Praying for Racial Healing in Our Land

The following is adapted from A Prayer Service for Racial Healing in Our Land (also in Spanish), from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Perfect for Lent, this and other resources from the USCCB Racism page can help Catholics examine their consciences and pray and act in support of racial healing. 

“Racism has rightly been called America’s original sin. It remains a blot on our national life and continues to cause acts and attitudes of hatred, as recent events have made evident. The need to condemn, and combat, the demonic ideologies of white supremacy, neo-Nazism and racism has become especially urgent at this time. Our efforts must be constantly led and accompanied by prayer—but they must also include concrete action” (USCCB Executive Committee statement). People of faith call on the Divine Physician, Christ the Lord, to heal the wounds of racism throughout our land.

In Luke 10:25-37, the question is posed, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus is ready, answering with a parable. Jesus often used parables to shed light, bring new insights, and provoke a change in the hearts of listeners. We hear that someone is robbed, beaten and injured. Two walked by, ignoring the injured man, but a third came to the man’s aid, caring for his wounds and securing him safe lodging. He was the good neighbor. He was acting like Jesus, doing what God required.

Keeping this in mind, consider the scenario we are witnessing today as racism persists in our communities and in our churches. Too many walk by the victims of racism without looking deeply at their wounds or the pain inflicted on them. Many of these wounds have festered over centuries. Today’s continuing disparities in education, housing, employment, economic well-being, and leadership are not disconnected from our country’s shameful history of slavery and systemic racism. Any act of racism injures the perpetrator and the victim, threatening the dignity of both. The failure to act to end systemic racism, which is often animated in our laws, policies, and structures, hurts those who are victimized and denies all of us the opportunity to benefit from the gifts of diversity.

Jesus’ parable calls us to our obligations as Christians, to be a good neighbor: the one who stops and helps the injured; the one who does not hesitate to accept the responsibility of healing.

The signs of this time are asking us to wake up, to stand up and to speak up when we see racism. This is how we love our neighbor as ourselves.  This is how we act like Jesus. This is how we do justice and love goodness (Micah 6:8). This is how we make safe lodging for all.  This is how we begin the healing from racism in our land, writing a new parable of racial justice for this time.

Conscience is the “core and sanctuary” within us where we are alone with God and hear his call to “love good and avoid evil” and “do this, shun that” (Gaudium et Spes, no. 16).  We must exmine our conscience in light of the sin of racism, asking ourselves:

  1. Have I fully loved God and fully loved my neighbor as myself?
  2. Have I caused pain to others by my actions or my words that offended my brother or my sister?
  3. Have I done enough to inform myself about the sin of racism, its roots, and its historical and contemporary manifestations? Have I opened my heart to see how unequal access to economic opportunity, jobs, housing, and education on the basis of skin color, race, or ethnicity, has denied and continues to deny the equal dignity of others?
  4. Is there a root of racism within me that blurs my vision of who my neighbor is?
  5. Have I ever witnessed an occasion when someone “fell victim” to personal, institutional, systematic or social racism and I did or said nothing, leaving the victim to address their pain alone?
  6. Have I ever witnessed an occasion when someone “fell victim” to personal, institutional, systematic or social racism with me inflicting the pain, acting opposite of love of God and love of neighbor?
  7. Have I ever lifted up and aided a person who “fell victim” to personal, institutional, systematic or social racism and paid a price for extending mercy to the other? How did I react? Did my faith grow? Am I willing to grow even more in faith through my actions?

We must recognize that racism manifests in our own individual thoughts, attitudes, actions, and inactions. It also manifests in social structures and unjust systems the perpetuate centuries of racial injustice. We must examine our individual actions and our participation in unjust structures, seek forgiveness and move towards reconciliation. We must pray together for the will and the strength to help contribute to the healing of racism in my time:

God of Heaven and Earth,
you created the one human family
and endowed each person with great dignity.

Aid us, we pray, in overcoming the sin of racism.
Grant us your grace in eliminating this blight
from our hearts, our communities,
our social and civil institutions.

Fill our hearts with love for you and our neighbor
so that we may work with you
in healing our land from racial injustice.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

We have prayed and now, with changed hearts, let us move our feet to action.

Going Deeper:

For additional information, see the USCCB Backgrounder on Racism, the USCCB Special Task Force to Promote Peace in Our Communities: Report and Recommendations (2016) and U.S. Bishops Establish New Ad Hoc Committee on Racism (2017); the U.S. bishops’ Pastoral Letter on Racism, Brothers and Sisters to Us, and more resources at

The Good Samaritan Challenges Us to Pray

The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) reminds us that prayer is an encounter with Christ, who is present in every member of our human family.

This is a story about people encountering one another on one of life’s roads. So many of us are tempted to pass by others without recognizing their needs, their common dignity. In this story, that’s not the case. The Samaritan, traveling down the road, was “moved with compassion at the sight.” This is the moment of encounter—a prayerful experience of seeing Christ in the face of the stranger.

We must be open to experiencing God in our encounter with others. In fact, this can be a powerful form of prayer. What if we aren’t encountering someone on a physical road? We can still encounter others in our prayer by calling to mind their stories, the faces of individuals on the news, etc.

How can we embody this call to encounter in our prayer this Lent? How can our Lenten prayer be both a moment of encounter and a “walking with” our fellow travelers on life’s roads?

Find this video, which features Prof. Helen Alvaré, JD, and all of CRS Rice Bowl’s Share the Journey tools for reflection.

CRS staff Eric Clayton

Eric Clayton works at Catholic Relief Services. He holds an MA in international media from American University and a BA in international studies and creative writing from Fairfield University. He currently lives in Baltimore with his wife, daughter, and pet hedgehog.

Nine Days of Prayer for a Suffering World

As we witness suffering in the world around us, the Christmas song, “O, Holy Night,” particularly stands out to me:

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.  

The world is broken. There is suffering. And God Himself comes into that suffering to be with us. This is the true nature of compassion – to suffer with. But awareness of the brokenhearted and God’s great gift of Himself could easily become just another insight that comes and goes. So in the New Year, how do we carry the message of Christmas in our hearts? How do we live its truth in our lives, rather than pack it away with the ornaments?

We are called to love one another as Christ has loved us, to enter compassionately into the suffering of others, and to share Jesus’ love with them. One important way we can do this is through prayer.

A specific invitation to prayer surrounds January 22, when our nation will mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in the U.S. throughout the nine months of pregnancy. Since that tragic decision, more than 57 million children’s lives have been lost to abortion, and many women and men experience – often in silence – deep and lasting suffering due to their involvement.

The U.S. Catholic bishops are inviting the faithful to participate in 9 Days for Life, a period of prayer, penance and pilgrimage set aside from January 18-26 to observe this anniversary by taking part in local events and by joining Catholics across the country united in prayer. Each day of the novena includes simple prayers and different brief intentions, reflections and actions. Along with prayers for the end to abortion, the novena also includes prayers for other intentions related to human dignity, such as the end to the use of the death penalty, for those nearing the end of their lives, and for all who are on the path of adoption.

Visit to download a free app, to sign up for daily emails or text messages, and to access other helpful resources. Daily intentions will also be posted on social media with the hashtag #9DaysForLife. Follow People of Life at

In this New Year, let us remember the brokenhearted and the suffering in our prayers and, remembering Christ’s own love for each of us, reach out to be with others in support and in love. Though we may not see the immediate effects of our prayers and good works, we can trust in God’s power to work through us.

Anne McGuire is Assistant Director of Education and Outreach for the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

Prayer for Immigrants/Oración por los inmigrantes

Join us in praying for families of mixed status, victims of racism, migrant laborers, young people brought to the U.S. as children, and all who are in the shadows.

Hear Us, O God

“Know that the LORD is God,
he made us, we belong to him,
we are his people, the flock he shepherds.”
– Psalm 100:3

Hear us, O God.  Hear our families of mixed status. Hear those who wait in fear of separation, burdened with anxiety.

Hear us, O God. Hear all who are called “foreigner.”  Hear us when we experience cold stares or mistrust because of the color of our skin or the language we speak.

Hear us, O God. Hear our brothers and sisters who sweat in the fields. Hear those who work long, backbreaking hours growing food, serving us at restaurants, and cleaning our homes.

Hear us, O God. Hear those young people who were brought to this country as children.  Hear their dreams for a future of hope.

Hear us, O God. Hear vulnerable women and children. Hear those who have fled domestic violence, rape, or gangs to seek safety in this country.

Hear us, O God. Hear those who work in the shadows and are exposed to exploitation and harassment. Hear those for whom just pay for a just day’s work is always uncertain.

Hear us, O God. Hear us as we raise our voices. Hear your people as we seek laws and policies to protect the vulnerable and welcome the stranger.

Standing together—a single yet diverse body of Christ, we pray:  Shepherd of the flock, hear us. Be with us, restore us, and strengthen us, for we belong to you.

May your kingdom come and your will be done.  Amen.

Escúchanos, oh Dios

“Reconozcamos que el Señor es Dios,
que él nos hizo y a él pertenecemos,
que formamos su pueblo y su rebaño”.
– Salmo 99:3

Escúchanos, oh Dios. Escucha a nuestras familias con estatus migratorios mixtos. Escucha a los que esperan con temor la separación, cargados de ansiedad.

Escúchanos, oh Dios. Escucha a todos los que son llamados “extranjeros”. Escúchanos cuando experimentamos miradas frías o desconfianza debido al color de nuestra piel o al lenguaje que hablamos.

Escúchanos, oh Dios. Escucha a nuestros hermanos y hermanas que sudan en los campos. Escucha a los que trabajan largas y extenuantes horas cultivando alimentos, sirviéndonos en restaurantes y limpiando nuestros hogares.

Escúchanos, oh Dios. Escucha a esos jóvenes que fueron traídos a este país siendo niños. Escucha sus sueños de un futuro de esperanza.

Escúchanos, oh Dios. Escucha a las mujeres y niños vulnerables. Escucha a los que han huido de la violencia doméstica, la violación o las pandillas para buscar seguridad en este país.

Escúchanos, oh Dios. Escucha a los que trabajan en las sombras y están expuestos a la explotación y el acoso. Escucha a aquellos para los cuales una remuneración justa por un día de trabajo justo es siempre incierta.

Escúchanos, oh Dios. Escúchanos cuando alzamos nuestras voces. Escucha a tu pueblo en nuestra búsqueda de leyes y políticas que protejan al vulnerable y acojan al extraño.

Juntos de pie, un solo pero diverso cuerpo de Cristo, oremos: Pastor del rebaño, escúchanos. Acompáñanos, restablécenos y fortalécenos, porque te pertenecemos.

Venga a nosotros tu reino; hágase tu voluntad. Amén.

Turning a “contemplative gaze” toward our migrant and refugee brothers and sisters

Building on his September launch of the “Share the Journey” campaign in support of migrants and refugees, Pope Francis’ Message for the 51st World Day of Peace (Jan. 1) invites Catholics to embrace those who endure perilous journeys and hardships in order to find peace. He urges people of faith to turn with a “contemplative gaze” towards migrants and refugees, opening our hearts to the “gaze of faith which sees God dwelling in their houses, in their streets and squares.”

In his Message, Pope Francis echoes St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, pointing to war, conflict, genocide, ethnic cleansing, poverty, lack of opportunity, and environmental degradation as reasons that families and individuals become refugees and migrants.

Four “mileposts for action” are necessary in order to allow migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and trafficking victims the opportunity to find peace. These include:

  1. Welcoming, which calls for “expanding legal pathways for entry” and better balancing national security and fundamental human rights concerns;
  2. Protecting, or recognizing and defending “the inviolable dignity of those who flee”;
  3. Promoting, which entails “supporting the integral human development of migrants and refugees”; and
  4. Integrating by allowing migrants and refugees to “participate fully in the life of society that welcomes them.” Doing so enriches both those arriving and those welcoming.

How can we, as Catholics, respond to Pope Francis’ powerful words in this year’s message?  What are we called to?

Here are three ideas.

  1. Pray with a “contemplative gaze.” Pray for the grace to approach issues around migrants and refugees from a starting point of faith and prayer.
    Encounter the stories of migrants and refugees on this handout and at and then pray for those families and individuals.
    You may also try one of these prayer practices to enrich your experience of prayer for our migrant and refugee brothers and sisters.
  1. Learn. Visit to read the stories of families and individuals who are migrants and refugees and to learn how you can respond. Visit to learn how faith communities are answering the call to welcome migrants and refugees.
  2. Act. Join tens of thousands of Catholics to advocate for policies that support migrants and refugees in the U.S. and those experiencing poverty or conflict around the world. For current action alerts, visit and

Together and with God’s help, we can seek peace for all people, including those who are migrants and refugees.

This text is excerpted from the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development handout for the World Day of Peace 2018, which is also available in Spanish.

Pray for Religious Freedom

Aaron Weldon,  Religious Liberty Program Specialist, USCCB

We come to enjoy true freedom when our restless hearts find rest in the truth. The great twentieth century philosopher, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross – or, Edith Stein – discovered truth in the writings of St. Teresa of Avila, and sought freedom by entering the Discalced Carmelites.  The convent didn’t stop her from reaching out.  During the rise of Nazism, Stein spoke up. She wrote to Pope Pius XI asking the Church to speak up on behalf of persecuted Jews, and she wrote her autobiography, Life in a Jewish Family, “as a way to combat racial hatred.”  She was captured in 1942 and taken to Auschwitz, where she died in the gas chamber shortly after arrival.  Stein was executed primarily because she was Jewish, and the Catholic Church considers her a Christian martyr, because she bore witness to her faith in Jesus before her executioners.

Having spent much of my life in the university, I admire Edith Stein. Her intellectual vocation led her to faith, her relationship with God led her to prayer, and her life of prayer was bound up with her outreach to others.  She enjoyed an interior freedom that opened out to service.

We can grow in both interior freedom and solidarity with others through prayer. In prayer, we express our dependence on God, and we take on the burdens of those for whom we pray.  During this Fortnight, here is how I will be praying:

  • For Bishops and all Catholic leaders. Many Christians may not realize religious liberty is an issue, because they don’t experience an infringement on their own freedom. But the issue is real for medical professionals like Cathy Decarlo, a nurse who was forced to participate in an abortion, or for ministries that serve immigrants in states prohibiting the “harboring” of undocumented persons. Pastors and leaders face serious challenges, and they need the wisdom and courage of the Holy Spirit. We can pray for them.
  • For Christians facing violent persecution. In the West, we are dealing with what Pope Francis calls “polite persecution.” Polite persecution is real, but it pales in comparison to the struggles of Christians in Pakistan, Syria, and other places. In the face of this suffering, it can be difficult for most of us to know what we can do. Certainly, we can support organizations, like Aid to the Church in Need, that work to assist Christians under extreme duress in places like Iraq. We can also pray for our brothers and sisters, as well as for the conversion of the persecutors.
  • For non-Christian fellow Americans. Religious freedom is a fundamental freedom, rooted in the nature of the human person. So all people must be immune from coercion, free to pursue the truth and live the truth as best as they understand it. Many Americans are impeded in their search. For example, Muslims have faced challenges in recent years. Several states have passed anti-Sharia laws, local governments have tried to use zoning laws to prevent the construction of houses of worship, and the White House has imposed a travel ban that courts have found is aimed at preventing Muslims from entering the country. These actions give rise to a culture in which Muslims are treated as second-class citizens. As Catholics, we should be aware of these challenges, as we ourselves have been the target anti-Catholic bigotry. That bigotry gave us Blaine Amendments that we are still fighting today. Religious freedom for all does not mean we are resigned to relativism; it simply means that governments do not get to coerce people in matters of faith. It means that the state recognizes a space for non-state institutions, and this is the same space we Christians enjoy to propose the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Please join me in praying for our neighbors, co-workers, and fellow Americans, that we all will be free to seek and live out religious truth.

Aaron Matthew Weldon is Religious Liberty Program Specialist for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Praying for Conscience and Courage

Bible Group Praying Together Holding Hands With Eyes ClosedI read a prayer recently, titled “Prayer for Conscience and Courage” by Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister. I was struck by the title and even more by the prayer. What does it mean to pray for “conscience”?  Isn’t a conscience simply what all of us have, that is, a working conscience that somehow lets us know what is right and what is wrong?

By Kathy Langer, director of social concerns for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “the education of the conscience is a lifelong task” (No. 1784), so we know it is important to learn and form our conscience with Scripture and Catholic teaching.  But prayer for conscience — how does that fit?

Again, in the catechism we read, “In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path; we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice” (No. 1785). So, in order to educate our consciences, we need to pray with Scripture. We pray that we can become what it is God is dreaming for us. Right?

The prayer begins with the words, “Loving God, lead us beyond ourselves to care…”  Then, I had a light-bulb moment when I read more of the prayer:

“Give us the conscience it takes to comprehend what we’re facing, to see what we’re looking at and to say what we see so that others, hearing us, may also brave the pressure that comes with being out of public step.”

So, this prayer is written to help us in this difficult time — a time of great uncertainty and change. Sister Joan is suggesting that we pray, asking God to give us wisdom — God’s wisdom — to help us see what is happening around us and in our world as God sees it and act accordingly.

Doing this kind of prayer is not something we automatically do. We pray for someone who is sick, for personal things we need or are worried about, but we do not often pray for a conscience that is awake, open to seeing as God sees and open to acting on that seeing. More often, we see the world through a lens that thinks more of personal needs than of the needs of all, or the common good, as Jesus and our church teaches us.

I think about poverty. Do we have a conscience that helps us see poverty as God does?

Here are a couple of people I believe have a conscience that helps them see as God sees.

Pope Francis says this: “The times talk to us of so much poverty in the world and this is a scandal. Poverty in the world is a scandal. In a world where there is so much wealth, so many resources to feed everyone, it is unfathomable that there are so many hungry children … without an education, so many poor persons.”

Dorothy Day said: “We must talk about poverty, because people insulated by their own comfort lose sight of it,” and “Those who cannot see Christ in the poor are atheists indeed.”

Mother Teresa said: “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.”

Is this the way you see poverty?  Maybe each of us has a way to go to think of poverty the way these “saints” do, but it’s important that our conscience is moving us in that direction, one step at a time.

Years ago, I had the honor of meeting a priest who had a parish in the middle of a poverty-stricken, gang-infested part of Los Angeles called Dolores Mission. At the beginning of his work there, a group of mothers came to him, to inform his “conscience” and call him to action as they spoke to him of their fear for their sons’ lives. Gangs had taken over the neighborhood and there was a lot of violence between rival gangs.

Father Greg heard the mothers and let their love inform his conscience, and he has worked in his ministry to gang members for over 30 years.  When I think of someone who has a well-formed conscience and someone who sees poverty and gang members as God sees them, I know it is Father Greg Boyle.

When speaking of the attitude we should have about poverty, he says, that we should  “seek a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry, rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.”

Along with a well-formed conscience, Sister Joan added a prayer for courage. It makes sense considering that we are to follow Jesus and the radical love he showed to all of God’s people, especially those people who others shunned.  We can’t do that on our own. We need God’s help.

Join me in a prayer for conscience and courage as we remember who Jesus was and what he sacrificed for all of creation.

Kathy Langer is director of social concerns for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud.

This blog post was adapted for ToGoForth. Read the original version at the Visitor of the Diocese of Saint Cloud.

Going Deeper!

In Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the U.S. Catholic bishops remind us that conscience formation is a “lifelong task” (no. 5).  Read this handout (also in Spanish) and read this Scripture reflection (also in Spanish) on the ongoing task of forming our consciences.