Throughout the Old Testament, the chosen people of God repeatedly turned away from His love and fell into sin. In order to return to right relationship with the Lord and one another, these men and women united in communal acts of prayer, fasting and repentance.
Such practices, which achieved reconciliation for a time, find their ultimate fulfilment when joined to the eternal sacrifice of Christ on the cross. As Christ has overcome suffering and death through His resurrection, it is only through, with, and in Him that the sins and scandals plaguing the Church in the present day can be overcome.
Precisely for this reason, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades chose Oct. 5, in recognition of the sacrificial love of Jesus, to be observed as a diocesanwide day of prayer, fasting and reparation. He requested that this day be offered “for the victim-survivors of sexual abuse and for their healing,” while asking “God’s mercy on the whole Church, and for the grace of purification and renewal during this difficult time.” He also expressed hope for “a great outpouring of petition to the Sacred Heart of Our Lord, the heart of perfect love.”
In response, parishes, schools and institutions throughout the diocese sought to deepen their commitment to Christ in the Eucharist and bring genuine renewal to the Church. Bishop Rhoades encouraged parishes to offer votive Masses for the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to pray the rosary and the Stations of the Cross, recite the Penitential Psalms and spend time with the Blessed Sacrament.
Seminarians of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and the Congregation of Holy Cross participated in the day with additional prayers and extended holy hours. The University of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s College, Holy Cross College and the University of Saint Francis each encouraged involvement, including offering special prayers and remembrances at 3 p.m. and providing suggestions for fasting and added penances. Redeemer Radio provided a continuous airing of prayers throughout the day.
The day carried a deep spiritual significance for laity and priests alike.
Lisa Everett, director for Marriage and Family Ministry, stated: “It was powerful that Bishop Rhoades called his flock together on the first Friday of Respect Life Month to pray and do penance on behalf of those who have perpetrated terrible sins and crimes of sexual abuse. I know that people sometimes have a hard time understanding why we should do penance for other people’s sins. But isn’t that exactly what happened during the passion and death of Jesus? He was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity, as the prophet Isaiah put it, ‘by His wounds we were healed.’
“It’s one of the most beautiful and consoling mysteries of our faith that our sacrifices and sufferings, lovingly united to the cross of Christ, can truly benefit others. I have often pondered the striking claim that St. John Paul II once made: ‘It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls. Suffering, more than anything else, makes present in the history of humanity the powers of the Redemption.’”
Father Jacob Meyer, pastor of St. Monica Parish, Mishawaka, who led multiple holy hours and a Q&A session to discuss the recent scandals, similarly remarked that, “The sorrow was palpable and emotional. It was a very penitential day: You could feel the weight of the gravity. It’s interesting, as a priest, how we suffer for the sins of our brothers. It is what we are called to do. When the bishop announced this, I knew it was a good thing to do, but I didn’t realize it was going to be so spiritually moving. It was not only beautiful in reflecting upon it afterwards, but even during. It was very real.”
“When I heard that Bishop asked for the day of prayer, it showed me that he realizes the state of the Church and how much healing we all need, both individually and as the Body of Christ,” said Trey Sorg, a junior at Holy Cross College. “He is acting on it, not just standing idly by. He is calling us to greater communion by having these holy hours of reparation and I believe this will really inspire others to do more on their own in response to the sins of the Church and for the healing of the body of Christ, so that the ultimate victim behind all this can forgive us and love His bride the way He always meant to.”
St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Fort Wayne celebrated a 6:30 p.m. Mass, followed by a holy hour with benediction. At Holy Cross Parish in South Bend, the 8:15 a.m. Mass in the Mary Chapel gave way to a Parish Prayer Service with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, recitation of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary, and praying of the Penitential Psalms. The parish also joined Christ the King Parish for Evening Prayer for Healing in the Catholic Church on Oct. 2. St. Therese, Little Flower in South Bend discerned a day of adoration, according to Youth Minister Abby Kyle, which began with the votive Mass, then exposition of the Blessed Sacrament from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. with two or more parishioners committing to pray at each hour for healing within the Church and in our hearts. Other parishes carried out similar liturgies and prayer services.
Father Ryan Pietrocarlo, CSC, associate pastor of St. Adalbert Parish, South Bend, offered remarks on the importance of the day.
“Reparation makes things complete again, making up for what’s lost, repairing that which has been damaged, making things whole. We read in the passion of Christ that His heart is pieced and blood and water flow out upon the world, which is the true reparation that washes over us, especially in the midst of the damaged Church that we are in,” he said. “We as Christians are called now to continue in this dark time of the Church to dwell with hope, knowing that by Christ’s blood from His Sacred Heart, which pours forth around the world will heal the Church and make reparation to make it whole again. We have that hope that our Church may be whole; that it may be an instrument, not of damage, but of hope and of life. May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be our guide as we love in the world and raise the world to the heights that Christ did in His life.”
The diocese is grateful to the parishes and individuals who participated in the Day of Prayer and Penance. For continued participation in offering reparation through the upcoming weeks, prayer resources can be found at https://dppfwsb.weebly.com/. Additionally, the Litany of Reparation and additional prayers for a renewal of the priesthood can be found in the book “In Sinu Jesu: When Heart Speaks to Heart – the Journal of a Priest at Prayer” (Angelico Press, 2016).
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