HARTFORD – The collective prayers, hymns and personal reflections of Hartford-area religious leaders were offered up to God as part of the “National Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Community” on Sept. 9 at St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church.
The religious leaders, who represented many different faiths, spoke and prayed at the invitation of Archbishop Leonard P. Blair, who presided over the solemn hour. “The National Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Community” was also observed in New Haven and Waterbury and in dioceses throughout the country at the request of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
At St. Patrick-St. Anthony, the archbishop was joined in prayer by the Rev. Allison Read, Episcopal priest and chaplain at Trinity College in Hartford; Father Carlos A. Echavarria, pastor at St. Peter Catholic Church in Hartford; Imam Kashif Abdul-Karim, resident imam at Muhammad Islamic Center of Greater Hartford in Hartford; Rabbi Debra Cantor, rabbi at B’Nai Tikvoh-Sholom in Bloomfield; and Deacon Arthur L. Miller, deacon at St. Mary Church in Simsbury.
Archbishop Blair told attendees that the USCCB requested the Day of Prayer for Peace as a springboard for additional ways of nurturing an open, honest and civil dialogue on issues of race relations, restorative justice, mental health and gun violence.
“It remains to be seen what we can do by way of further dialogue, communication and mutual aid on these issues as men and women of our great country,” he said. “But I’d also like to suggest that as men and women of religion, we also know the importance of faith, we know the importance of prayer.
“This is a reminder that all our work, all our efforts for justice and peace in the world begin and end with God. Without his blessing and without his help, we truly labor in vain.”
The archbishop quoted Pope Saint John Paul II, who said, “Prayer is itself an action, but this does not excuse us from also working for peace. There is no peace without a passionate love for peace. There is no peace without a passionate determination to achieve peace. So let us build peace upon the four pillars of truth, justice, love and freedom.”
Fostering spiritually healthy hearts, minds and souls “is the best prevention against the illness of our nation and our world,” Archbishop Blair said.
He concluded that “as people of faith, we have our work cut out for us in America today. But the price of failure is much too high.”
Rev. Read told attendees about college students who came to her for counseling, asking whether they spent their lives simply shielded from violence or whether the times are particularly bad right now.
In response, she urged the other faith leaders to mine their “wisdom gifts” and “hand them over to the next generation.”
“The wisdom of nonviolence from the civil rights movement transforms natural fear and anger into positive responses,” she said. “Peace is a profound value to assert in this world and at no other time have we needed to proclaim it more.”
Father Echavarria gave a reflection in Spanish and sang the “Prayer of Saint Francis” in Spanish.
During her reflection, Rabbi Cantor noted that “merely seeking peace is never enough. We need to pursue it and run after it.” She added that “peace is elusive” and “is always intertwined with justice. Justice must be sought again and again in every generation.”
Rabbi Cantor also chanted a hymn of peace in Hebrew and “Dona Nobis Pacem” in Latin.
Imam Abdul-Karim said he was putting out a call for peace “not just to Muslims but a universal call to all.” He said “people of faith cannot sit on their hands” and that “our success will be based on our works.”
“It says in the Koran that God will never change the condition of a people,” he added, “until they change the condition within their hearts.”
Deacon Miller also called for action.
“The movement of the Spirit of God in our hearts calls us to move against the spirit of our times,” he said. “We need not ask what the world needs, but what God has given to us that we may come alive and in great hope and faith go out and do that.”
Call to Prayer
In addition to the Day of Prayer for Peace, the USCCB has adapted its weekly Call to Prayer for the period extending from Sept. 9 though the election season.
The Call to Prayer is an invitation to fast and to pray one Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be for the week’s intention, for civic leaders and for the upcoming elections. All Catholic churches as asked to participate.
The remaining weekly intentions for the election season are as follows:
September 30: May all Americans recall the necessity of dialogue, civility and humility in this election season.
October 7: Through Our Lady of the Rosary’s aid, may voters and elected leaders uphold the dignity of human life in their political engagement.
October 14: May Catholics recall all aspects of Catholic social teaching as they consider their votes.
October 21: May there be a transformation of politics to focus on the dignity of the human person and the common good.
October 28: May we keep in mind the gift of religious freedom and our duty to defend and exercise it as faithful citizens.
November 4: As we approach the polls, may we understand and embrace the principles of our Faith that should guide our political engagement.
(Special on Election Day): Today we pray for a peaceful, just and grace-filled election.
November 11: May the leaders elected this week be guided by the Holy Spirit as they fulfill their positions.
Information is available at www.usccb.org/pray.