“May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled,” the Pope wrote. “A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth.”
Fr. Leary explained to CNA that many pastors have struggled in responding to the pain and confusion the recent scandals have caused their flocks.
“People are wounded, they don’t know who to turn to,” he told CNA.
“The answer is, of course, to turn to the Lord. The Church has the best medicines for spiritual injuries - in the sacraments and in the disciplines of prayer; these have power, real healing power.”
Leary told CNA that when the news of the scandals first broke, he held a listening session shortly afterwards with his parishioners, which he described as “very positive.” But, he said, many priests were asking themselves and each other how to move past simple listening.
“As shepherds, we have to lead, always lead, towards Christ. Many of us in the Washington archdiocese have had listening sessions, and that is such an important part - hearing the needs of the parish. But there comes a time where people want answers, not just listening, and what answer can we give?”
The answer, Leary said, lies in leading by example.
“There is so much power in prayer, and in acts of penance and reparation. These unify us with Christ in his love for the suffering Church. But we have to be the first ones, as priests, to show the way and to ask for our parishioners help, their prayers for us, so that we can serve them as they deserve to be served.”
Inspired by the tradition of St. Francis of Assisi, Fr. Leary and Fr. Lawrence Swink of Sacred Heart, hosted simultaneous days of prayer, reparation, and fasting at their two parishes on the saint’s feast day, Oct. 4.
The parishes, in the northern and southern halves of the Archdiocese of Washington, offered to serve as “poles of prayer” for the archdiocese. Parishioners and other Catholics were free to attend a Holy Hour at either parish throughout the event.
The day was focused on the Blessed Sacrament, Leary told CNA, because it is there Catholics “will find the ultimate healing and the grace to respond to this time of pain and suffering in the Church.”
Each hour began with the Litany for Priests, composed by Cardinal Richard Cushing, to offer prayers for the ministry of priests.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Leary called the litany “very powerful” and believes it is particularly important to pray for priests during this time, and he said it has been a focus in his own parish since 2009.
He told CNA that these prayers have “borne tremendous fruit, especially the Litany for Priests,” and have been “so effective in helping people to understand the beauty, the dignity of the priesthood.”
Understanding the priesthood, Leary told CNA, is crucial for Catholics to gain a deeper understanding of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
“Otherwise, it’s just a man sitting there listening to their sins,” he said.
“But if they see it as a priest, who sits in persona Christi, and then the Mass is an act of sacrifice in persona Christi, their faith will elevate.”
Leary hopes that other churches in the area will be inspired by the event and host their own versions. St. Andrew Apostle plans on hosting a 40-hour Eucharistic Adoration around the feast of St. Andrew, which is celebrated on November 30. This event will also include prayer intentions for priests.