Hope in the Lord — Praying and fasting for peace on Sept. 9, 2016

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz

During this summer of unrest throughout the United States, many look to the Church for a path to peace and unity. Following the deadly attacks on police officers in Dallas during a protest rally stemming from the killings of two men in Louisiana and Minnesota, I extended a call to prayer, reflection, civility and peaceful dialogue.

I later appointed Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta to head a special task force to make concrete recommendations to the bishops’ conference to put flesh on this call. The first step of this task force was to ground our efforts in prayer together.

Friday, Sept. 9, has been designated as that time of prayer, and we in the Archdiocese of Louisville will gather as one people at St. Martin de Porres Church, 3112 West Broadway, at 7 p.m. for an evening of prayer.

Such prayer is born from a deep conviction. The conviction is this: Love overcomes evil, and the gift of love comes from God, the Father of us all. So we gather to beseech Him to help us receive well and share this gift as we walk with and assist suffering communities.

It will be a Friday on which we gather. While the Friday of Holy Week is rightly called Good Friday because of the salvation wrought through Jesus’ death, every Friday commemorates our Savior’s sacrificial love given that we might be one in Him.

As my message announcing this day of prayer stated, “To my brothers and sisters in Christ, let us gather at the Cross of Jesus. Our Savior suffered at the hands of humanity’s worst impulses, but He did not lose hope in us or in His heavenly Father. To all people of good will, let us beg for the strength to resist the hatred that blinds us to our common humanity.”

Since we are observing this day of prayer on a Friday, our traditional day of fast, I also invite Catholics throughout the archdiocese to observe a day of fast to raise awareness about our need for healing and reconciliation.

Our prayer is to avoid a “faceless enemy.” In a statement released after the attack in Dallas in July, I wrote: “The police are not a faceless enemy. They are sons and daughters offering their lives to protect their brothers and sisters. Jesus reminds us, ‘no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ ” (JN 15:13).

“So too, the suspects in crimes or routine traffic stops are not just a faceless threat. They are members of our family in need of assistance, protection and fairness. When compassion does not drive our response to the suffering of either, we have failed one another.”

The task force will be recommending steps of dialogue leading to greater unity and civility. The need to place ever greater value on the life and dignity of all persons, regardless of their station in life, calls us to a moment of national reflection. In the days ahead, we will look to opportunities to nurture an open, honest and civil dialogue on issues of race relations, restorative justice, mental health, economic opportunity and to address the question of pervasive gun violence.

Fittingly, Sept. 9 is the feast of St. Peter Claver, one who in the 17th century worked tirelessly to lift up those in slavery and treat them with the dignity that they deserve as persons created in God’s image and likeness. Working in Colombia, South America, St. Peter touched the lives of thousands of slaves, uniting them to their savior Jesus and bringing into their lives the hope of salvation, the knowledge of the faith and a sense of dignity that allowed them to build a just society.

Through the intercession of St. Peter Claver, may comfort be given to everyone affected and may our national conversation bear the good fruit of healing and peace. Please come and join me in prayer on Friday, Sept. 9, at 7 p.m., at St. Martin de Porres Church.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz

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