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National Day of Prayer and Fasting

President Abraham Lincoln called our nation to fast and pray for peace and unity on three separate occasions. His first proclamation was three months after the start on the Civil War, on August 12, 1861. In this proclamation, he set the fourth Thursday in September as a “day of public humiliation, prayer, and fasting” for the welfare of the nation.

Sensing the need for all citizens to pray and fast for the welfare of our country, Fr. John Riccardo and the ACTS XXIX team (Mary Guilfoyle, Nick Jorgenson, and Dcn. Steve Mitchell) have taken the lead to encourage a day of prayer and fasting for our nation on September 24th, the fourth Thursday in September. This also happens to be the Feast Day of Our Lady of Ransom. Oh, how our nation needs to be ransomed from the slavery of sin, divisiveness and violence that plagues our land!

In preparation for that day, we think it is worth reflecting on President Lincoln’s second proclamation. His words are especially poignant during these turbulent and troubling times.

A Proclamation.

Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.

And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State.
[1] (emphasis added)

In this day and age, we have forgotten what it means to give up things we enjoy as a sacrifice to God for a given prayer intention. On this day, we encourage you abstain from food until the evening meal while penitently praying for the sins and division in our nation. Liquids are allowed but no meals or snacking until dinner. Fr. Riccardo suggests that we treat this day like Good Friday. With a somber tone, we are to implore God to fix all that is displeasing to Him in our nation. Only God can fix the issues we face. It requires a change in the human heart.

In today’s Gospel, the disciples were at sea in a raging storm. Jesus commanded them to get in the boat to cross to the other side while He stayed behind to pray. This event happened right after the feeding of the multitudes with five fish and two barley loaves. Much attention was being drawn to Jesus and it was not yet His time. At the fourth watch (3:00-6:00 a.m.), the disciples saw something approaching them on the water. They were terrified, thinking it was a ghost. And…

[Jesus] spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Matthew 14:27

Note that Jesus needed to pray to His Father after the miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fishes. How much more do we need to pray during these tumultuous times. Jesus is speaking these same words to us, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid” (Mt 14:27). Like Peter, we need to step out of the boat, in faith and confidence, that Jesus will save us from the storm raging around us.

Please join us and encourage everyone you know to fast and pray for our nation. For more suggestions on how to fast and pray on September 24, please visit ACTS XXIX.

[1] Abraham Lincoln Online, Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day, internet: http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/fast.htm#:~:text=Washington%2C%20D.C.,March%2030%2C%201863&text=The%20Resolution%20asked%20President%20Lincoln,the%20fast%20day%20was%20observed. (accessed August 8, 2020).