Pray to Promote Peace and Unity Sept 9
Most Rev. Joseph E. Kurtz, Bishop of the Diocese of Louisville, KY, and current president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has officially called for this national day of prayer in light of recent and escalating violence in our country. The following statement from the USCCB is offered:
WASHINGTON – In light of recent incidents of violence and racial tension in communities across the United States, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has invited all dioceses across the country to unite in a Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities. He has also appointed a special task force to support bishops in marking that Day of Prayer, and more broadly, in promoting peace and healing during this time of great strain on civil society.
On July 8, in his initial and immediate response to the racially-related shootings in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, noted the need to look at ways the Catholic Church can walk with and help these suffering communities. The initiatives announced today begin to address that need.
NOVENA PRAYER TO PETER CLAVER
Dear Saint of our modern times,
you were permeated with compassion for the oppressed, for human beings sold as slaves and treated as expendable beasts. While alleviating their natural ills, you also took away their spiritual ills and taught them the surpassing knowledge of Christ. Inspire many of our contemporaries to become self-sacrificing missionaries like you.
(Please cut out this novena prayer and post in a conspicuous place or keep with you to pray each day.)
“I have stressed the need to look toward additional ways of nurturing an open, honest and civil dialogue on issues of race relations, restorative justice, mental health, economic opportunity, and addressing the question of pervasive gun violence,” Archbishop Kurtz said. “The Day of Prayer and special Task Force will help us advance in that direction. By stepping forward to embrace the suffering through unified, concrete action animated by the love of Christ, we hope to nurture peace and build bridges of communication and mutual aid in our own communities.”
The Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities will be celebrated on the feast of St. Peter Claver, September 9, and will serve as a focal point for the work of the task force.
The purpose of the Task Force is to help bishops engage the challenging problems directly, by various means: gathering and disseminating supportive resources and “best practices”; actively listening to the concerns of members in troubled communities and law enforcement; and building strong relationships to help prevent and resolve conflicts. The Task Force will conclude its work with a report on its activities and recommendations for future work to the November General Assembly.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, former USCCB president, will chair the task force. “I am honored to lead this Task Force which will assist my brother bishops, individually and as a group, to accompany suffering communities on the path toward peace and reconciliation,” said Archbishop Gregory. “We are one body in Christ, so we must walk with our brothers and sisters and renew our commitment to promote healing. The suffering is not somewhere else, or someone else’s; it is our own, in our very dioceses.”
The Task Force will have numerous bishop consultants, including bishops whose jurisdictions have experienced extreme gun violence or who otherwise bring special insight or experience on related questions. An equal or smaller number of lay consultants with relevant expertise will be appointed soon thereafter.
OUR PARISH’S ACTION FOR PLANNED DAY OF PRAYER
At Good Shepherd Catholic Parish, we are proposing to participate in this National Day of Prayer through community prayer and education on violence to give a better understanding of how we can recognize and stop violence even through simple acts.
We will begin with a Novena to St. Peter Claver. All parishioners are encouraged to cut out the Novena Prayer printed in the bulletin so that you may have it to pray each day.
We will begin on September 3rd by praying the Novena at the conclusion of the Vigil Masses then each day, the prayer will again be prayed at the conclusion of all Masses celebrated throughout Good Shepherd Parish. Anyone who is unable to assist at daily Mass is requested to pray the Novena individually, as a family or in community with others.
On September 9th, at both the 8:00 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. Masses, 1/2 hour of Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament will be offered so that the parish community may gather to pray for peace in community and reflective silent meditation.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Clergy and staff of Good Shepherd Parish will assist at Mass that day so the parish office will be closed between noon and approximately 1:30 p.m. for those who wish to assist at the 12:15 p.m. Mass and Exposition. Please pray for peace in our community and in our world through our planned Novena and in all that you do.
Who is St. Peter Claver and why is his feast day chosen for this particular event?
September 9 is the feast day of St Peter Claver. Few U.S. Catholics may have heard of Peter Claver but elsewhere in the American hemisphere, he is well-known. So who was Peter Claver?
St. Peter Claver, S.J. was a Spanish Jesuit priest and missionary born in Verdú (Catalonia) who, due to his life and work, became the patron saint of slaves, the Republic of Colombia and ministry to African Americans. During the 40 years of his ministry in Colombia it is estimated he personally baptized around 300,000 people. He is also patron saint for seafarers. He is considered a heroic example of what should be the Christian praxis of love and of the exercise of human rights.
Peter was born into a devoutly Catholic and prosperous farming family 70 years after King Ferdinand of Spain set the colonial slavery culture into motion by authorizing the purchase of 250 African slaves in Lisbon for his territories in New Spain, an event which was to shape Claver’s life.
After he had completed his studies, Claver entered the Society of Jesus in Tarragona at the age of 20. When he had completed the novitiate, he was sent to study philosophy at Palma, Mallorca. While there, he came to know the porter of the college, St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, a lay brother known for his holiness and gift of prophecy. Rodriguez felt that he had been told by God that Claver was to spend his life in service in the colonies of New Spain, and he frequently urged the young student to accept that calling. Claver volunteered for the Spanish colonies and was sent to the New Kingdom of Granada, where he arrived in the port city of Cartagena in 1610. Required to wait six years to be ordained as a priest while he did his theological studies, he lived in Jesuit houses at Tunja and Bogotá. During those preparatory years, he was deeply disturbed by the harsh treatment and living conditions of the black slaves who were brought from Africa.
Cartagena was a slave-trading hub. 10,000 slaves poured into the port yearly, crossing the Atlantic from West Africa under conditions so foul that an estimated one-third died in transit. Although the slave trade was condemned by Pope Paul III and Urban VIII had issued a papal decree prohibiting slavery, (later called “supreme villainy” by Pope Pius IX), it was a lucrative business and continued to flourish. Peter headed for the wharf as soon as a slave ship entered the port. Boarding the ship, he entered the filthy and diseased holds to treat and minister to their badly treated, terrified human cargo, who had survived a voyage of several months under horrible conditions. It was difficult to move around on the ships, because the slave traffickers filled them to capacity.
Claver saw the slaves as fellow Christians, encouraging others to do so as well. During the season when slavers were not accustomed to arrive, he traversed the country, visiting plantation after plantation, to give spiritual consolation to the slaves. He would then follow up on them to ensure that as Christians they received their Christian and civil rights. His mission extended beyond caring for slaves, however. He preached in the city square, to sailors and traders and conducted country missions, returning every spring to visit those he had baptized, ensuring that they were treated humanely. Through years of unremitting toil and the force of his own unique personality, the slaves’ situation slowly improved. In time he became a moral force, the Apostle of Cartagena.
St. Peter Claver understood that all human beings have a basic right to be treated with dignity and respect and to be safe from mistreatment and harm. In today’s society, this view is not taken for those that we deem not worthy. “Catch phrases” mask the inhumanity of unjust laws that have become acceptable out of convenience, apathy or ignorance – abortion as choice, the death penalty as justice and euthanasia as compassion are intrinsic evils that foster violence. This disregard for human life encourages a violent society through human trafficking and domestic violence, ignores the plight of refugees and immigrants, economic injustice and homelessness. When we become immune to human suffering we tend to ignore it if we are not directly affected by it.
The Catholic Church guides us in leading our lives fully as Jesus Christ asks us to. As Catholics, we are bound to the greatest commandment, to love our neighbor as ourselves. When we don’t speak out for justice, we condone actions that are immoral and unethical. Let us recognize Jesus in all persons and form our consciences as our Church teaches us so that we may act as St. Peter Claver did as he ministered to those who had no protector.