Archbishop Aquila: Join me by fasting in solidarity with France

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.”

Learn more about fasting and abstinence

Learn more about the Divine Mercy Chaplet

Photo: CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images

COMING UP: French bishops call for day of prayer, fasting July 29

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French bishops call for day of prayer, fasting July 29

Rouen’s Archbishop: Take up weapons of prayer, brotherhood

French priest Father Jacques Hamel, 84, was brutally murdered July 26 while celebrating Mass at his parish in St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray. The bishops of France have called for a national day or prayer and fasting July 29 in response to the attack. (Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Rouen)

The bishops of France have called for a national day of prayer and fasting July 29, in response to the murderous attack on 84-year-old Father Jacques Hamel at the hands of two self-proclaimed members of the so-called Islamic State (IS).

The attack took place in the parish of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray in the northern French Archdiocese of Rouen. The two assailants were killed by French police, and another victim is in critical condition.

In a statement posted Wednesday, Archbishop Georges Pontier of Marseille, president of the French bishops’ conference, said the brutal murder of the elderly priest was “unthinkable.”

“There are many feelings that we experience in these moments,” he wrote. “We know, however, that one, brotherhood, dear to our country, is the way that leads to lasting peace. Let’s build it together.”

The archbishop invited “all Catholics of France to a day of fasting and prayer for our country and for peace in the world this Friday, July 29.”

He also asked in particular that the 30,000 French pilgrims in Poland this week for World Youth Day pray the Way of the Cross with the intention of peace for France, and for the world.

“We follow Christ in his victory over hatred, revenge and death,” he concluded. “He is our light, and our hope.”

Be apostles of love

Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen, who was leading several groups totaling some 300 pilgrims to World Youth Day, left Krakow Tuesday to return to his home diocese after learning of the attack.

“I cry out to God with all men of good will,” he said in a statement made available by the World Youth Day Communications office. “I would invite non-believers to join in the cry!”

“The Catholic Church cannot take weapons other than those of prayer and brotherhood among men,” he said. “I leave here hundreds of young people who are the future of humanity, the true ones. I ask them not to give in to the violence and become apostles of the civilization of love.”

In a press conference later that day in Krakow, Msgr. Olivier Ribadeau Dumas, secretary general of the French bishops’ conference, said that the bishops of France want to “build the civilization of love, and that’s why we are here. We don’t want violence and hate to have the upper hand.”

The ‘spark of peace’

“Neither hate nor violence is a way out,” he continued. “We cannot surrender to these sentiments. Today young people from around the world rejoice, because of this love we can live in peace and fraternity.”

“I believe that World Youth Day needs to proceed with intensity and power so that the young people might indicate the path for the Church,” Msgr. Dumas said. “We should see the horizon of peace, joy, brotherhood and prayer.”

At the opening press conference on Monday evening, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow said, “We want to show to the youth the mystery of Divine Mercy and let them take from Krakow the idea of the ‘spark of peace.’ Now in Europe, we have a time of anxiety. Peace is endangered because of brutal terrorism. That is why we want to create an atmosphere of peace, reconciliation, solidarity, and kindness which from Krakow can take over the whole world.”