“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…” —Romans 8:26
Sometimes, we can be overwhelmed by external circumstances, and fail to gather the shattered pieces of who we once thought we were. Understandably, faith relents to frustration and hope to despair. We can find ourselves feeling oppressed by forces beyond our control. In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul asserts that in moments like this, the Spirit enters into our struggles and heartaches, and where there are no words to express ourselves before God, the Spirit makes possible what is not—the Spirit of God prays in us and grasps the very heartaches and hopes that are breaking out from our depths.
In our struggle for peace and justice, sometimes we are met with tremendous oppression and opposition so that the very struggle itself wounds our relationships with one another, with God’s entire creation, with ourselves and with God. Where and how do we find the words to express lament, to know what we need, to discern our options, to hope, to journey with God’s people and finally be transformed into the heart and mind of God in a wounded and hurting world?
We may have easy and knee-jerk answers to this question but we invite you to pray this Novena for Peace and Justice in solidarity with God’s people, particularly with and for those in God’s creation, who are now facing normalized and legitimized hate and exclusion that trample on their God-given dignity. In this way, we can truly listen and move with the Spirit’s action in our prayer and in our lives.
Let us begin in the Franciscan tradition, the prayer Francis of Assisi prayed before the crucifix in San Damiano:
Most High, glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of my heart
and give me true faith,
certain hope and perfect charity,
sense and knowledge, Lord,
that I may carry out
Your holy and true command. Amen
Pray with us starting January 11.
This Novena for Peace and Justice was borne out of conversations challenging our selves in crafting well-discerned and effective responses to the current political, ecological and social climate throughout and after the 2016 USA elections. To start, some parishioners of St. Francis of Assisi, NY, NY along with Br. Ramon Razon, OFM came up with the idea of designing, organizing and sharing an online Novena for Peace and Justice:
Angelo Alcasabas, a graphic design artist created the graphics for this Novena project. Angelo has contributed his talents to design visual communication tools for special projects by the Young Adult Ministry and LGBT Ministry of the parish. He designed a captivating series of posters for our parish response to gun violence through a film and reflection on “Making a Killing”.
Loren Moreno is a communications manager for Con Edison and formerly worked with a local newspaper in Hawaii, covering public education. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing. Loren’s expertise helped set up this web-based Novena project.
Br. Ramon Razon, OFM is completing his second year of internship while working with the parish and with an integrated housing non-profit. He is also currently working with the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies as a fellow. Br. Ramon organized the witness reflections of the novena.
It was also heartening to work with individuals who possess authentic witness to the topics, drawn from their prayer and action and then generously sharing that witness through their insights and reflection:
Sr. Mary Pia, OSC
Br. Anthony Zuba, OFM. Cap.
Sr. Mary Petroski, FMM
Br. Christian Seno, OFM
Ms. Onelilove Alston
Mr. William Looby
Ms. Stephanie Bello
This novena project has been organized, designed and executed out of the personal initiatives of contributors collaborating and working together in order to engage people to reflect on and pray for peace and justice across critical issues of the times. The views and opinions of the witness writers, the graphic artist, the website designer and the organizer do not represent the corporate views and stance of the Holy Name Province, Order of Friars Minor and the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, NY, NY regarding the issues tackled throughout the nine days of prayer.