Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila is inviting the faithful of the Archdiocese of Denver to join French Catholics in a day of fasting and prayer initiated by the bishops there as a response to the brutal attack on a Church in the Archdiocese of Rouen.
Father Jacques Hamel, 84, was murdered as he celebrated Mass Tuesday morning. The group currently branding itself as “Islamic State” has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The French bishops have designated Friday, July 29, as a day of fasting and prayer.
“I would like to invite all the faithful of the Archdiocese of Denver to join our brothers and sisters in France for a day of prayer and fasting this Friday,” Archbishop Aquila wrote in a message sent from Kraków. “Let us remember that we are one body, and as they mourn, so also do we mourn.” (Read Archbishop Aquila’s full statement here.)
He added a special invitation to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Denver: “Specifically, please join me in praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 p.m. for the Lord to have mercy on this fallen and increasingly violent world. And let us all pray as St. Faustina taught us: Jesus, I trust in you!”
The practice of fasting goes back to the Old Testament. Christians understand fasting, or limiting intake of food and drink for a religious purpose, to be a way of participating in Christ’s suffering. Christians will fast in response to great evil or times of deep spiritual need, as it is a means of reigning in the passions and demonstrating commitment and devotion to God.
Jesus himself admonished that this is not to be done for attention (Matt. 6:16-18). Bishops may call for Christians to fast in response to an event, but it should be done with goodwill.
Added prayer typically accompanies fasting. For example, when Jesus spent 40 days in the desert, he fasted and prayed (Matt. 4:1-11). Some of the early Christian monks set themselves apart from society by fasting and praying in solitude (see the lives of Anthony of the Desert, St. Jerome, St. Benedict and the Stylites for more on this).
Archbishop Aquila asked that the faithful adopt the added prayers of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. The chaplet comes from a Polish nun, St. Faustina Kowalska, whose diary contains over 600 pages of reflections on God’s mercy.
According to EWTN, the message of mercy is that God loves all of us, despite our sins, and wants us to know we can turn to him no matter what we have done. He wants us to call on him and receive his mercy. Having received this mercy, we can pass it on to others.
The Divine Mercy Chaplet is prayed using a traditional rosary. On each of the traditional “Our Father” beads, one instead prays, “Eternal Father, I offer you the body and blood, soul and divinity of your dearly beloved son, our lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.” On each of the “Hail Mary” beads, one prays “For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” The chaplet concludes by praying three times, “Holy God, holy mighty one, holy immortal one, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
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