As a Catholic priest who is also a United States citizen, I am well aware that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has designated 22 January as a day of prayer and penance for the legal protection of unborn children. This day has been graced with various liturgical and devotional resources, including:
- two Mass formularies found among the “Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Occasions” in the third post-Vatican II edition of the Roman Missal intended for use in the dioceses of the United States,
- formularies entitled the “Mass for Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life,”
- as well as readings appointed for this Mass found in a supplement to the second post-Vatican II edition of the Lectionary for Mass.
I do not know if there has been a similar movement among our United States Catholic bishops to designate a day of prayer and penance in reparation for the sin of racism and to promote racial justice, but if not, I would like to propose it.
While one could argue that there are already Mass formularies in the present Roman Missal that could be used for such intentions (e.g, “29. For the Progress of Peoples,” “30. For the Preservation of Peace and Justice”), the same could be said for the creation of Mass formularies and readings concentrating on the legal protection of the unborn, yet our bishops felt the topic was of such importance that it warranted an addition to our liturgical calendar.
Some might argue that direct action affirming the dignity of all races and challenging whatever exhibits racial prejudice in our society and church is more needed at this time than designating a day of prayer and penance, but I would argue that without a foundation in prayer such direct action may not sustain itself.
The very project of creating a list of readings, presidential prayers and chants for such a liturgical celebration could be part of the healing process if experts in scripture studies, liturgical texts and church music could join with members of the praying community in formulating, assessing and testing these liturgical elements.
Here is a “Pray Service in Penance for the Sin of Racism and to Promote Racial Justice” recently held at the cathedral in St. Paul, MN in which I participated and which inspired my thoughts on this topic.
I would be very interested to read the insights of readers of Pray Tell on this proposal.