Report of Ash Wednesday Liturgy of Repentance Outside White House-February 14, 2018

Dear Friends,

Today, Ash Wednesday, from Noon-1:00 PM, over 50 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 (see attached photo: courtesy of Art Laffin, Dorothy Day Catholic Worker)


I am deeply grateful to everyone who attended this Liturgy and for each of the program participants who read, sang and offered such inspiring and moving prayers, reflections and symbols. Below is the program for the Liturgy as well as the Opening Reflection/Litany that was offered. Toward the end of the Liturgy, ashes were blessed and distributed among the participants. After people received blessed ashes, peacemakers used a different batch of wood stove ashes 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. 

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  



February 14, 2018— Outside White House

Opening Song: Prayer of Peace (Joe Byrne)

Peace before us, peace behind us, peace under our feet

Peace within us, peace over us, let all around us be peace

Love before us…

Welcome: Art Laffin

Reading: Joel: 2, 12-18 — Colleen McCarthy  

Reading: From the writings of Archbishop Oscar Romero — Kathy Boylan

Reflection/Litany: Art Laffin/Judith Kelly/Sr. Megan Rice/Liz McAlister

Response– Sing: God forgive the wrong we’ve done, God forgive us now (2x’s)

Prayers from Faith-Based Peace and Justice Groups:

Scott Wright: Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

Marie Dennis: Assisi Community, Pax Christi International

Andrea Barron: TASSC

Sr. Patty Chappell: Pax Christi USA

Patrick Carolan: Franciscan Action Network

Jean Stokan: Sisters of Mercy Justice Team

Gerry Lee: Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Mary Liepold: Pax Christi Metro DC-Baltimore

Daniel Flynn: Catholic Mobilizing Network

MJ Park: Little Friends for Peace

Prayer for Prisoners: Mike Walli

Song: Ashes (by Tom Conry) — (led by Joe)

We rise again from ashes from the good we’ve failed to do. We rise again from ashes to create ourselves anew. If all our world is ashes, then must our lives be true, an offering of ashes, an offering to You.  We offer You our failures, we offer You attempts; the gifts not fully given, the dreams not fully dreamt. Give our stumblings direction, give our visions wider view, an offering of ashes, an offering to You.

Then rise again from ashes, let healing come to pain, though spring has turned to winter, and sunshine turned to rain. The rain we’ll use for growing, and create the world anew, from an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

Blessing and Distribution of Ashes: Friar Mike Lasky, OFM Conv. 

Ash Ritual—Marking Pennsylvania Ave. with the symbol of Ashes

Closing Prayer: Paul Magno

Closing Song: World Peace Prayer  (led by Joe and Art)

Lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth, From despair to hope, from fear to trust;

Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace; Let peace fill our hearts, let peace fill our world, Let peace fill our universe.

Let justice ever roll, let mercy fill the earth. Let us begin to grow into your people. We can be love, we can bring peace, We can still be your way of compassion. Refrain:

Still all the angry cries, still all the angry guns, Still now your people die, earth’s sons and daughters. Let Justice roll, let mercy pour down, come and teach us Your way of compassion. Refrain:

Opening Reflection/Litany

(Prepared by Art Laffin)

Read by Judith Kelly/Art Laffin/Sr. Megan Rice/Liz McAlister

Good Afternoon. We greet everyone here at the White House in a spirit of peace and nonviolence.

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.

Today is also Valentine’s Day, a day in which the Catholic Church and many other churches commemorate St. Valentine, the 3rd century Roman martyr.

We, people from different faith-based communities committed to nonviolence, social justice and peace,  summon the cloud 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.

We now offer our Ash Wednesday prayer and we beg forgiveness of our own sinfulness and that of our nation, O merciful God.

As we stand outside the White House, and in proximity to other seats of political, economic and military power in this area, we implore You, O God, to banish every diabolic power and every evil influence from these places. Help all Your people, who are made in Your very image, to respect the sacredness of all life and reject the idols of death.                                                                                                                                           Sung responseGod Forgive the Wrong We’ve Done, God Forgive Us Now (2 x’s)

Living in a nation whose origin is rooted in white supremacy, racism, sexism and mistreatment of women, 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 April 2016 Appeal: “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.”

Sung responseGod Forgive the Wrong We’ve Done, God Forgive Us Now (2 x’s)

We pray for all those–past and present–who have been and continue to be crucified to a cross of racial hatred. We remember and pray for all those American Indians and African Americans who were slaughtered, enslaved, lynched and murdered, and who continue to be oppressed, simply because of their skin color.

Sung responseGod Forgive the Wrong We’ve Done, God Forgive Us Now (2 x’s)

Today, we are especially mindful of our duty as Christians to proclaim the Gospel mandates of love, mercy and justice and to nonviolently resist the hate-filled, fear-driven and destructive policies of the Trump administration and its congressional and corporate allies. We denounce racial profiling and police and vigilante violence against African Americans and other people of color. We decry the fact that a disproportionate number of African Americans are imprisoned, executed and victims of police violence. We denounce the demonizing and targeting of Muslims. We denounce the ICE raids, detention and the prospect of mass deportation of immigrants as well as any expansion of a Border Wall. We denounce the continuing oppression of native peoples and the desecration of native lands and call for the cancellation of the Dakota Access and Keystone pipeline’s. We call for the immediate release of Leonard Peltier, Native American political prisoner serving a life sentence, who has been imprisoned for 42 years and in declining health. We commit ourselves to ending all forms of racial hatred, sexism and discrimination and to upholding the human rights of all people.

Sung response: God Forgive the Wrong We’ve Done, God Forgive Us Now (2 x’s)

During this Holy Season, we call upon the nation and churches to join with us, and countless others, including the new Poor People’s Campaign, in seeking to eradicate what Martin Luther King, Jr. called the “triple evils of poverty, racism and militarism.” While the Trump Administration awards tax cuts to the rich and just received congressional approval for a record $700 billion military budget, 41 million Americans are living below the poverty line, over 7,400 are homeless in D.C. and millions are without adequate health care. We call for an end to a political and economic order that fosters and perpetuates corporate domination, systemic racism and income inequality. We call for economic justice for the poor, homeless and jobless; comprehensive immigration reform, including the passage of a “Clean Dream Act;” and affordable health care and housing for all. We call for an end to torture, indefinite detention, the mass incarceration complex, and the death penalty; debt forgiveness for poor countries; and that all necessary aid be allocated to help rebuild Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Sung responseGod Forgive the Wrong We’ve Done, God Forgive Us Now (2 x’s)

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, warmaking, arms sales and oppressive trade agreements, which has helped create the conditions for the rise of the Islamic State and a massive refugee and immigration crisis?

Sung responseGod Forgive the Wrong We’ve Done, God Forgive Us Now (2 x’s)

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 (especially Mosul), as well as in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Libya. We demand an end end to U.S. military intervention worldwide, including the U.S.-backed Saudi war in Yemen. As a result of this deadly war, an estimated 10,000 people have died, 7 million Yemenis face starvation and the number of cholera cases is expected to reach 1 million. 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, Iran and Russia, and to negotiate a peace agreement with Syria and N. Korea. We call, too, on the U.S. to halt all arms sales worldwide and to end its support for the illegitimate government in Honduras and Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. We call for the closure of the over 800 U.S. military bases worldwide, including in Guantanamo, S. Korea, Okinawa, Japan and in Africa. And we call for 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.

Sung responseGod Forgive the Wrong We’ve Done, God Forgive Us Now (2 x’s)

We call on our nation to repent for the nuclear sin— for building, testing, using and continuing to build and threaten to use nuclear weapons. We remember and pray for all the victims of the nuclear age. We confess that the way we live today is desecrating the earth, changing the climate, the seas and the balance of life, and dispossessing the poor and future generations. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist has moved the “doomsday clock” to two minutes to midnight, because of the twin dangers nuclear weapons and climate change pose for civilization. The nuclear threat is further exacerbated today by the risk of accidental use and provocative actions towards N. Korea by an unpredictable U.S. President. We call on the Trump Administration to rescind its new Nuclear Posture Review and to heed the admonition of Pope Francis who has condemned the possession of nuclear weapons and called for their total elimination. We call, too, on the U.S. government to abandon its $1 trillion nuclear modernization program and immediately ratify the historic UN Treaty for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons. We also demand that urgent action be taken to end the climate crisis by becoming responsible stewards of the earth’s resources, ending our dependency on fossil fuels and pursing renewable energy.


We also call for an end to the U.S. militarization of space and for the elimination of all weapons–from guns to killer drones to nuclear weapons.

Sung responseGod Forgive the Wrong We’ve Done, God Forgive Us Now (2 x’s)

Dorothy Day declared, “The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us.” On this Ash Wednesday and St. Valentine’s Day, we commit ourselves to bringing about a revolution of the heart which can lead to a nonviolent revolution and transformation of our society and world. We are inspired by all those who have already undertaken this task, especially so many courageous women worldwide. Let us work in solidarity with sister’s and brother’s everywhere to create the Beloved Community as we seek to redeem the times by making God’s reign of love, justice and peace a reality in our society and world, right here, right now!

Published in: on February 14, 2018 at 5:41 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] Report of Ash Wednesday Liturgy of Repentance Outside White House-February 14, 2018 […]

  2. thanks so much for the action on Ash Wdnesday- dave eberhardt, baltimore To Daniel Ellsberg a prayer

    Had you forgot? Tears of joy?
    Not just loving one other, loving others?

    There is some one praying at this very moment!
    Carthusians at their mother ship- La Grande Chartreuse monastery…
    The grey stone around them ages slowly as if praying…
    Alpine pastures- chamois, eidelweiss..all prayerful.

    Che in Bolivia, Daniel Ellsberg?
    Lovely Tennessee River through Knoxville
    Near Oak Ridge- the kill zone
    “Transform Now Plowhares 3”* -one mile
    And into a kill zone to witness
    Versus nuclear storage,
    Dropped enough bombs, Dresden, Tokyo
    The firestorms and General Lemay
    Exulting- the American men around you
    Today exultant for dead bodies
    In Yemen, inner cities?

    Tears of sadness, had you forgot? The human lot.?

    • 3 peace activists attacked the n clear storage facility at Oak Ridge, Tennessee

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