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 prayerinthesquare.com for all the details.

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

COMING UP: A time to reflect on death

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November is a month when the Church asks us to pray for the dead. After celebrating those in heaven on Nov. 1, we pray for all the faithful departed who await heaven while undergoing purgation on Nov. 2, All Souls Day. The Church encourages us to pray for the dead by granting special indulgences in November to assist the souls in purgatory. A plenary (or full) indulgence can be received November 1-8 and then a partial indulgence the rest of the month when we “devoutly visit a cemetery and at least mentally pray for the dead” or “devoutly recite lauds or vespers from the Office of the Dead or the prayer Requiem aeternam”: “Eternal rest grant unto him/her (them), O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him/her/them. May he/she/they rest in peace. Amen.”

November, therefore, provides an opportunity to reflect upon death. Even the readings at the end of the liturgical year and the beginning of Advent point us to the coming judgment and end of the world. We may not relish contemplating death but doing so constitutes an essential element of a life well lived, realizing that our life on earth will decide how we spend eternity. Socrates described philosophy as a preparation for death and the same has been made for monasticism.  “Remember to keep death before your eyes daily,” the great Patriarch of monks, St. Benedict, directed in his Rule (ch. 4). A French writer, Nicholas Diat, put this maxim to the test in his new book, A Time to Die: Monks on the Threshold of Eternal Life (Ignatius, 2019). Diat, known for his three interview books with Cardinal Robert Sarah, visited eight monasteries in France — Norbertines, Benedictines, Cistercians, and Carthusians — to talk to the monks about their experience of death.

He describes why he wrote the book: “The West has worked hard to bury death more deeply in the vaults of its history. Today, the liturgy of death no longer exists. Yet fear and anxiety have never been as strong. Men no longer know how to die. In this desolate world, I had the idea to take the path of the great monasteries in order to discover what the monks might have to teach us about death. Behind cloister walls, they pass their existence in prayer and reflection of the last things. I thought their testimonies could help people understand suffering, sickness, pain, and the final moments of life. They have known complicated deaths, quick deaths, simple deaths. They have confronted death more often, and more intimately, than most who live outside monastery walls” (13).

I found that Diat achieved his objective. Although the monks live very different lives, they still face similar human struggles, sometimes magnified by lack of distractions, including the dominance of technology in sickness and the last stages of life. The Benedictine Monastery of En-Calcat experienced many difficult deaths and the superior, Dom David, related how sedation can make it hard to die: “We no longer feel life. We no longer feel humanity. We no longer feel God approaching” (55). When death approaches more naturally (or should we say supernaturally), the monks can die the “most beautiful death.” Such was the death of Father Henri Rousselot, who died at 96: “His face in death was magnificent. He was supernaturally radiant. The monks had the impression that his features had been drawn by God. Everyone who entered this room was struck by his beauty. Each found the child that Father Henri had always been” (72).

Some monasteries experienced difficult deaths — young monks whose lives were cut short by cancer, or, in the case of the canon Brother Vincent, multiple sclerosis, sudden deaths, even in chapel, or cases of dementia or mental illness. It did seem, however, in my own assessment, that the more a monastery was withdrawn from the world and its cares the more peaceful the deaths of its monks. This was true especially of the Grand Chartreuse (see the film Into Great Silence), where the monks live like hermits in the silent seclusion of prayer. Here the monks, already anticipating heaven, seem to die miraculously by slipping away peacefully. “The beauty of Carthusian deaths, sweet and simple, seems to bear witness to the fact that the spiritual combat of the sons of Bruno is so powerful that, in the final hour, fears are abolished. In the last moments, the peace that dwells in them is so profound that the majority of them are not afraid to die alone. They have spent their lives in the silence of an austere cell that sees them leave this earth” (165).

The book does not treat simply the experience of monks, but a central question for us all: “No one knows how he will live his death. Will we be courageous, fearful, happy? Will we be cowards or heroes?” (114). It’s time to start preparing now!