7 Sept – Day of Prayer & Fasting: What Did The Pope Really Say? Fr. Z offers suggestions.

From a reader:

The Holy Father has declared that next Saturday, September 7th, will be a day of prayer and fast for peace, for the whole Church.

Do you think that, particularly as far as fast is concerned, that means only an invitation, a piece of advice, or a true and strict precept, under penalty of sin, as if it were Ash Wednesday or Good Friday?

I hope I shall be able to fast anyway, but I’d very much appreciate your help.

What did the Pope really say?  HERE

To this end, brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaimfor the whole Church on 7 September next, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative. On 7 September, in Saint Peter’s Square, here, from 19:00 until 24:00, we will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God’s great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world. Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace! I ask all the local churches, [That means dioceses and eparchies.] in addition to fasting, that they gather to pray for this intention.

It seems that the Pope has not done anything juridical here to bind local churches and all Catholics to some kind of action.  7 September is not like Ash Wednesday or Good Friday.

However, I watched the video of the Angelus from yesterday. He really meant business.

It strikes me that the force of this “invitation” should bring us in every parish and diocese and Catholic household to do something.  It might be good to coordinate (if your time zones allow) some action during the time frame the Pope mentioned for Rome.

For example, could there not be in a parish in, say, the Central Time Zone in these USA, Rosary at 11:45 AM and Mass at Noon (1900 Rome time), and then Exposition after Mass, and Mass again at 5 PM (Midnight Rome time).  Perhaps with confessions for some time before each Mass.  Furthermore, since this invitation from the Pope includes fasting, perhaps there could be a food drive: people could contribute to the drive what they would have otherwise eaten.

And why not make it, voluntarily, a day of fasting and abstinence like to Good Friday?

So, no, I don’t think we would sin by not participating in this in a concrete way.  However, when the Holy Father makes an appeal like this, then we should respond.

And I will add this: Those of you of the traditional stripe, by the first to take the initiative and help with whatever might be organized.  Get out there.

Just some thoughts.

PS: Too bad he didn’t call for this to coincide with the September Ember Days!


Dr. Peter’s comments on this matter HERE

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Poustinik1 says:

    one of the many reasons why I have grown to really love this Pope. He is not afraid. I imagine Pope Benedict who is already a living prayer for our Church and the world will be very much a part of this though perhaps in a hidden way. But who knows, maybe we will get to see him in the square as well.

  2. dontex says:

    What would you consider the hours for fasting on Saturday, Sept 7?

  3. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    What are Ember Days? :)

  4. Diane at Te Deum Laudamus says:

    It’s refreshing to hear a call for fasting in the midst of an immediate crisis such as this. I fear for the Christians who will get the worst end of this stick.

  5. APX says:

    Dontex, I believe the hours for fasting are from midnight to midnight.

  6. StJude says:

    I’m in! Good for Pope Francis.. its what the world needs right now.

  7. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    APX, right.

  8. Rellis says:

    Also kudos to the Holy Father for calling the whole day before a feast (not simply the night before a feast) a “vigil.” 70 years of evening Masses have eviscerated this instinct among Catholics.

    On a whim, I Googled “Vigil of the Nativity of the BVM.” It did, once upon a time, exist. It was instituted in 722 by Pope Gregory II. For my own personal lay use, I’ll be emulating the Divine Office for August 14th, the Vigil of the Dormition/Assumption. Thanks, Pope Francis, for the idea (even if you had no intention to give it).

    +1 for the Ember Days. Isn’t this what they’re SUPPOSED to be used for? Ah, well. Brick by brick.

  9. Quanah says:

    Thanks, Father. I sent an email to my pastor and will check in with him later.

  10. majuscule says:

    I’m organizing a prayer vigil for the corresponding hours in our time zone at our church.

    You can do it, too!

  11. William Tighe says:

    I don’t intend what follows as a critical, or “snarky,” comment, but I am surprised that the Pope doesn’t seem to know, or decided to ignore, that Saturdays are never, ever fasting days in the Byzantine liturgical tradition — except for Holy Saturday.

  12. Sad to say, a Saturday noon Mass simply won’t even be considered in very many parishes. Particularly in suburban and rural areas as well as in one-priest parishes, any Saturday Mass has long ago been eliminated in favor of the Sunday vigil. Among the reasons usually cited is the normal limitation of one Mass per day per priest. If the Pope really wanted pastors to take this seriously, he would be advised to include a special exception to that law for this occasion.

  13. Supertradmum says:

    We have a problem here in Dublin, as it is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Dublin, an ancient honor, with a magnificent shrine and statue from the early Renaissance or late Medieveal period at the Whitefriars Street Church. There are two special Masses already advertised for that day.

    There has been nothing said from any pulpit in three churches where I have attended Mass as to the Pope’s request. It is too bad that there seems to be at least one conflict in this diocese-the patronal feast.

  14. avecrux says:

    Providentially, for those of us here in Milwaukee (and surrounding areas) this corresponds with A prayer vigil Archbishop Listecki has organized for Peace and the Family on September 7th. To find out more about Hearts United 2013, please check the website: http://www.heartsunited2013.org

  15. GAK says:

    William Tighe says: “I don’t intend what follows as a critical, or ‘snarky,’ comment, but I am surprised that the Pope doesn’t seem to know, or decided to ignore, that Saturdays are never, ever fasting days in the Byzantine liturgical tradition — except for Holy Saturday.”

    And yet, it sounds snarky. Either the Pope is highly ignorant or the Pope is highly insensitive. Are those REALLY the only 2 options?

    Maybe he considered all options and decided having the fast day on the vigil of the feast was more important than making sure every nook and cranny of the faithful could participate according to their own customs.

    Gee. I dunno. Maybe you all could fast on Friday instead? Is there NO alternative but to wring your hands and complain that it doesn’t “work for you”?


  16. Carolina Geo says:

    I would have been supremely happy if he would have said something to the effect of this: “As there are troubles in this world and within the Church herself, all Catholics shall once again be bound, by pain of sin, to abstain from meat on all Fridays throughout the year (except for feast days falling outside of Lent). Perhaps by returning to prayer and supplication, we might make reparation for the terrible state into which we have placed ourselves and our world.”

    I would be giddy with ecstacy if he were to follow it up with, “So let it be written; so let it be done.” :-)

  17. Elizabeth M says:

    Maybe the Pope didn’t think there was enough time to wait until the Ember Days. We are running out of time.

  18. Jack Hughes says:

    why can’t this (and the Hour of adoration on Sunday) be a weekly event in all Churches? If the Holy Father said so……………….

  19. padredana says:

    From a purely practical standpoint there is a problem with all this. By the time I learned about it the bulletin had been printed and half of the Sunday Masses had been said. It will be VERY hard to get the word out about a special holy hour, Mass, etc. We need more than a week notice for these things if we really want people to show up and do it.

    That being said, it’s a great idea! Prayer and penance is always good!

  20. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    I have read that Gregory XI (1370-78) proclaimed a vigil which was also a day of fasting before the Feast, with its own Office and Mass, but yet as recommended and not commanded. And that, later, in 1589, Boniface IX endorsed the advice of Urban VI to fast upon the vigil. With apologies for not first searching for the answer, myself, has anything been said about any liturgical details of the gathering “in prayer and in a spirit of penance”?

  21. majuscule says:

    By the time I learned about it …

    Where two or more are gathered… Get a few friends together. Is there a church email newsletter or mailing list you could use to alert people? A telephone tree…?

    You don’t have to have a Mass. People can pray together. If you are unable to use your church (I hope that would not be the case) meet on the grounds or in a park.

    You don’t have to wait for someone else to “do it”.

  22. Kathleen10 says:

    It will be nice to participate and keep in mind not only the poor Syrian innocents who suffered from their own government’s evil acts, but especially our Catholic brothers and sisters who suffer so much in the entire middle east.

  23. APX says:

    Here’s an idea. Make the people in your parish aware. Use social media. Post notices in the church and on the doors. Get on your phones and call your parishioners. Go door-to-door.

    My goodness. Whine whine whine! “it’s the wrong day of the week” “it conflicts with this” “there wasn’t enough notice given” “he didn’t make it binding under pain of sin” “he didn’t reintroduce meatless Fridays”. I’m convinced there is no making people happy when it comes to these things. Yeesh!

  24. Vecchio di Londra says:

    His Holiness asks for a day of ‘fasting’. I have not seen him request abstinence.
    So it would be like an Ember Wednesday or Saturday, or all the weekdays of Lent, ie one main meal at midday (that can include meat and even fish as well), with a small meal in the morning and evening (both these smaller meals excluding meat).

    Perhaps we should go further than this – surely few people these days can stomach three full meals a day on ‘normal’ days.
    So maybe on Sat 7th, as Fr Z suggests, we should abstain as well as fast? and even abstain from fish as well as meat?

    Even more important is the dedication to prayer and the liturgy on this day. I shall pray for our Christian brothers is Syria, who stand most to lose from an Al Qaeda victory.

  25. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    William Tighe,

    In the spirit of non-snarkiness, if Good Friday and The Annunciation fell on the same day, which would you mark? I think you’ll find that there’s no problem here to solve.

    I don’t know if the 4th horseman is now arriving, but I do think that His Holiness is trying to re-establish the Vigil as a day of penance and fasting. (I don’t mean that he’s doing it in a legal way, but rather that he is reintroducing the idea as a custom within a rejuvenating Catholic culture.)

    Who, even social justice Christians, could object to the Pope asking for Peace in Syria, and for us doing our parts, here at home. Once’s HH has them thinking that way, other things are more possible.

    He is, after all, a Jesuit, and Jesuit simpleton is an oxymoron.

  26. Priam1184 says:

    I am thrilled to my bones that the Holy Father not only called for a day of prayer, but of fasting as well in response to this terrible crisis in the Middle East. This is the truly Catholic way of doing things. Pray and fast for our brothers in Syria, all of them: it is the motherland of the Church. For the protection of the Christians and the conversion of the Muslims.

  27. Michael_Thoma says:

    September 1-7th is a week of fasting for many Eastern Christians, the fast breaks to feast after Divine Liturgy on Sunday.

  28. yatzer says:

    That day is our parish festival, which would be impossible to move at this point. Maybe we could go go for the previous Friday, in the spirit of things.

  29. AvantiBev says:

    I never pray for “peace” or for “happiness” as I see them as byproducts of the victory of truth and justice.

    So I shall pray that the Truth of Christ triumphs over the falsehood spread by Satan in that cave with Old Mo’ 610 A.D.

    I shall pray for the Copts, the indigenous people of Egypt, who have been ignored by most secular media and our current administration.

    I shall pray for the Assyrian Christians who have suffered so much as sharia state after sharia state is created on the march to the New Caliphate.

    I shall pray for the crumbling of any such caliphate.

    I shall pray for my fellow Catholics especially of western rites, that they finally 12 years after 9/11/01 READ UP on the true nature of Islam before holding another ecu mania prayer fest with the local Saudi funded imam.

    I shall pray for the oil and gas producers and refiners of the USA and Canada who can really free us from the reign of Mo’s followers if certain Luddites would get out of their way.

  30. AvantiBev says:

    “I do not believe in vile acquittals, phony appeasements, easy forgiveness. Even less, in the exploitation or the blackmail of the word Peace. When peace stands for surrender, fear, loss of dignity and freedom, it is no longer peace. It is suicide.” – Oriana Fallaci 1929-2006
    (3rd private audience of Pope Benedict XVI)

  31. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Cantiga #165 of the Cantigas de Santa Maria is dedicated to Our Lady of Tortosa (Tartus, Syria), aka Our Lady of Syria. As with the other cantigas, we have the words and the tune. (Click on the number for midi files of the tune; click on the title of the song for the lyrics in the original medieval Spanish.)

    A prose English translation from the Cantigas de Santa Maria database.

  32. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    “What did the Pope really say?” Among other things, “Non è mai l’uso della violenza che porta alla pace.” How ought that to be parsed (in itself, and in its context)? Quite clear are Éowyn’s famous words (LotR, III, vi,5), “It needs but one foe to breed a war, not two […] And those who have not swords can still die upon them.” With which Faramir does not substantially disagree, “But death in battle may come to us all yet, willing or unwilling.” Surely, that is not news to the Holy Father. That being so, how is it acknowledged in the sentence quoted? And how, in more detail, are we to pray for peace (as I believe we are), in such a way that it has nothing of “Et curabant contritionem filiæ populi mei cum ignominia, dicentes: Pax, pax! et non erat pax” (Jerimiah 6:14)?

  33. MaryL says:

    This is a day for Catholics and all to drop everything and answer the Pope’s call to pray and fast to avert and overcome the war in Syria, thinking especially of the suffering people there and to prevent it worsening. What does it take to pray the Rosary together on Saturday evening in front of the Blessed Sacrament? Local radio stations could be used to announce this in the same sort of way Sports events are announced. After all it is the Pope himself who has asked that this be done. Obviously it is a very critical situation for the Pope to have done this, bearing in mind the King of Jordan only a few days ago made a special trip to visit the Pope.

  34. Gallia Albanensis says:

    GAK quotes William Tighe … “ … I am surprised that the Pope doesn’t seem to know, or decided to ignore, that Saturdays are never, ever fasting days in the Byzantine liturgical tradition — except for Holy Saturday.”

    And then says in reply, “Maybe he considered all options and decided having the fast day on the vigil of the feast was more important than making sure every nook and cranny of the faithful could participate according to their own customs.”

    It is precisely because Byzantine Catholics are often treated as as no more than a “nook and cranny” that they can be sensitive to it happening again and again. Poor choice of words.

  35. cajuncath says:

    So do Catholics in the U.S. armed forces have any particular responsibilities in light of the Pope’s declaration?

  36. jhayes says:

    Regarding whether the fast announced by the fast is binding, Bishop O’Connel of Trenton has issued a guide for pastors which asks them to include in the parish bulletin this item among others:

    Guidelines for Fasting:
    – One principle meal with two smaller meals if needed
    – Water may be taken throughout the day
    – Only those between the ages of 14 and 59 have to fast

    See more at: http://www.dioceseoftrenton.org/events?cgid=1&ceid=919&cerid=0&cdt=9%2f7%2f2013#sthash.kK5MIGW5.dpuf

    The item about ages 14 to 59 might be read as indicating that others are obliged to fast on this day but it’s not clear whether this is intentional or is simply a copy and paste of the regular rules for fasting.

    In his press release, Bishop O’Connell says “As Bishop, I ask all the faithful of the Diocese of Trenton to support Our Holy Father’s request and, on Saturday, September 7, to join our Catholic sisters and brothers everywhere in prayer and fasting for peace.” but doesn’t say it is obligatory.


  37. I’ll be participating in this…There is a minor fast on the 7th according to my Byzantine Calendar for the feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos.

  38. GAK says:

    “Gallia Albanensis says:4 September 2013 at 6:06 am

    GAK quotes William Tighe … ‘ … I am surprised that the Pope doesn’t seem to know, or decided to ignore, that Saturdays are never, ever fasting days in the Byzantine liturgical tradition — except for Holy Saturday.’
    And then says in reply, ‘Maybe he considered all options and decided having the fast day on the vigil of the feast was more important than making sure every nook and cranny of the faithful could participate according to their own customs.’

    It is precisely because Byzantine Catholics are often treated as as no more than a ‘nook and cranny’ that they can be sensitive to it happening again and again. Poor choice of words.”

    Gallia Albanensis, all I can say to your comment is: Boo. Hoo.

    This is silly.

    Byzantine Catholics are a BEAUTIFUL part of our Church. No one here should have to defend that.

    The point is, this request from the Holy Father IS NOT ABOUT BYZANTINE CATHOLICS.

    It is about people in SYRIA. Who are DYING. Got it? Good.

    If you are going to insist on being insulted, that’s your call.

    In the meantime, I’m going to pray, fast, and sacrifice, for those who are undergoing massive suffering.

    And I’m going to pray in thanksgiving for a solid Holy Father who has taken the time to call the world’s attention to the fantastic force that prayer and fasting can bring in calling down grace upon a tumultuous situation.

  39. pattif says:

    Does anyone think that, when Pope Pius V called for prayer of the Rosary before and during the battle of Lepanto, people responded, “Gee, do we HAVE to?” or “Hang on a minute, it’s not in the parish bulletin”? Are we certain that the present situation is less serious?

    When, on the last day of his pontificate, Pope Benedict promised his as-yet-unknown successor his “unconditional reverence and obedience”, to what part of that promise did the rest of us not sign up?

    To me, it’s a no-brainer: the Pope calls for prayer and fasting; the faithful fast and pray.

  40. Supertradmum says:

    I have a list of things parents can do tomorrow with the kids, especially if your parish is doing nothing.

  41. Indulgentiam says:

    Supertradmum- thank you for the plan. We are fortunate enough to be able to attend First Saturday EF Mass. And now i have a plan for the rest of our day, thanks!

  42. Supertradmum says:

    Indulgentiam, thanks and I miss those days…nothing like learning from children.

  43. disc.s.thom says:

    In our parishes, after all the Masses this weekend, we had Exposition, the Litany of the Sacred Heart (to implore our Savior’s Heart for peace) and Benediction. Simple, yet profound.

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