If there’s anything Pope Francis has shown us in the first six months of his pontificate, it’s that he is not really into “lip service.” He’s a man who “goes and does,” realizing that leading by example is a primary way of instructing others in living out the Gospel call.
So it is for Pope Francis’ latest appeal for peace in Syria. Multiple times in his short pontificate he has lifted his voice for peace: in North Korea, Egypt and in Syria. But, as if he decided the headline “Pope calls for peace” might be falling on deaf ears from overuse, Francis switched things up last Sunday and called for a day of fasting and prayer Sept. 7 for Syria, the Middle East and throughout the world.
In doing so, the pope invites all people of all faiths — and all men and women of good will — to action. Pope Francis will participate in a prayer vigil from 7 to 11 p.m., Rome time, and he invites parishes around the world to do the same. (That’s 1 to 5 p.m. Eastern time.)
“We will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God’s great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world,” Pope Francis said. “Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace! I ask all the local churches, in addition to fasting, that they gather to pray for this intention.”
As has become his custom, Pope Francis asked us to entrust our intentions to the Blessed Mother, whose memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows is marked Sept. 15 by the Church. Mary’s sorrow, writes J.J. Ziegler in this week’s Faith story (Pages 14-15), can be joined with ours because she understands what it means to suffer at the foot of the cross.
“Let us ask Mary to help us to respond to violence, to conflict and to war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation and love,” Pope Francis said. “She is our mother: may she help us to find peace.”
Pope Francis’ call for action is an opportunity not to be missed by the faithful who feel that, perhaps because they live a world away, they are unable to help another people in another place. Joined through the Mystical Body of Christ, we have a chance to stand in solidarity with the suffering.
A blog posted on our Daily Take site, osvdailytake.com, includes the following prayer for peace by Blessed John XXIII, which I hope you find useful.
“Lord Jesus Christ, who are called the Prince of Peace, who are yourself our peace and reconciliation, who so often said, ‘Peace to you,’ grant us peace. Make all men and women witnesses of truth, justice and brotherly love. Banish from their hearts whatever might endanger peace. Enlighten our rulers that they may guarantee and defend the great gift of peace. May all peoples on the earth become as brothers and sisters. May longed-for peace blossom forth and reign always over us all.”
Please send me your comments, or even your own prayer for peace, at firstname.lastname@example.org.