Dec. 4 marks start of First Fridays of prayer, fasting to end violence

| November 17, 2015 | 0 Comments

Minnesota’s bishops have called for a day of fasting and prayer Dec. 4, the Friday before the Year of Mercy begins Dec. 8. In the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Catholics are asked to continue to pray and fast on the first Fridays of the month through May.

According to the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the “Day of Fasting and Prayer in Reparation for a Culture of Violence and Disrespect for Human Life” was inspired by the undercover video series released earlier this year alleging Planned Parenthood had been selling for profit parts of aborted fetuses.

With the Day of Fasting and Prayer, the state’s bishops are asking people to pray and fast for an end to all forms of violence. Minnesota dioceses are holding days of fasting on various dates in December and January.

In the archdiocese, the series of First Fridays for prayer and fasting will culminate in the annual May rosary procession from the State Capitol to the Cathedral of St. Paul.

“The first Friday of the month has always been a day of reparation in the Church, with that sense of penitential love,” said Jean Stolpestad, archdiocesan director of Marriage, Family and Life and a coordinator for the Day of Fasting and Prayer initiative. “We’re sacrificing something in ourselves and connecting that with the ultimate sacrifice.”

Historically in the Church, Fridays have been days for acts of penance, the reason that Catholics once were required to abstain from meat on Fridays all year. When in 1966 the U.S. bishops lifted that requirement outside of Lent, they asked Catholics who chose not to abstain from meat on all Fridays to make another sacrifice instead.

Unfortunately, the practice of making Fridays a day of sacrifice has often been overlooked or forgotten, Stolpestad said, but she thinks its revival — especially for the intention to end violence — could bring about greater mercy and selflessness in people and the world.

In Scripture, Jesus pointed to a demon that he said could be driven out only by prayer and fasting, indicating the combination’s power, Stolpestad said.

“Born in original sin, we have a huge tendency to selfishness. When we choose to curb those selfish appetites . . . and instead see our brothers and sisters, that draws us closer to [God],” she said.“In order to receive mercy, we have to be merciful. We can only do it if Christ gives us the strength to do it.”

The devotion of dedicating First Fridays to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is well established in the Church. Cor Jesu, a regularly scheduled First Friday event for young adults at the St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, will observe the Day of Fasting and Prayer Dec. 4. The archdiocese plans to announce subsequent First Friday events tied to the Day of Prayer and Fasting at archspm.org/mercy and encourages pastors to hold events at their parishes.

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