Recently, Pope Francis announced two upcoming events. On Oct. 13, the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima, he will consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and this upcoming Saturday, Sept. 7, he is inviting everyone to join him in prayer and penance for peace in the Middle East, Africa and all of the other violence-plagued corners of our world.
Facing so many economic, political and moral challenges, living in a culture that feels increasingly violent and lost, watching various countries descend into the chaos of civil war, we need to embrace radically profound prayer as the base for all of our needed transforming action. After sacrificing himself in exhausting days of healing, preaching and serving, Jesus would often spend the night absorbed in prayer with the Father. If the Son of God needed to pray that much, how much more do we!
When I read the Acts of the Apostles, it is clear that the early church prayed together often; is there not a great power of the Holy Spirit unleashed when we gather as one mind and heart in communion with the Lord? Through the united prayer of the first Christians, Peter was released from prison, Tabitha was brought back to life, cripples were healed and the place where they gathered shook. Through the faithful, daily gathering of the community in prayer, each disciple of the Lord drew strength, wisdom, courage and inspiration to remain committed to the great task of evangelization. So it remains true for us.
Lately, I have increasingly felt the Lord calling me to deeper and more constant prayer, as if he were saying, “I appreciate everything you are trying to do, but I want you to be with me more. Surrender your control to my Holy Spirit, rest in the Heart of my Son, have confidence in my love for you.” We can become so busy and preoccupied with many good things, but if our hearts are not with the Lord, what does it really amount to in the end?
Pope Francis clearly sees the fundamental crisis the world faces, yet looks with radiant hope and confidence towards Jesus Christ and his Mother. Religious faith, actively lived, generously shared, expressed through actions of mercy, justice, charity and peace, holds the power to transform our society. Such faith is fueled through prayer.
I was recently reading a biography of St. Alphonsus Ligouri, who served the church in Naples, Italy, during the 1700s. He organized groups of lay people in every parish of the archdiocese to gather in prayer before the Eucharist, reflect on their faith and then to go out and undertake some action of charity and justice for the poor and suffering. Some of those parish groups were still active 100 years later!
Please join us this Saturday, Sept. 7, at the Wisconsin Exposition Center at State Fair Park for the Hearts United Rally, 1-4 p.m., sponsored by the Rosary Evangelization Project, Men and Women of Christ and the Nazareth Project. The afternoon will offer prayer, speakers and music. This gathering is a precious opportunity to put into practice what the church has always done – pray together for the unleashing of the Holy Spirit so that all people will be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. It is the only way our city, country and world will discover and know true and lasting peace.
You may register for the Hearts United Rally at http://heartsunited2013.org/ or call (414) 570-4389 for more information. Our beloved Archdiocese of Milwaukee needs the power of the Holy Spirit as we look forward to the Synod next year, embrace the great work of the new evangelization and continue to move through our current challenges of bankruptcy. This time is a tremendous opportunity for renewal of faith and commitment to the Lord and his church. Bishop Donald J. Hying, Herald of Hope