Last Sunday, Pope Francis requested that all Catholics and people of good will join in a day of prayer and fasting – tomorrow, Saturday, September 7th – for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and the whole world:
To this end, brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on 7 September next, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.
(Surely this is old news by now, but I thought I should post about it immediately following my retreat, at least for those who might not have heard about it.)
I like that the Holy Father asked us to undertake this effort on the vigil of a feast. It highlights our traditional Catholic practice of fasting before feasting. In the past, there were many feasts that were preceded by mandatory fasts (as a result, many families still maintain the tradition of a lighter, meatless meal on Christmas Eve, for example, even if they no longer know why they have always done that). It would be good if we returned to this practice, living as we do in a world that now sees fasting as having value only for weight loss or physical cleansing purposes and that otherwise puts constant emphasis on “indulging” ourselves (i.e., feasting all the time).
I wish the Holy Father had given us permission to celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary also (which this year is displaced by the regular Sunday celebration)! Oh well, you can’t win them all.
So, what can we do to join in this day of fasting and prayer? Here are some ideas:
- Skip a meal
- Give up something you like to eat
- Give up something you like to do
- Pray a rosary
- Make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament
- Make a Holy Hour
- Do one of these things instead of watching your favorite primetime show
Sometimes when we are sitting at home participating in these things we might be tempted to think that our tiny contribution doesn’t matter. “This can’t possibly be helping; no one will know if I don’t do anything.” But do not be deceived. The Holy Father was asking you for your prayers also: they do matter. Your prayers and sacrifices are pleasing to God, and we pray that somehow, out of this mess of war and strife that has long been the norm in the Mideast and has spread throughout the entire world, He might bring peace.