January 12, 2021

Suggestions Welcome for the Novena for Our Country

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I would like to share with you this email from Fr. Bill Smith, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo parish in Brooklyn Heights.

Peace and blessings,
 Fr. John Gribowich

Suggestions Welcome for Novena for Our Country

More than 50 people joined for the first night of the Novena for Our Country that we are sponsoring together with St. Augustine and St. Francis Xavier. The novena is being said nightly via Zoom at 5 PM through next Tuesday. For more information, see the "Invitation to Novena for Our Country" section in this email. Don't worry if you missed the first night, you are welcome to join in.

As I mentioned last night, I have received wonderful suggestions for prayers and readings for upcoming nights of the novena. I encourage you to keep emailing them to me, [email protected]. This has truly been a communal effort in a time that certainly needs one, and I see my role for this novena as primarily being editor.

Please make your suggestions based on the following format:

A. Entrance Antiphon: Short scripture verse

B. Opening Prayer: Collects from the Roman Missal are appropriate; as well as the several suggestions from the Book of Common Prayer (1928 and 1976)

C. Reading: Most suggestions to date have been from Fratelli Tutti chapter 5. We will use these until Thursday. Other ideas welcome. We have had one from Bishop Curry, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and one from St Pope John Paul 2nd. Please give enough text to supply some background.

C. Scripture response: Keep it short and simple.

D. Concluding Prayer: People have been very creative.

E. Final Blessing: This is the only part that will be said by a priest.

I have included the readings until Thursday below in the Upcoming Novena Readings section, but you can send prayers whether they fit these readings or not for future use. There will be a special emphasis on Mary for Saturday.

Let us support each other in this most difficult and dangerous time.

I remain
In Christ,
Fr. Bill Smith 



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Upcoming Novena Readings

For the next several nights of the novena, we will reflect on selections from the Pope's recent encyclical:

178. In the face of many petty forms of politics focused on immediate interests, I would repeat that “true statecraft is manifest when, in difficult times, we uphold high principles and think of the long-term common good. Political powers do not find it easy to assume this duty in the work of nation-building”, much less in forging a common project for the human family, now and in the future. Thinking of those who will come after us does not serve electoral purposes, yet it is what authentic justice demands. As the Bishops of Portugal have taught, the earth “is lent to each generation, to be handed on to the generation that follows”.

179. Global society is suffering from grave structural deficiencies that cannot be resolved by piecemeal solutions or quick fixes. Much needs to change, through fundamental reform and major renewal. Only a healthy politics, involving the most diverse sectors and skills, is capable of overseeing this process. An economy that is an integral part of a political, social, cultural and popular programme directed to the common good could pave the way for “different possibilities which do not involve stifling human creativity and its ideals of progress, but rather directing that energy along new channels”

180. Recognizing that all people are our brothers and sisters, and seeking forms of social friendship that include everyone, is not merely utopian. It demands a decisive commitment to devising effective means to this end. Any effort along these lines becomes a noble exercise of charity. For whereas individuals can help others in need, when they join together in initiating social processes of fraternity and justice for all, they enter the “field of charity at its most vast, namely political charity This entails working for a social and political order whose soul is social charity. Once more, I appeal for a renewed appreciation of politics as “a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good”
181 This means acknowledging that “love, overflowing with small gestures of mutual care, is also civic and political, and it makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world”

190. Political charity is also expressed in a spirit of openness to everyone. Government leaders should be the first to make the sacrifices that foster encounter and to seek convergence on at least some issues. They should be ready to listen to other points of view and to make room for everyone. Through sacrifice and patience, they can help to create a beautiful polyhedral reality in which everyone has a place. Here, economic negotiations do not work. Something else is required: an exchange of gifts for the common good. It may seem naïve and utopian, yet we cannot renounce this lofty aim.

 191. At a time when various forms of fundamentalist intolerance are damaging relationships between individuals, groups and peoples, let us be committed to living and teaching the value of respect for others, a love capable of welcoming differences, and the priority of the dignity of every human being over his or her ideas, opinions, practices and even sins. Even as forms of fanaticism, closed-mindedness and social and cultural fragmentation proliferate in present-day society, a good politician will take the first step and insist that different voices be heard. Disagreements may well give rise to conflicts, but uniformity proves stifling and leads to cultural decay. May we not be content with being enclosed in one fragment of reality.

Invitation to Novena for Our Country

The invasion of our Capitol this week revealed not only the division in our nation in general but that this transition of power will be like none other in our history. All Americans must do what we can to enable a smooth and orderly process up to, during, and after the Inauguration of President-Elect Biden. We participate in many institutions from political parties to professional organizations and we must ask how we can help them provide stability and direction.

In his slim but frightening book of several years ago On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, Yale historian Timothy Snyder told us that institutions do not defend themselves and urged every American to pick one and defend it. I recommend the book enthusiastically. It is surprisingly comprehensive and decidedly thoughtful, and I hope that everyone be enlightened by his examples and will follow, at least, a few of his suggestions.

He does not discuss prayer and we must ask ourselves what Catholic Christianity can offer us at this moment. I invite you to participate in a “Novena for our Country.” This situation is so unique that there are no available novenas that we can use as now written and so we will be building the airplane as we fly. To keep this distinctly Catholic we will emphasize the prayers and blessings of the Church and the teachings of the Popes. The novena prayers themselves will be no longer than 10 minutes long.

They will be at our customary COVID-19 prayer time of 5:00PM and you can connect via Zoom in the usual manner. They will be said before Rosary on Monday and Wednesday, Vespers on Friday, and Bible study on Sunday for those who must leave immediately afterwards. They will be stand-alone on the other days.

We will begin this Monday, January 11, and end on Tuesday night,
January 19.

I hope that we will find many ways of being effective at this time, but we must always remember that one of them must be prayer.

I remain
In Christ,
Fr. Bill