Joined in a Prayer for Peace

September 6 tweet from Pope Francis, via @Pontifex

As you may know, Pope Francis has proclaimed tomorrow, September 7, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world. He reminds us that peace is a precious gift that needs to be promoted and protected. As citizens of the United States, we have particular responsibility in this effort as our nation’s leaders contemplate military action. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has reaffirmed the Holy Father’s call for leaders in Syria and the “international community to make clear proposals for peace…a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people” (Pope Francis, Sunday Angelus, September 1, 2013).

You may wonder what difference our small acts of prayer and fasting will make in the face of such great suffering of the people of Syria and the Middle East.  How might our prayer affect the deliberations of Congress?  Our prayer finds its power in the fact that we pray in Christ’s name. When Jesus offered his disciples the instruction on prayer to the Father, he revealed to them the generosity of his love.  “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13-15).  Prayer is neither useless nor selfish. It flows from one’s filial relationship with God.  In uniting our prayer with that of our brothers and sisters through the Catholic World, our prayer truly becomes universal and a sign of hope for the world.  The Holy Father explains that “humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace!”

As is traditional during times of intense prayer, we are asked to combine our prayer with fasting.  Fasting disciplines the passions in a way that enables us to focus more intently on prayer.  This practice reminds us of our utter dependence on God for the gift of peace and puts us in solidarity with the suffering people of Syria.

I invite you to join me at a Mass for Peace and Justice tomorrow, September 7, at 12:10 pm in the Crypt Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  The Mass is the fullest expression of the Universal Church at prayer.  Pope Benedict wrote beautifully of the union we experience in the Eucharist.  “In receiving the one bread, we ourselves become one.  God no longer simply stands before us as the One who is totally Other.  He is within us, and we are in him.  His dynamic enters into us and then seeks to spread outward to others until it fills the world, so that love can truly become the dominant measure of  the world” (USCCA, 297, Benedict XVI, Homily at Marienfeld, August, 2005).

If you are unable join us for Mass, I ask that you set some time aside to pray, to visit to the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration or to say a rosary.  Visit to find a list of parishes that have Adoration and other resources for your prayer.  Join us on social media as we share our commitment and experience the solidarity that comes from praying as a community.  You can join the conversation on Twitter at #Fast4Syria.

Saturday is the vigil of the Nativity of Mary, whom we invoke on this occasion as the Queen of Peace, and so we ask Our Blessed Mother’s intercession.  With Pope Francis we pray, “Help us, Mary, to overcome this most difficult moment and to dedicate ourselves each day to building in every situation an authentic culture of encounter and peace. Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!”