Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Message from Bishop Joe S. Vásquez

A Message from Bishop Joe S. Vásquez (Diocese of Austin)
Our Holy Father Pope Francis has declared Saturday, September 7, 2013, as a Day of Fasting and Prayer for Peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world. It is the fervent desire of His Holiness that the entire Church be united on that day in prayer and fasting, asking God for the gift of peace. I encourage all of the people of the Diocese of Austin to respond to this call to prayer and fasting in whatever way is possible for them.

In personal and communal prayer, I encourage the use of the Prayer for the People of Syria from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Here is the text:
A Prayer for the People of Syria

God of Compassion,
Hear the cries of the people of Syria,
Bring healing to those suffering from the violence,
Bring comfort to those mourning the dead,
Strengthen Syria’s neighbors in their care and welcome for refugees,
Convert the hearts of those who have taken up arms,
And protect those committed to peace.

God of Hope, Inspire leaders to choose peace over violence and to seek reconciliation with enemies,
Inspire the Church around the world with compassion for the people of Syria,
And give us hope for a future of peace built on justice for all.

We ask this through Jesus Christ,
Prince of Peace and Light of the World,
Amen.
How should we fast on this Saturday? The Church leaves it up to each person to choose how they will fast. Some might choose to skip a meal. Some might choose to abstain from certain foods such as meat or dessert or snacks. Some might abstain from television or parties. Some might choose to consume only bread and water. Regardless of the particular form that is chosen, the act of fasting this Saturday is intended to remind us of our utter dependence on God for the gift of peace. It also places us in solidarity with the suffering people of Syria, many of whom are struggling to feed their families or huddled in crowded refugee camps.

Catholic Relief Services is on the ground in the region providing material assistance to Syrian refugees in neighboring countries. Those who would like to make direct donations to this emergency effort may contact them at http://emergencies.crs.org/

Pope Francis has chosen the date of September 7 for this Day of Fasting and Prayer because it is the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace. He encourages us to ask Mary to help us to respond to violence, conflict, and war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation, and love. May the Blessed Mother help us to build in every situation a culture of human encounter and peace. Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us and for the people of Syria!

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