Catholic Herald staff
Catholics often come together to celebrate the Mass in great joy, but sometimes they gather in sorrow and solidarity.
The Evenings of Reparation held Monday, Oct. 22, at Nativity of Our Lord, Rhinelander, and Tuesday, Oct. 23, at St. Patrick Church, Hudson, were solemn opportunities for prayer, reconciliation, healing and forgiveness.
More than 350 people attended the two Masses, led by Bishop James P. Powers in response to revelations of sexual abuse in the wider Catholic Church.
The evenings began with a silent entrance and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, followed by the Liturgy of Reparation. During his homily, Bishop Powers thanked Catholics for gathering in the midst of the abuse scandal, and he thanked his brothers, “the good and holy priests and deacons” of the Diocese of Superior.
“Sexual abuse – any kind of abuse – is sinful – is diabolical – and it undermines all that our Church – our faith – our God is about,” he said. “Today, we so vividly know and feel the communal effects of the sin of sexual abuse in the Church.”
During his homily, the bishop asked forgiveness for his own sins and for the sins and failings in the past, “recalling our Lord’s victory over sin and death. Sadly, not the end of sin and death, but His promise of victory over them as we continue His battle against the evil in the world.”
He called for Catholics – the ordained, first among them – to return to fasting, praying and almsgiving, to go to confession, do penance and to make sacrifices to bring about healing in the church. He asked for prayers that victims will have justice and healing.
During the course of the liturgy, Bishop Powers lit two candles, representing the Light of Reconciliation and Forgiveness, to be given to parishes. He is asking each parish and adoration chapel in the diocese to keep a candle perpetually lit for the healing of the abused; he is asking that adorers pray especially for healing.
“The sin of abuse is not going to be hidden from the light any longer,” he said.
Following is the full text of Bishop Powers’ homily.
Homily: Mass of Reparation
Bishop James P. Powers
My sisters and brothers, thank you for being here as we gather in the midst of the sexual abuse scandal and crisis in the Church. I also want to thank my brothers, the good and holy priests and deacons who serve the Diocese of Superior and gather here tonight. As we gather, there is not a one of us who is not sick from the sin of abuse that has rocked our Church, our faith, for far too long.
Sexual abuse – any kind of abuse – is sinful – is diabolical – and it undermines all that our Church – our faith – our God is about. Today, we so vividly know and feel the communal effects of the sin of sexual abuse in the Church.
As so many who are hurting at this time are encouraging others to leave the Catholic Church, I thank God for you who have heard God’s call to come together in His presence and love in this Mass of Reparation, this Mass of asking God’s gifts of healing and forgiveness.
Tonight, as a people of faith, we come together to ask God’s help to bring healing, comfort, and peace to all of us who have been victimized; and most especially, to those individuals who were abused.
In the battle against sin, there is no greater source of power than the love of our God and here on earth, there is no greater sign of God’s love than the gift of the Most Holy Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
So how appropriate it is that we begin our gathering tonight in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, recalling our Lord’s victory over sin and death. Sadly, not the end of sin and death, but His promise of victory over them as we continue His battle against the evil in the world.
In the first reading, tonight we hear the Prophet Joel proclaim:
“Yet even now says the Lord, return to Me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Rend your hearts, not your garments and return to the Lord….”
How important it is that we hear these words tonight as we pray for healing and forgiveness. Tonight, I ask your forgiveness for my sins and failings. I ask forgiveness for the sins and failings of the past. And, God forbid, those yet to come into the light.
My sisters and brothers, there is not a one of us here who is not a sinner, and so tonight, I ask you to join me, a sinner, in returning our hearts to the Lord. I invite you to join me in the age-old disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving prescribed by Jesus in chapter six of Matthew and read every Ash Wednesday as we begin the Holy Season of Lent.
Those of us who are ordained – bishops, priests, deacons – need to be the first in line when it comes to the sacrament of confession, doing penance and making reparation, but we cannot do it alone. Tonight, I ask for and thank you for any act of sacrifice you can make to help bring about healing in our Church at this time. As in the past I ask your daily prayers and support for healing and justice for all victims of clergy abuse.
In the second reading, St. John proclaims:
“God is light, in Him there is no darkness…if we walk in the light as He is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of His Son Jesus cleanses us from all evil….”
For too long, we have been walking in the darkness of abuse and now as those who have found the strength and courage to bring the sins of abuse into the light, we need to commit ourselves to the light of Christ.
One of the things we are going to do tonight is bless and light these candles which have been brought here from parishes in the area. After the Mass, they will be taken back to the parishes where I am asking every parish in the diocese to designate a special “votive candle” for the healing of those who have been abused. I am also asking every parish that has perpetual adoration to have a “special” votive candle burning in the Adoration chapel with a note asking all adorers to spend some of their adoration time praying for victims of abuse and healing.
The sin of abuse is not going to be hidden from the light any longer. As we move forward as a diocese, as we move forward as a Church, as the people of God, I ask your prayers for guidance, direction and an openness to the Holy Spirit, especially for the bishops of the United States as we prepare and meet in November.
Know also that as a diocese, we will do everything in our power to continue to not only follow the letter of the law of the “Charter For the Protection of Children and Young People,” but will do everything we can to follow the “spirit” of the charter, so that the sin of abuse by anyone in the Church might never be committed in this diocese or anywhere else in the world again. And we will continue to walk with those who bravely come forward to report sins and crimes committed against them, treating them with dignity and respect, doing everything in our power to help them.
In the midst of the hurt, pain, shame … all the bad that is being brought into the light, I pray we never lose hope. I pray we not forget all the good works and blessings of the Catholic Church.
In about four weeks, as a nation we will celebrate Thanksgiving. As we do, let us join en Masse to fall on our knees and give thanks and praise to God for all his many gifts and blessings; including the blessing of the purification going on in the Church at this time.
And as we enter into another Advent Season, as the candles of our Advent wreaths are lit; let us find hope in the knowledge of Emmanuel: Our God is with us.
May God bless and protect each of us this day and every day.