by Fr. Barry Stechschulte
One hundred and sixty years ago was a very different time in our country. In 1863, the Civil War was raging in bloody battles in the countryside of America. In the midst of this conflict, President Lincoln called on people of the United States to pray and fast for an end to the war. He asked Congress to establish the National Day of Prayer, Fasting and Humiliation. In his proclamation of March 30th, 1863, Lincoln gives the reason why the country needed such a day. He saw the war as “a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins.” He noted, “We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.” And he continues, “But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!”
President Lincoln, and most people of his time, recognized the authority of God the Creator. He stated in the proclamation, “it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God.” We were a Christian, God-centered, nation back then. Are we today? I think this is our fundamental problem and the source of all the division and conflict we are experiencing in our country right now. We aren’t living in the truth of God existence. All the moral ills stem from this basic premise. We are putting ourselves before God. We are not practicing the virtue of religion. We are no longer a religious people.
So, we too need a day of prayer and fasting. We need to humbly confess our sins and ask God’s mercy. We need to turn our minds and hearts back to God and make reparation for our many sins, especially the heinous sin of abortion, the destruction of our most vulnerable and innocent citizens. Our country will not be united until we all come together humbly before our God.
September 24th has been designated the National Day of Prayer and Fasting. What should we do on that day? President Lincoln spelled it out in his proclamation, “And I do hereby request all the people to abstain on that day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.”
You could go to Mass on that day (8:15 AM at St. Susanna’s.) At 3:00 PM we will be praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet in church; and at 7:00 PM we will have Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament during a special Holy Hour with Patriotic Rosary recited, ending with Benediction. And we all can fast in some way that day – maybe giving up dessert or going without lunch, or even just having bread and water the whole day. We need to make real sacrifices to repair the damage sin has caused in our world.
With President Lincoln, let’s have hope. “All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the nation will be heard on high and answered with blessing no less than the pardon of our national sins and the restoration of our now divided and suffering country to its former happy condition of unity and peace.”
National Day of Prayer & Fasting – Sept. 24th
Join with us, and Catholics across the country, on Thursday, September 24th, for the National Day of Prayer and Fasting as we ask for God’s mercy on our land and the healing and conversion of our hearts.
There is not a better time to ask for God’s healing! Praying and fasting together brings us unity in the face of so much divisiveness. Fasting offers us a physical expression of ourselves to others when the virus has limited and denied our expressions to one another. It is through prayer and fasting that we can allow God’s power to mend what we have broken. For more information about the call for September 24th as a National Day of Prayer and Fasting, visit ActsXXIX.org.
Fr. Barry Stechschulte is the Pastor of St. Susanna Parish in Mason, OH. You can follow him on Facebook here. If you happen to live in the Tri-State come join him for Mass!