What are you doing for the vigil for peace for Syria?

Late Sunday night, I received a message from our Vicar General that our Bishop will be celebrating a liturgy at our Cathedral in solidarity with Pope Francis this Saturday. The Pope called for Saturday, September 7, 2013, the eve of the nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to be a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria and other places of conflict and war. So I spent most of my Labor Day putting together a prayer service that was not a Mass, but was penitential in nature, Marian in feel, ecumenical, traditional, and accessible enough for non-churchgoers who felt called to gather with others to pray for peace. And it had to be at least an hour or so with some flexibility at the end for private prayer and vigiling. Did I mention it also had to be somewhat bilingual (Spanish and English)?

Going through my files, I saw that we had already celebrated several evening prayers for peace as a diocese at particularly turbulent times in our world. So I immediately thought of doing Evening Prayer again—the Magnificat would have been perfect. But this liturgy would take place at 8:00p, long after the Cathedral’s Saturday evening Mass for Sunday. It just didn’t feel right to do Evening Prayer once we had already begun the Sunday observance. So we went instead with Compline and extended out several of its parts. I decided not to use the assigned psalms so as to use more penitential psalm settings familiar to our diocese, and I mixed and match a lot of texts in order to attend to the focus of the Pope’s intention.

If it’s helpful for you, here’s a working draft of our script for what we’re calling a Night Prayer Vigil for Peace. I also sent out an invitation to all our parishes describing the liturgy, since most will be unfamiliar with Compline, and also giving ideas for what they could do at their parishes this Saturday if they could not attend the diocesan liturgy at the Cathedral.

Is your diocese or parish doing any special liturgy in response to the Pope’s call? I’d love to see what others are doing.

Continued prayers for peace in Syria, and for our leaders, wisdom, prudence, and perseverance for justice.


  1. The logistics of this are at least as interesting to me as the content.
    In the diocese of Cleveland, the bishop simply sent out a letter to parishes requesting that people set aside a day in the week of September 9th for prayer and fasting. So far the only response I have seen is that one pastor in his weekly bulletin is basically passing on this suggestion to parish members leaving up to them the choice of day and manner. A kind of “passing the buck down” approach.

    While we live in an era of papal tweets and “selfies,” and the pope did get a lot of coverage of this on the internet over the labor day weekend (probably because of the lack of competing news), parishes don’t seem to yet be geared up for the internet world.

    I regularly monitor several local parishes who post their bulletins, sometimes but not always in advance of the weekend. This posting seems to depend mostly upon the habits of the pastoral ministers and how busy they are. One parish always has its bulletin up about Wednesday, others tend to be on Friday or Saturday. The archive of bulletins on the parish website seems more geared to people who might have missed Mass and want to read the bulletin rather than as an advertisement of coming events, including this weekend’s Liturgy. I particularly appreciate one parish which posts its music for the liturgy in advance, although separately from the bulletin.

    E-mail in my experience tends to be used mostly at the parish organization level rather than at the level of the total parish. It would be interesting to know how many parishes have the capacity to post an announcement on their website with an accompanying e-mail to parish members taking them to the website for further information, and especially how parishes might have used that methodology for this coming weekend

  2. On Tuesday, I received an email newsletter from my parish. This newsletter has been sent out at regular intervals for a few years now. But no mention of the pope’s call for fasting and prayer. I emailed the person who does the newsletter to ask about this as it seemed to me there had been plenty of time to at least add a quick paragraph to an email newsletter but was told that the newsletter is about parish level activities only. While the parish website has nothing, they did post notice on the parish facebook page. Does not look like there will be any supporting activities/liturgy offered.

  3. Well, I’m preaching this weekend and with a c=Gospel that contains the following, I imagine Syria will come up:

    Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms.

  4. We announced it at 4 of our 6 weekend Masses that this Saturdsy is a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria. This was backed up on Wednesday with a phone call message to every phone number we have reminding the parish and inviting them again to our 12 noon Angelus, followed by the Rosary and concluding with Benediction. By the end of the day it will be on our web page.

  5. Thanks, Diana, for the work you have put into the San Jose liturgy. Quite impressive when compared to the two suggested petitions for the Universal Prayer sent by our diocesan director of liturgy today.

  6. Yes, thanks, Diana! You and I were working on similar events…and thank you for sharing some of your wording and imagery with the Diocese of Des Moines!

    We’ve announced a novena that starts on 9/7, a Night Prayer for Peace on Saturday, and we will close the nine days with a previously scheduled ecumenical Taize prayer service, the focus of which has been shifted to prayer for peace in Syria.

  7. In addition to encouraging parishes to observe a Holy Hour for peace on Saturday prior to Mass, our bishop has authorized (but not required) the use of the “Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice” for Saturday evening and Sunday Masses.

  8. Myself and another seminarian put together a five-hour vigil designed to be prayed at the same time the Roman vigil is going on. It’s modeled on the Easter Vigil (“the mother of all vigils”) and the petitions from the Mass for the Beginning of the Petrine Ministry of the Bishop of Rome from earlier this year. Readings, psalms, and prayers taken from the Mass in Time of War or Civil Disturbance and the Mass for the Preservation of Peace & Justice.

    You can see a PDF of the Order of Prayer here: http://diezba.blogspot.com/2013/09/order-of-prayer-for-popes-vigil-for.html

  9. I always remind myself that peace isn’t something people can “make” between one another. For Christians, peace is the free and eternal gift of Christ’s atonement. The only generator of this peace is Christ himself.

    I make it a point to pray for “all the Syrians” or “all the Egyptians”. If some persons are not able to be redeemed, then I have no reason to believe in Christ.

  10. I agree Jordan.
    In my opinion, and only my opinion, I think that praying for peace is too nebulous. Rather, I think the Prayer of St. Francis perhaps is a better example of what we can do to achieve peace. We can pray for peace of course but I think praying to make us a instrument of that peace is perhaps better.
    I hope and pray that these vigils remain neutral and do not sink into the cesspool of politics. There are always two sides and hijacking the vigil to take a “political stand” or protest is not what the prayer vigil is about.

    Anyhow, why don’t we have these vigils on a regular basis? There are many wars and genocide, in particular against Christians. Why not have these on a regular basis?

  11. I simply note that no one seems to make much of a call to actual fasting on Satirday. I struggle with how to do this myself, but know that it is an integral part of Pope Francis’s invitation for September 7 — and also seems to have been an integral part of Jesus’ life.
    Why do we gravitate toward the prayer part alone with such insistence, I wonder?

  12. With the pastor’s permission (and he was away on vacation until Tuesday night), I created a two-page flier, which was then distributed on Wednesday night to all CCD students/families in our three parishes. One side quotes from the Pope’s original statement about the Day of Fasting and Prayer. Adapting material from a kids’ news website, page one also explains the situation in Syria in as basic terms as possible (figuring that lots of families are pretty disconnected from/disengaged with world news). Side two then explained, in kids’ terms, about fasting (giving ideas for those who are considered too young to fast) and praying. We included the USCCB prayer for Syria (from its website), the Prayer of St. Francis (and some hymn citations re peace songs), and some scriptural citations, namely, Isaiah 2:4 and Matthew 5: 1-12. This just seemed like the way to reach the most people on such a short notice. We left extra copies at the entrances to all the churches. I know that one of the Youth Ministers has since emailed the flier to all the parents. And we’re going to get it on our Facebook page.

  13. In our parish we have been praying for the people of Syria on a weekly basis for some time now. Glad the Pope decided to hop on board. 😉

    Seriously, and taking some comments above a little further, we are not so much praying for peace in our parish as for an end to suffering of the Syrian people, and for the people in refugee camps in bordering countries and those trying to help them. Peace in Syria seems like it is at best a temporary political solution that will be difficult to achieve and even if ‘achieved’, will be useless unless those suffering now have their suffering abated.

  14. We are having a Saturday night vigil, starting at 5 and ending at 11. At 5 we will be celebrating the mass of The Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace (#45 from the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary) which our bishop gave a thumbs-up to in a phone call that lasted about 45 seconds (our bishop is a metropolitan who wears red). This is a nod to Nativity of Mary.

    The remainder of the night will be a kind of nocturnes with a reading from the scriptures followed by a sung psalm and intercessions and extended silent prayer at 20 minute intervals. A one-page worship folder with four different formulas was easily prepared. Readers and cantors, happily, were more than willing to participate.

    Nothing very fancy.

    It was heartening to read about Seattle, perhaps the most creative Cathedral parish in the U.S.

  15. I posted an invitation on our FB page to a public rosary on Saturday at 12:15 in the church. Also invited people from daily Masses. In this area, a civil defense siren goes off for two minutes every Saturday at noon. I encouraged those who can’t make it to church to pray the rosary when it goes off. Also suggested that people skip a meal or two on Saturday. Finally, the 5pm Mass will be offered for an end to violence in Syria. Perhaps if enough of us do this around the world it will unleash a spiritual force that can open a path to peace.

  16. The Vatican has posted the schedule for the Rome Vigil

    5:45: Priests will hear confessions under the colonnade of Saint Peter’s Square.

    6:30: Pope Francis’ appeal for peace will be read aloud.

    7:00: The Pope begins the prayer service as Veni Creator Spiritus is sung. The icon Salus Populi Romani will then be processed into the Square, carried by four Swiss Guards.

    Pope Francis will then lead the recitation of the Rosary, followed by a meditation.

    After a period of silent meditation, the Holy Father will then preside over Eucharistic Adoration, during which there will be readings from Scripture and responsorial prayers.

    Following the guided period of Adoration, there will be the recitation of the Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours.

    10:15: A period of silent prayer will be held before the vigil concludes with Benediction

    A little something for everybody in this one.

    I wonder how often the Icon Salus Populi Romani has been processed into the Square?

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #22:
      “A little of something for everybody in this one.” Indeed, an understatement. Pope Francis’ desire for the recovery of Catholic popular piety and devotions is on steroids compared to his predecessors. Here we have a public street procession of an icon, the Holy Rosary, Exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Adoration, Bible Service a la post-Vatican II, Liturgy of the Hours and Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

      A unilateral papal call to fasting, yes fasting and prayer as well as popular devotions in the post Vatican II era, the “spirit” of Pope Francis’ era. It doesn’t get any better than that!

  17. The booklet (libretto) is now available on the Vatican Website


    Like opera it is mostly in Italian, so you might want to look up the reading in English since there is no English version. I expect the commentator will read them in English for the English language television audience.

    Some of our “contributors” might want to take a look at this. It looks to me very well put together blend of everything. A “sung’ rosay! Salve Regina, Chanted Litany of Loretto.

    Commentaries on the bible readings by Popes: Pius XII, John 23, Paul Vi, JP2, and B16!

    This will be the second time that I will have experienced a public rendition of the Office of Reading which included the canticle option for solemnization. All in Italian not Latin.

    Popular piety yes, Latin very little. The new reform of the reform of the reform???

  18. the extraordinary nature of the vigil presided over by Pope Francis

    By Sandro Magister


    With the passing of the days the extraordinary nature of the vigil presided over by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square on the evening of Saturday, September 7 is becoming ever more perceptible.

    First of all, the reason:. a day of fasting and prayer to call for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and wherever there is war. With the participation not only of Catholics but of men of every religion and simply “of good will.” Not only in Rome but in many cities of the world.

    Then the duration. One cannot recall a public vigil of prayer of four consecutive hours, from sunset to late into the night, in the constant presence of the pope.

    Then the silence. Over the entire span of the vigil the recollection of the hundred thousand persons crowding St. Peter’s Square and the surrounding areas was intense and emotional. In harmony with the accentuated austerity of the very presence of the pope.

    Then, above all, the form that the prayer took on. It began with the rosary, the most evangelical and universal of the “popular” prayers, and with a meditation by Pope Francis. It proceeded with the adoration of the sacrament of the Eucharist. It continued with the office of readings – the nocturnal psalmody of the monks – with the reading of passages from Jeremiah, St. Leo the Great, and the Gospel of John. It concluded with the singing of the “Te Deum” and with Eucharistic benediction imparted by the pope.

    But perhaps what struck those present the most was the entrance into the square, at the beginning of the celebration, of the Marian icon of “Salus Populi Romani,”

    Magister’s article answered my question about how unusual it was to have this icon in Saint Peter’s. Not unprecedented by surely rare to have the original icon. At some other times a copy has been substituted.

  19. My observations:

    In terms of Latin American celebrations, an entrance of an icon or statue of Mary into a celebration is not unusual at all. However in the manner in which it was done in St. Peter’s square, it was very unusual. The coverage on Catholic TV opened with Francis in plain white cassock standing in front of the altar accompanied only by Marini-2 who also was in plain black cassock. The Pope had simply walked out to the altar from Saint Peters without any of the usual papal jeep etc.

    That made Mary rather than the Pope the central person. I am reminded of JP2’s speech to the Curia saying that the Church of Mary came before the Church of Peter. The whole event was designed to emphasize Mary’s leadership in peace.

    After the Marian icon was placed to one side and slightly in front of the altar, the Pope took up his position on the other side of the altar a little further out from the altar facing both the altar and the icon.

    I began to wonder how long the Pope would stay in his white cassock. Until the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament? No, a deacon came out vested in dalmatic accompanied by a whole set of touch bearers.

    Until the beginning of the Office of Readings? Again, no. He waited until it was time to give the Benediction. He then received a cope and Marini put on a surplice.

    Once the Blessed Sacrament was taken away by the deacon. Francis quickly got rid of his cope to go to the microphone and thank people, wishing them a good rest and a good Lord’s Day.

    During the whole service the Pope was more one of the people, a primus inter pares rather than the presider; in a sense Mary become the presider. This was very attractive since it allowed the deacons, the readers, etc. to all fulfill their functions in the community without being seen as “assistants” to the Pope as presider.

    The icon was carried by four Swiss Guards, again in a sense taking the primacy of honor. The icon was preceded by two flower girls and two flower boys. It is interesting that both Sandro and the TV commenter mentioned only the flower girls. The boys were dressed in good not blue jeans, in good casual much as any young adolescent male might be on a weekend.

  20. The Rosary was definitely not my grandma’s rosary: scripture readings, hymns, the prayers, and the instrumentals between decades – a kind of solemn high rosary. This service by itself could easily be used as a model for a holy hour with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. However, it also performed very well a preparatory role similar to that of psalms in the Divine Office for this larger vigil.

    I think it is inaccurate to say that Francis is attempting to revive popular devotions as they existed in the USA before the Council rather he is building upon existing popular devotions in Latin America, which in many cases have evolved with the times.

    At the end of the rosary and Francis meditation on the “goodness of creation” from Genesis, the Blessed Sacrament had been exposed, and the “Bible Service” began as well as the use of incense. At last I saw a good incense bowl replacement for the censer. Their version sat as a brazier of coals that lit up in flames like a mini-Easter Vigil Fire each time two people solemnly processed up and doused it with a small bowl of incense. Fire, light, incense, prayer arising, processing. Again the two people appeared to be acting on behalf of the community rather than being part of a hierarchy of ministers around a presider.

    The Office of Readings (including the optional canticles) was very well done as a chanted service in Italian. Like the Rosary, or the Bible Service before it, this could easily be adapted to a Holy Hour with Benediction.

    The Vigil started shortly before sunset (the buildings behind the square were sunlit but not the square) and we got to experience the slowly darkening of the square as well as the lighting of the square by artificial light. Very much the right way to do vigils, so that we experience the passage of time visually as sunlight disappears in the evening or as it appears in the morning.

    I think if people are looking for a good model for Holy Hour Services there are three of them right in this four hour service.

    You can still see the archived service at the link given

    It was well worth the four hours that I spent last Saturday. If this is the future of “devotions” “bible services” “Divine Office” outside of the Eucharist, it will be a very good future indeed. And given the very minimum role of the Pope it could well be done by laity especially with a deacon.


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