As the year for priests draws to a close, hindsight shows that Pope Benedict’s decision to devote this year to prayer for priests was prescient. On the dark side, it has been a year in which the scandal of abuse has dominated media headlines. But what hasn’t gotten media attention is the way the year for priests has inspired laity. To me, it’s a sign of how dynamic the Church is. The reality is that, while Rome might be the “head” of the church, the laity are its heart and soul.
Just one amazing example: Here in Rome, pontifical university students and seminarians took the pope seriously when he asked for prayer, penance, and especially Eucharistic adoration in reparation for the sins of Church, taking it upon themselves to organize a service of reparation in St. Peter’s.
The story of how it came to be is itself pretty incredible: A group of students went in search of Cardinal Angelo Comastri, the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, looking for his permission for the event, when they stumbled across him in passing. He was so moved by their idea and their sincerity that he granted his permission on the spot.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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As a result, the service took place this morning morning under the Altar of the Chair, including an hour of adoration, followed by an hour of meditation and prayer (more info here). Monsignor Charles Scicluna, promotor of Justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, also gave his blessing to the event and, what’s more, he’ll be preached at it.
For those who don’t know, Monsignor Scicluna is responsible for dealing with abuse cases and has done more than any other to insure that justice is served in them. He, and those that work with him, have also been a tremendous help to victims of abuse. They understand — more than anyone — these tragic stories.
But it’s a sign, too, that the Holy Spirit is in charge. Anyone who’s lived in Rome for a period of time knows that, very often at the Vatican, institutions talk to institutions (and, in many cases, rightly so). But in this case, everything was choreographed by divine Providence and organized from the ground up.
Nothing can be more fitting or symbolic than adoration to pray for healing of the wounds in the Church caused by abuse, beneath the Altar of the Chair in St Peter’s Basilica, and initiated by young lay people. In fact, the whole globe was represented among laity, seminarians and priests. Truly awesome.