Reparation: Bishop Morlino Calls for Ember Days Prayer & Fasting

Reparation: Bishop Morlino Calls for Ember Days Prayer & Fasting

In a letter written by Bishop Robert C. Morlino to the people of the Diocese of Madison regarding the ongoing sexual abuse scandal in the Church, he called all within the diocese to intensify their prayer and fasting for purification from this heinous sin.

Masses of reparation are being held throughout the diocese on September 14, the Feast of the Holy Cross.

Bishop Morlino will preside at the 12 noon Mass on Friday, Sept. 14, in the chapel at Holy Name Heights.

The bishop also invited people to observe the Autumn Ember Days (September 19, 21, and 22) “as days of fasting and abstinence in reparation for the sins and outrages committed by members of the clergy and episcopacy.”

What is reparation?

Reparation occurs when one makes amends for a wrong done, especially through sin. One can see that the word “repair” is closely linked to “reparation.”

When Jesus died on the Cross, he “offered his life out of love for the Father to make reparation for our sinful disobedience” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 897).

His saving life, death, and resurrection repaired humanity’s relationship with God, lost by the sin of Adam and Eve.

When we offend God, we make amends by going to Confession and doing penance. We also can ask God fervently for mercy on others who may offend God.

The Church is the Body of Christ. When one part of the body suffers, all suffer. Thousands of people have suffered because of the reprehensible sexual sins committed by Catholic clergy (and others) on our children and vulnerable adults.

These boys and girls, men and women, have suffered tremendously. The sins against them cry out to God for mercy. While God heard their cries, the leaders of the Church usually did not. In fact, these atrocities were facilitated by the failure of bishops and the institutional Church to make amends in justice.

The first part of the solution is to ask God for forgiveness and to pray that his justice lights the way for the Church from henceforth. As fellow members of Christ’s Body, we ask God to forgive the weakness and sin of those who acted against or covered up their actions even as we pray for healing and consolation for those hurt through these sins.

There are numerous traditional prayers of reparation starting with the seven “Penitential Psalms” from the Bible: Psalm 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143. If you enter “prayers of reparation” into your computer’s search engine, you will find many additional prayers.

What are Ember Days?

The Ember Days are days set aside by the Church for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The days are related to human activities, particularly the seasons of the year.

Pope Leo I said that these days are connected to the seasons so that “we may learn from the constantly recurring annual cycle that we are in constant need for purification” (Sermo 94, 3).

In essence, they provide the opportunity to us to reflect on God’s graciousness and to remember our constant need of conversion.

The origin of the Ember Days is not particularly clear. There may be some connection to God’s command to set aside days throughout the seasons to fast and then have cheerful feasts (see Zechariah 8:19). We know that some form of the Ember Days was celebrated in the Church of Rome from a very early time, and by the fifth century they were firmly rooted in the Church’s life.

The Ember Days came to be celebrated rather vigorously in the Church. In the reform of the litur- gical calendar following the Second Vatican Council, the Church retained the days but left the actual selection of the days to the various bishops’ conferences (because days tied to the seasons will not be the same in the Northern and Southern Hemi- spheres, among other reasons).

The United States bishops never selected particular dates, but the generally accepted dates are noted below. While the bishops never selected days, some Catholics have maintained the practice on a personal level.

When are the Ember Days?

The traditional celebrations of Ember Days loosely correspond to the seasons of the year. They occur on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday following certain liturgical feasts. These are noted below:

After Feast of the Holy Cross (September 14)

September 19, 21, 22, 2018

After Feast of St. Lucy (December 13)

December 19, 21, 22, 2018

After First Sunday of Lent

March 13, 15, 16, 2019

After Pentecost

June 12, 14, 15, 2019

What is called for in terms of prayer, fasting, abstinence?

Ember Days are somewhat like days of Lent. We intensify our prayer, particularly asking God for the forgiveness of our sins, especially sins permitted against children and the ensuing cover-ups.

Fasting and abstinence rules are similar to those we have on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday: one full meal with two smaller meals. Meat may be eaten at the main meal on these days if they are not Fridays.

This is entirely voluntary and is not a requirement of the Church or diocese. It is an option for us all to offer our entire being to God in reparation of sin.

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