Prayer in the Square Needs You

Larry Smith

The world can seem such a mess that we may wonder what we can do. We need to pray. We need to pray as individuals and as a Catholic community, for the conversion of hearts and the salvation of souls. There are many opportunities to pray and I’d like to invite you to the upcoming Prayer in the Square gathering on every first Saturday of the month.

We need to let the world know our commitment to our faith, that it’s not OK to cut God out of public life. God is public life. We need to let people know that there aren’t many moralities; there’s one morality which is the morality of God, of Jesus Christ. We need to stand up and declare that in public and let people know. The greatest form of charity is to save people’s souls, to get them to engage in helping one another. This is the new civil rights movement. Priests and clergy can’t do it alone. Be a part of Prayer in the Square. There’s strength in numbers.

As St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Prayer in the Square is an opportunity to pray for the innocents. That could be children killed in the womb in America and around the world — or any person at risk of being denied true dignity and loving care due to aging or health issues. It’s also to pray for Christians around the world who are being persecuted and murdered for their faith.

All people of good will need to stand up and say, “Enough.” The opportunity to do that in a very public way will take place at Prayer in the Square on the west steps of the state Capitol in Denver at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 2, the day before Divine Mercy Sunday. Prayer in the Square is a lay movement in the Archdiocese of Denver with the blessing of Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, who will celebrate Mass at 9 a.m. April 2 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. He will then lead the rosary at the state Capitol at 10 a.m.

On March 5, Archbishop Aquila led a Procession of the Blessed Sacrament around Planned Parenthood with 1,800 people, circling the facility seven times. That echoed the march around the walls of Jericho described in the book of Joshua, Chapter 6.

Prayer in the Square is a part of the first Saturday devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. We gather at 10 a.m. on those mornings at any of five locations on the Front Range to pray a rosary together. And every three months, all the groups gather on the steps of the state Capitol to pray together.

So please join us Saturday, May 7, for Prayer in the Square at any one of the five locations. Two are in Denver: in front of Planned Parenthood at 3846 Pontiac St., and at Ruby Hill Park at 1200 W. Florida Ave. We also meet in Highlands Ranch at Civic Green Park at 9370 Ridgeline Blvd., and in Fort Collins, across from the Planned Parenthood at 825 S. Shields St. There is also a Prayer in the Square in Greeley at Centennial Park, 2315 W. Reservoir Road.

Go to for all the details.

Larry Smith is the president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver. Visit online at or call 303-742-0828 to learn more, volunteer or make a donation.

COMING UP: Strong temptations? Defeat them like the Desert Fathers

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The fact that we don’t do what we want but instead do what we hate is a problem as old as our first parents. Yet, we can interpret temptation either as that which is always keeping us away from God or as the very vehicle to grow closer to him.

The Desert Fathers believed it to be a necessary vehicle: “Whoever has not experienced temptation cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” St. Anthony of the Desert used to say. They saw the fight against these evil enticements as a step to love God in a deeper way.

Here’s how these radical followers of Christ – who fled to the Egyptian desert during the 3rd to 5th centuries to live a form of daily martyrdom in a land where being a Christian was no longer a risk – survived the strongest enticements of the flesh and the devil, as they sought to live out the Gospel and grow in perfection.

The sayings, teachings, maxims and stories they left behind, compiled and known as the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, show that a combination of three things: self-awareness, prayer and practicality, are key to battling the strongest disordered passions.

Alertness and action

“The early monks understood that temptations often come in the form of thoughts. We become attracted and have fantasies, whether that be in petty things, bodily appetites or social interactions,” explained Father Columba Stewart, O.S.B., expert on early monasticism, scholar and director of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn.

The first disposition they considered to be key, was self-awareness, “knowing what happens in our minds and hearts… how to recognize [bad thoughts] before we actually do a sinful action,” he said.

After this base, which requires continuous self-examination and attention to the inner impulses of the heart, the importance of prayer and practicality follow.

A hermit of the desert said to a young monk suffering from strong temptations, “This is the way to be strong: when temptations start to speak in your mind do not answer them but get up, pray, do penance, and say, ‘Son of God, have mercy upon me.’”

Prayer is not isolated from action. The hermit tells him to “get up,” “do penance” and “pray.”

Practicality can take on different forms, such as going in the opposite direction of the temptation or seeking help from another, Father Stewart pointed out.

“For example, when you’re angry with someone… thoughts of anger start emerging, and you replay in your imagination what made you angry. Then that turns into a mental video of how you’re going to get revenge. This is when self-awareness comes in and you realize that the thoughts you’re having are inappropriate,” Father Stewart said.

A first practical action would be to step away instead of going to find that person, he continued. “Then to use your mind and imagination to instead remember the times when your relationship [with that person] was better or think about the future and how great it will be when this passes.”

Light overcomes darkness

Also, this “get up” practicality consists in bringing to light one’s sins or temptations to someone else and not fighting alone.

“A common exhortation, attributed to many different monks, was that the Enemy, the devil, rejoices in nothing so much as unmanifested thoughts… A sin which is hidden begins to multiply,” Father Stewart wrote in an article.

He then explained that “If the devil was delighted by a monk’s self-imposed isolation, surely this was because the opposite of isolation, encounter with another, was the way to salvation.”

According to Father Stewart, this understanding led the Fathers to break from “the illusion of self-sufficiency, a pose which encourages self-absorption,” and find spiritual fathers.

“The desert tradition is universally insistent upon the young monk’s need for a discerning elder,” he explained. “The basic insight of the desert… was that one cannot grow towards perfection through isolated, solitary effort: grace is mediated through one’s neighbor, especially one’s abba [spiritual father].”

The way these early hermits fought temptations is one of many treasures that Father Stewart says they left behind. In fact, he encourages readers to look at the Sayings of the Desert Fathers as a source that is still “amazingly relevant.”

“[The Sayings of the Desert Fathers] have been very popular sources of wisdom and inspiration throughout history,” he said. “What sets [them] apart… is that they speak from and to experience rather than text or theory.”

“The tradition of Christian wisdom is great,” he concluded. “People only need to know where to find it.”