Last Sunday, Fr. John Riccardo, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Plymouth, Michigan, used his homily to make an unusual appeal.
Would the parish commit to 1) fasting (liquids only until dinner) every Wednesday until the end of the year; 2) gathering together to pray the rosary the evening of the fast; 3) and then breaking each fast by receiving the Eucharist?
Why now? In mid-summer, deep in “ordinary time,” this proposal sounded decidedly Lenten.
It turns out there is a national precedent for it: he quoted three United States presidents — Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Abraham Lincoln — who called for days of fasting and repentance in times of war and strife in order to obtain God’s mercy. And then he cited a fourth author:
“If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and I will forgive their sin and I will heal their land.” — 2 Chronicles, 7:14
Fr. Riccardo concluded: “That’s from God and that’s a promise.”
So, on a hot and steamy Wednesday evening three days later, some 800 people showed up to ask God for his mercy for our country.
The impetus for the effort came to Fr. Riccardo while on vacation last month. After spending time talking with friends about the elections, terrorist acts by ISIS, and violence involving police and protesters across the nation, he said he prayed, “Lord, how do we get out of this?”
The first readings coming up at daily Mass were an inspiration, as they featured the “relentless preaching of the prophets for the people of Israel to repent.” They drove Fr. Riccardo to research the historical precedent for American leaders calling for fasting and prayer. “Sitting presidents of the United States understood the separation of church and state a bit differently” than we do today, he told Aleteia.
He concluded that he needed to “ask everyone to find a way to ask God for mercy for our country.”
“It seemed important to try to do what we can as a parish as far as getting before the Lord and acknowledging our sins and national sinfulness,” Fr. Riccardo added.
“Wouldn’t it be something,” he told his parish as he proposed the idea, “if news spreads beyond the archdiocese and collectively untold numbers of us gathered… Imagine what might happen!”
And spread it just might — Fr. Riccardo’s pulpit reaches far beyond Plymouth, Michigan, as his talks and homilies are broadcast every weekday on Ave Maria Radio’s “Christ is the Answer” radio show and are available as podcasts on iTunes.
His advice to those who would like to join in the effort: “It’s pretty simple to do — just fast and pray the rosary.”