Yesterday, Ash Wednesday, close to 100 peacemakers from the faith-based peace and justice community in the D.C.-Baltimore-Virginia area gathered outside the White House for a Liturgy of Repentance that was organized by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker. The number of people who attended this year’s Liturgy was more than twice the number of people who attended in previous years. Also, this was our first public witness directly in front of the White House since Mr. Trump assumed the presidency, due to the construction and deconstruction of the inaugural presidential and press reviewing stands.
What follows is the program for the Liturgy.
- Opening Song: Prayer of Peace (Meade Jones Hanna)
- Welcome and Opening Reflection — Art Laffin
- Reading: Joel: 2, 12-18 — Sr. Carol Gilber
- Reading: From the writings of Archbishop Oscar Romero — Rachel Schmidt
- Response after each prayer, Sing: God forgive the wrong we’ve done, God forgive us now (2x’s)
- Prayer in Repentance for U.S. Warmaking in Afghanistan and Iraq (Judith Kelly)
- Prayer in Repentance for U.S. Drone Warfare (Jack McHale)
- Prayer in Repentance for Nuclear Weapons (Sr. Ardeth Platte)
- Prayer in Repentance for Desecrated Earth (Colleen McCarthy)
- Prayer of Repentance for Racial Violence (MJ and Jerry Park)
- Prayer on Behalf of Immigrants and Refugees (Scott Wright and Jean Stokan)
- Prayer for Prisoners (Kathy Boylan)
- Litany of Repentance and Conversion (Bob Cooke, Steve Baggarly, Ralph)
- Song: Ashes (by Tom Conry) — (Meade and Joe Byrne )
- Blessing and Distribution of Ashes —Fr. Joe Nangle, OFM
- Marking The Street With Ashes
- Closing Prayer – Marie Dennis
- Closing Song: World Peace Prayer (Meade and Joe)
I am deeply grateful to everyone who offered prayers and who attended and participated in this Liturgy.
Below is the Opening Reflection that I offered. Toward the end of the Liturgy, ashes were blessed and distributed among the participants. A different batch of ashes were then used to mark Pennsylvania Ave., directly in front of the White House, as a sign of repentance for the sins of the nation as well as our commitment to follow the Gospel. Midway through the marking of the street with ashes, a U.S. Park Police Officer gave a warning to stop using the ashes on the street because it constituted “Littering.” Nonetheless, we continued to mark the street until all the ashes were all gone. At the conclusion of the Liturgy, several friends from S. Korea were introduced, including a leader from one of the political parties. As they expressed solidarity with our witness, they called for an end to the U.S. THAAD missile defense program being deployed in S. Korea, as well as for an end to all U.S. military intervention in their country.
Our good friend and standout photographer, Rick Rienhard, took some excellent photos of the witness. For the link see: http://bit.ly/2lUyIgO password: justice.
During this Holy Season, let us pray with and for each other, and for our church and world, that we can truly repent and convert our lives to making God’s reign of love, justice and peace a reality.
With great gratitude, Art
ASH WEDNESDAY LITURGY OF REPENTANCE OPENING REFLECTION (by Art Laffin)
Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. Lent is a time for personal and societal repentance, radical conversion and transformation. Living under the brutal occupation of the Roman empire, Jesus declared: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.” Living in the U.S. empire, we need to heed Jesus’ proclamation now more than ever.
As people from different faith-based communities committed to nonviolence, justice and peace, we summon the cloud of witnesses as we come to pray and witness outside the White House, calling for repentance and conversion of ourselves, our society and our churches to the Gospel way of love, justice, and a reverence for all life and creation. As we offer this liturgy of repentance, we beg forgiveness, O God, of our own sinfulness.
As we stand in proximity to the White House, we implore You, O God, to banish every diabolic power and every evil influence from this place. Help all Your people, who are made in Your very image, to respect the sacredness of all life and reject the idols of death. May a spirit of repentance and conversion take root in the lives of anyone who perpetrates and supports violence and injustice.
Living in a nation whose origin is rooted in slavery and genocide, we pray in repentance for those sins that has caused so much needless death and suffering in our society and world—past and present. We acknowledge the church’s complicity in these sins. As the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative declared in its Appeal from last year’s historic Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference: “Clearly the Word of God, the witness of Jesus, should never be used to justify violence, injustice and war. We confess that the people of God have betrayed the Gospel of Nonviolence many times, participating in wars persecutions, oppression, exploitation and discrimination.”
Today, we are acutely aware of our responsibility to proclaim the Gospel mandates of love, mercy and justice and to nonviolently resist the hate-filled, fear driven and destructive executive orders and policies of the new Trump administration.
We denounce the travel ban against Muslim immigrants. We deplore the proposed expansion of a Border Wall and the detention and deportation of immigrants. We decry the desecration of native lands and call for the cancellation of the Dakota Access Pipeline. We renounce the Jan. 30th criminal U.S. military attack in Yemen which killed as many as 30 civilians, including a newborn baby boy and 10 children. We remember all these victims, including the U.S. soldier who died in this attack. And we denounce plans for a $54 billion increase to an already exorbitant military budget.
During this Holy Season, we call upon the nation and churches to join with us in seeking to eradicate what Martin Luther King, Jr. called the “triple evils of poverty, racism and militarism.” We call for an end to corporate domination and systemic racism and exploitation; justice for the poor, homeless and all immigrants; an end to torture, indefinite detention, the mass incarceration complex, police violence against Blacks and the death penalty; debt forgiveness for poor countries; the abolition of war and the conversion of our war-based economy to one centered on serving the common good and protecting the earth, our common home.
When will the U.S. government repent for the death, destruction, trauma and destablization it has caused, especially in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central and South America, through its years of military intervention, arms sales and oppressive trade agreements, and which, has helped create the conditions for the rise of the Islamic State and a massive refugee and immigration crisis?
Now is the time for the U.S. to repent and make reparations for the violence, death and suffering that it has inflicted on other countries, most recently in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. We call on the U.S. to reject the way of revenge and retaliation as a response to conflict, to make peace with the Islamic State and Iran and to help negotiate a peace agreement in Syria. We call, too, on the U.S. to halt all arms sales worldwide and to demand an end to U.S. support for Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. And we call for the closure of the nearly 1,000 U.S. military bases worldwide, including in Guantanamo, S. Korea and Okinawa.
As the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist has now moved the “doomsday clock” to two and a half minutes to midnight, because of the ever-growing threats climate change and the danger of nuclear war pose for human survival, we call for urgent action to be taken to end the climate crisis, safeguard the environment and abolish all nuclear weapons.
We also call for an end to U.S. military intervention worldwide, for an end to the U.S. militarization of space, and for the elimination of all weapons–from guns to killer drones.
Daniel Berrigan, S.J., 94, who died on April 30, 2016, wrote the following words in the Catonsville Nine statement to decry the U.S. massacre in Vietnam. His words ring as true today as on May 17, 1968: “How many must die before our voices are heard, how many must be tortured, dislocated, starved, maddened? How long must the world’s resources be raped in the service of legalized murder?…We have chosen to say, with the gift of our liberty, if necessary our lives: the violence stops here, the death stops here, the suppression of the truth stops here, this war stops here…Redeem the times! The times are inexpressibly evil…And yet, the times are inexhaustibly good, solaced by the courage and hope of many. The truth rules, Christ is not forsaken.”
The violence, racism and disregard for the truth and human life stops here today in front of the White House. The truth rules, Christ is not forsaken! On this Ash Wednesday, we commit ourselves to redeeming the times and working in solidarity with sister’s and brother’s everywhere to create the Beloved Community as we seek to make God’s reign of love, justice and peace a reality in our society and world, right here, right now!