predominantly black (or if you are black, white) church of any denomination and attend a service. While there, participate fully, and when the time comes to greet other congregants, do so cheerfully, offering your name, your hand, and a blessing. You will be remembered. Later, look for ways to break down barriers in your own church. Help form a diversity committee. If a weekend service at your church is in Spanish, invite members of that community – who are usually isolated from the rest of the parish – to participate in a social event. Look for ways to catalyze conversations around racial (and ethnic) reconciliation, perhaps through film series or book clubs.

Models

clarenceThe Rev. Dr. Clarence Williams, CPpS, PhD is the author of “Racial Sobriety: Becoming the Change You Want to See,” and the founder of the Institute for Social Sobriety. He is committed to assisting, resourcing and coaching leaders to realize their mission of service to their particular audience. Through the Institute, his mission is to assist in developing leadership free itself of the “stinking thinking” of racism, sexism and classism. Fr. Williams has realized that he most effective with institutional leaders who have struggled to overcome these hardships with the human family, and are now in a position within their organization to make a difference. Williams’ approach to a whole set of chronic human interaction problems, provides a set of tools for doing the facilitation that leadership needs and facilitated within the context and confines of a particular organizational culture.

km_1115_theoharvey_0309e_insideJennifer Harvey, PhD, Jennifer Harvey is Professor of Religion at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. She received her Ph.D. in Christian Social Ethics from Union Theological Seminary. The courses Prof. Harvey teaches run the gamut in relation to her research interests.  Broadly speaking, they focus on encounters of religion and ethics with race, gender, activism, politics, spirituality, justice, and any other aspect of social life in which religiosity decides to “show up.”

Prof. Harvey’s most recent book Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation has led to her engagement as a speaker and workshop leader with faith communities and academic audiences around the nation. She is also the author of Whiteness and Morality: Pursuing Racial Justice through Reparations and Sovereignty (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) and a co-editor of Disrupting White Supremacy: White People on What We Need To Do (Pilgrim Press, 2004).

 

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October 31-November 8

Click on the yellow bar below to open the prayers for this cycle.

 

October 31-November 8: For the Building of the Beloved Community

General Intentions: For the building of the Beloved Community. For the creation of a national community marked by justice, peace, reconciliation, and brotherhood, a community in which poverty, exploitation, exclusion, war, violence and racial division are unthinkable.

Particular Intentions: For ourselves, that our discernment as citizens will be guided by what is right, not partisan or ideological. That we will always act as Christians first. That beginning today, we will lay aside all rancor and work in good faith to build the Beloved Community, where “all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Introductory Prayers

Lord, open my lips and my mouth will proclaim your praise. Let us pray together in peace ✚ in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Invitatory Psalm (Psalm 67)

O God, be gracious and bless us / and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth / and all nations learn your saving help.

Let the nations be glad and exult / for you rule the world with justice.
With fairness you rule the peoples, / you guide the nations on earth.

The earth has yielded its fruit / for God, our God, has blessed us.
May God still give us his blessing / till the ends of the earth revere him.

Magnificat

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for He has looked with favor on His lowly servant.
From this day all generations shall call me blessed.
The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name.
He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation.
He has shown the strength of His arm, He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of His servant Israel for He has remembered His promise of mercy,
the promise He made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.

Glory Be

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

First Reading (Isaiah 11:1-9)

But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.

The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A spirit of counsel and of strength,
a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.

Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
But he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide fairly for the land’s afflicted.

He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.

The cow and the bear shall graze,
together their young shall lie down;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the viper’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.

They shall not harm or destroy on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.

Second Reading (Revelation 21:1-6; 22:1-5)

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away. The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then he said, “Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true.” He said to me, “They are accomplished. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water …

Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of its street. On either side of the river grew the tree of life that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month; the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there anymore. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will look upon his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun, for the Lord God shall give them light, and they shall reign forever and ever.

Third Reading (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from “Life Together)

“By sheer grace God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes the destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of the brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first and accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.”

Reflection

With few exceptions – bell hooks and Charles Marsh come to mind – there haven’t been many attempts to develop the notion of a “Beloved Community” since Martin Luther King, Jr. first invoked the notion in a speech at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery on April 7, 1957. I say “invoked” because King didn’t coin the term. That was the work of Josiah Royce, an early 20th Century American philosopher who King had apparently read in seminary.

In his 1957 speech, King said, “The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community. The aftermath of nonviolence is redemption. The aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation. The aftermath of violence is emptiness and bitterness. This is the thing I’m concerned about. Let us fight passionately and unrelentingly for the goals of justice and peace. But let’s be sure that our hands are clean in this struggle. Let us never fight with falsehood and violence and hate and malice, but always fight with love …”

At least in embryonic form, each of King’s six principles of nonviolence is embedded in this paragraph.

Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. “Let us fight passionately and unrelentingly …” It takes true courage to fight with the weapons of the spirit, with love.

The Beloved Community is the framework for the future. “The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community.” We are moving toward something better.

Attack the forces of evil, not people doing evil. “Let’s be sure that our hands are clean in this struggle.” The weapons of violence do a wonderful job against human persons, but only strengthen the forces of evil.

Accept suffering without retaliation for the sake of the cause to achieve the goal. “Let us never fight with falsehood and violence and hate and malice …” Suffering for the sake of the cause is redemptive and can bring about reconciliation and peace.

Avoid internal violence of the spirit as well as external physical violence. “… always fight with love …” We must emerge a people worthy of the Beloved Community, which will not appear by means of malice and hate.

The universe is on the side of justice. “The aftermath of nonviolence is redemption. The aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation.” The aftermath of the struggle is preordained, written in a long arc that bends toward justice.

Maybe we don’t really need any further development of the idea of the Beloved Community. Maybe this is enough for us to work with in our age and time. Maybe anything more lofty would lure us into what Dietrich Bonhoeffer warns against in the third reading: the kind of “visionary dreaming” that makes dreamers proud and pretentious. King was a dreamer, it’s true, but he was also a man of the sweaty march, the noisy and angry crowd, the terrifying open highway and the claustrophobic city street. He saw enough, lived enough to know the difference between the rapturous vision and the achievable dream. May we learn and practice the same.

Mary, Theotokos (God-bearer)

You are the joy of all that sorrow, and of the oppressed a guardian, and nurture of all the poor, comfort to the estranged, a support you are to the blind, visitation of all the sick, a shelter and succour to those brought down by pain, helper of orphaned ones: you are Theotokos, the most pure Mother of our God; hurry, we beg you, to redeem your servants.

Closing Prayer

Lord God, worthy of all praise, we thank you for the blessings you have bestowed on our land. We humbly implore you to send your healing Spirit upon the American people. Give us the wisdom to reject the injustices of poverty, exploitation, and exclusion. Give us the courage to reject war and the violence of our society. Give us hearts of love and understanding so that we might be reconciled to one another. Give us the patience and commitment to build the Beloved Community, where you are glorified in justice, peace, and brotherhood.

✚ May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to eternal life. Amen

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