Praying for Healing is designed for use by groups - adaptable either for small house groups or larger gatherings in churches.
It has a simple format, requiring only a sheet for each person and a small candle or teelight. A simple setting would help to create a prayerful atmosphere. A cloth - lighted candle - a Bible - and, if appropriate, perhaps a child's toy if the focus is on children.
As it is possible that people coming may have been - or know someone who has been - abused, keep the tone very gentle and understated. If emotions do overflow, do not be too alarmed - this is sacred space and this is perhaps its gift. If the liturgy is within a small group, allow the liturgy to go on hold and focus love and prayer on the person for whom it has been a cathartic experience. Offering tea and sympathy might be appropriate. Resume the prayer when things are settled - and stress that it is not something to be discussed beyond the group.
In a larger setting, it might be worth having people alert to the possibility of people finding it difficult - to be present for them - perhaps taking them to a place where they can be quiet and offered tea, tissues and sympathy. Those left in the church could focus their prayer on the person affected - a moment or two of stillness honouring them.
Note: this is not an occasion for counselling - that is a specialised calling. Simply being alongside the person is enough - but it could be worth having contact details for any necessary longer-term support.
This liturgy is quite hard-hitting in places but could be cathartic … much of what it contains are things that we have heard or sensed in conversations and prayer with others. It seems healthier to have them in the open – in the light of God’s grace – than churning and festering.
It might be useful for the liturgy to be led by someone other than a priest – many of them are finding the revelations about clerical deeply horrifying and undermining and are unsure about tackling it head-on. However, for some, having words and the solidarity of a praying community could be extremely healing: we are in this together.
It would be helpful to have people available to speak to in confidence during and after the liturgy
Refreshments could also be available for those who wish at the end.
Liturgy in the Open-air
There is something to be said for having the liturgy outside. Ensure that people can hear and see.
If using it outside, the symbol of a stone would work well. Invite people to hold it throughout the first part of the liturgy and, after the Reflection, to find a space to ponder it further and then to throw it (really throw it) before returning to the group.
The Reflection could be something along the lines of:
The stones go some way towards representing the pain – anger – despair that those who have been abused feel… and ours in solidarity with them
We may really want to throw it at someone – anyone – but particularly at those who have done so much damage to the innocent and to the good name of the People of God. Like the crowd around the woman taken in adultery, we see that a great wrong has been done and we want to react. Somehow, to throw the stone would ease something in ourselves… Yet it would be wrong to throw it at an individual – however much we want to. As Jesus reminds us – not one of us is without sin. But the urge remains...
We are going to take some time and space to reflect on the stone – the hardness – the roughness and what it represents of the suffering of those affected by the abuse. Then to consider how we feel about those who committed the crimes… And, finally, how we feel about the revelations and what it has done to us and to others who may have lost trust in the Church…
When you are ready, throw the stone away – as hard as you can – and then come back to the group to conclude our liturgy.
Liturgy in a church or other building
Using a stone as symbol
Using wool/ string
At first sight, this may seem a strange thing to do but it has been used very successfully as part of a penitential liturgy. Months later, people were still coming to say that they had been carrying some of the wool around with them…
How to do it
When to do it…
The Reflection could be along the lines of:
How many people are you connected to through this web of wool? And how many others through the Net of Peter into which we are all gathered? All of us are a mixture of saints and sinners and all interconnected.
Are you fighting an urge to break free – from this web? From the “Net of Peter – the Church”? What is holding you? Not wanting to be noticed? Not wanting to make a fuss? Feeling that however horrible and uncomfortable it is, somehow this where you belong?
How does this represent for you the network of deceit and lies that has been woven over decades? What do you want to happen to it?
How does it represent your own helplessness in the face of all that’s coming out? Where will you look for salvation?
Allow pauses between the thoughts…and add others which may be appropriate to your community. At the end allow a substantial silence to allow people space to ponder. If appropriate, they could be invited to say a word or phrase that seems important to share.
When the moment seems right..
Whilst we acknowledge the grave sin committed by those who share the name Catholic, but we turn in trust to God and ask for liberation to go forward to love – to heal – to witness that light is stronger than darkness – that love is stronger than hate – that God’s mercy brings freedom and hope.
If appropriate: We believe in the future of the Church and rejoice in our young people and those who have recently become Catholics who have been attracted to the best in us whilst hearing the worst. This is the promise – the hope for new life – new beginnings… We ask them, the promise for the future, to cut through the bonds – to unbind us and to let us go free…
Wool is cut (two or three people would make it quicker but it shouldn’t be rushed). As people are “freed” they stand. (Music that speaks of hope - or a song of commitment to discipleship would be useful accompaniment).
The wool is left behind as people leave (yes, a mess to clear up after them but that is also symbolic…)
Contemplating with Mary the Suffering Face of Christ uses the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary.
many victims of abuse, especially sexual abuse, a feminine figure may
seem more able to identify with their pain. Mary offers an image of one
who has seen her beloved child suffer and die and may be seen to offer a
pure maternal concern for one who has been abused.
The suggestion is to light a candle – a sign of the light being stronger even than the darkness of Vigil or at the foot of the Cross when all hope seemed to be failing. It is, however, optional. If not used, simply substitute: “We contemplate … an agony”
In the Vigils, we bring the suffering of the world into the presence of the One who suffered and died.
We pray particularly for those who have suffered abuse at the hands of clergy, members of their families or others charged with the trust of caring for them – seeing in Christ’s suffering something that speaks to the pain and humiliation and deaths they have endured.
We pray for the redemption of their suffering – setting it into the great Paschal mystery at the heart of our Faith.
Bread - Wine and Loss draws its inspiration from the night of Holy/ Maundy Thursday. It was a time of utter desolation for Jesus. He suffered deep anguish of body, mind and soul. By reflecting on what Jesus experienced, we draw the suffering of those who have been and are being abused - for whom desolation and anguish are daily companions.
It could be used for personal or group reflection during the traditional Catholic time of Watching until midnight on Holy Thursday night.
It is not limited to that evening, however. Where churches have periods of Exposition or are open for private prayer, the Vigil could be made available. Others may choose to use it at home - perhaps taking one section and praying that for a day before moving one to the next.
Listening to Words from the Cross uses the Seven Last Words of Jesus as the focus for reflection. These prayers could be made available by the Altar of Repose and can be used for personal prayer or, by including simple chants and saying the "God of all mercies..." prayers together, as a quiet communal prayer. It could be used between 12 noon and the 3 p.m. Solemn Liturgy – in the evening of Good Friday – or at any time as a Prayer before the Cross.
As with the Bread - Wine - and Loss Vigil, this could be used for personal reflection over a period of time - to deepen the prayer and sense of solidarity.
The Blessing could be used on a Prayer card - its original intention. It could be offered by priests or others walking alongside someone who has perhaps become distanced from the Church who needs to know that the Church desires to be reconciled with them.
The Intercessions can be used in their entirety - or individually as appropriate.
© Wellspring 2010
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