By Irene Lagan
ROME, MAY 25, 2010 (Zenit.org).- In the wake of the scandal of abuse in the Church, laity in recent weeks have begun to realize their role and responsibility as members of the Body of Christ in responding to Benedict XVI's call for prayer.
On May 16, more than 200,000 packed St. Peter's Square on Ascension Sunday for prayer and to show their support for the Pope. This Saturday will mark another unprecedented move by the laity to respond to the scandal that has dominated media headlines for months.
Taking their cue from the Holy Father's call for prayer and penance, students and seminarians from Rome's pontifical universities have organized a day of prayer and reparation at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
From 10 a.m. until noon, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to pray in this particular moment for the sanctification of priests will take place at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter's Basilica. Msgr. Charles Scicluna, promoter of justice for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will lead those present in a meditation on the Gospel of Mark, followed by solemn benediction
The idea for a morning of reflection was a fruit of prayer, reflection and conversation among students.
Reacting to the March letter Benedict XVI sent to the Church in Ireland, first year seminarian Luke de Pulford, from the Diocese of Southwark in the United Kingdom, and student Mary Nolan, from the Diocese of Fort Wayne, Indiana, said they were moved by the Holy Father's request for particular attention to Eucharistic adoration in every diocese to pray for healing for those affected by the scandal and in reparation for the sins of abuse.
"This came into my mind as a response initially to the pope's letter to Ireland. Adoration is a means of penance and healing," Nolan said. "The Holy Father asked us especially now to pray for God's mercy and healing.
"This whole situation has sullied the soul of the Church. And, prayer is the first action of the faithful. Many people don't seem to understand prayer as a point of action; but it is. The Church is in constant dialogue with God and it always has been. If we believed a little more in the power of prayer, who knows what could happen."
The students themselves said they were surprised at the reception they received from Vatican authorities, particularly Monsignor Charles Scicluna, who handles cases brought against abusive priests for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and who has been largely responsible for many of the changes in processing cases of abuse and in responding to victims. Providentially, he granted them permission immediately.
Holding morning of reflection at St. Peter's Basilica, representative of the heart of the Church, carries special meaning. But the organizers agree that it is also significant that the response to Benedict XVI's call for prayer has come spontaneously from among an active laity in Rome, where a vibrant group of faithful Catholics hail from different parts of the world.
De Pulford said that weekly adoration in reparation for the scandal at the Venerable English College in Rome has been tremendously effective and healing: "As a seminarian, and as a member of the Church, my concern is for victims of the most vile abuse. It's not something that can be ignored as having been done by a small number of priests. It affects all of us in the Church. We are a body, and we suffer as a body. I think that view is shared by many people."
He added that prayer is what he can do to help out the Church: "This is not something we are apathetic about, and prayer should always be central to our response, that’s the real reason we decided to try to do something."
"As seminarians, we are all affected by this in a particular way. I have always been around children," De Pulford said, who is one of nine children. "But now, every move as a seminarian and as a future priest is carefully considered. Suddenly, I am aware of how I might be perceived, and it can be debilitating."
While some find it remarkable that this initiative has come from young people, both Nolan and De Pulford agreed that Eucharist-centered communal prayer has been a guiding light in their own lives.
"If you are a young person with faith, you know your catechism because people are constantly challenging you, especially when it comes to the Church's teaching on sexuality and medical ethics. Eucharistic adoration has been a guiding light," DePulford said.
"The point is not to cheer the Pope on, but to act together with him. It's the best way to show support," Nolan added. "Eucharistic adoration puts us in the right frame of mind – it gives us the proper perspective. Without the sacraments, everything becomes a political rally."