Global Lay Fast for Priests is October 18

By Linda Andrade Rodrigues, Anchor Correspondent

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ATTLEBORO, Mass. — St. Therese of Lisieux passionately prayed for priests because she knew of the incomprehensible love God has for all the souls whose lives can be touched by a good priest.

Anna Rae-Kelly is on a similar mission as the guiding light behind the Lay Fast for Priests. A native of Scotland, she is a member of the Third Order of Discalced Carmelites and a parishioner of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Attleboro.  

“When the priestly abuse scandal happened 10 years ago, I saw the deep hurt to God’s little ones, but I also saw the terrible assault on the priesthood and on the Eucharist and healing Sacraments,” she said. “I know that my Savior is present in the Eucharist, and the priest consecrates the Host. The loving and gentle voice of the Savior is heard through the priest at Reconciliation, and our sins are forgiven. And when my time comes, the priest will give me Last Rites, and his kind voice will walk me into eternity.” 

Recognizing the terrible consequence of any public sin by any member of the ordained Catholic priesthood, Rae-Kelly began to pray. She also began fasting one day a week for all the good priests who were bearing the insults silently.

“But then I got this niggle from Our Lady: ‘That’s very nice, but we need more, many more to fast.’” 

Rae-Kelly approached Brother Bob Russell, who was the director of the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette, and asked him if he would allow her to speak to the pilgrims at Mass about a one-day fast for priests.

“He explained that I should first seek permission from our bishop, and our dear Bishop Coleman quickly gave his blessing,” she said. 

As Rae-Kelly stood up to approach the altar that Sunday, she heard a man’s voice in the back of the church. “Americans don’t fast,” he said.

But that day 202 people signed up for the Lay Fast for Priests. 

Her husband, John, posted it on the Internet; and the ministry was launched. Catholics spanning the globe began pledging their support.

“It was to be just for that year, but Our Lady knew differently,” Rae-Kelly said.

This year the ninth Lay Fast for Priests will be observed on October 18.

“We will be united with Catholics around the world fasting with us, the mighty, unseen army of the Body of Christ,” said Rae-Kelly. “And together we will erect a majestic Spiritual fortress around the souls of our Catholic priests, wherever they are serving Christ and us in the world.”

Participants begin the fast when they awake.

“We make the Sign of the Cross and say, ‘This day is for the protection of priests,”’ explained Rae-Kelly. “We say a prayer — an Our Father, a Hail Mary or the Rosary. Whenever we are hungry and tempted to break the fast, we say a prayer. It is important to drink juice or water. At three o’clock, the hour of Christ’s death, we end our fast with a prayer or by saying the Rosary, wherever we find ourselves.” 

Locally, there will be a Benediction service with Father John Sullivan, M.S., at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette at 3 p.m. Each decade of the Rosary will be prayed in a different language, representing Catholics in the five continents praying and fasting for priests. 

Presently forces are mobilizing around the world to spread the cause. Archbishop Augustine Kasuija in Abuja, Nigeria, is circulating this message to his people:

 “Dear friends in Christ: Our Mother Church faces many challenges in the temporal and Spiritual domains in these past days. There is a great need for prayer and sacrifice for our neighbors; and in this great task which befalls us as followers of the One, true Lord, our brother priests, the pastors of the flock, need prayer and support to be granted the strength to carry out our ongoing mission. I recently was advised of a forthcoming event by lay faithful around the world to spend one day fasting and praying for priests. This is called a Lay Fast for Priests, and it is planned for October 18. On this day, the whole Body of Christ will be lifted up in offering to God through the hands of His holy mother. I urge you, dear brothers, to promote this day to your flocks to ask them to participate so that the Holy Order of Priesthood is protected and encouraged by the humble sacrifice of the Body of Christ.” 

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier and the bishops of South Africa also are promoting the event through their parish bulletins.

“The fight against the darkness is fierce, but as you remind us, Our Lady is leading us in this battle for souls and tells us that her Immaculate Heart will triumph through her priests,” wrote Jenny, a lay woman from South Africa. 

Last year Catholics representing 65 countries participated in the Lay Fast for Priests. St. John Paul II said that prayer united with sacrifice is the most powerful force in human history. 

Many priests give their lives for our souls. 

Father Francois Murad was beheaded on June 23 in Syria for proclaiming his love for Christ and of souls. 

Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan spent nine years in solitary confinement in a prison in Vietnam but managed to consecrate bread and smuggle tiny pieces of the Sacred Host out to other prisoners in the exercise yard so that Christ moved into their fear. 

“These two priests are not unlike all priests who give their lives to and for us every day so that our children and grandchildren will never be denied the Most Holy Eucharist or the Sacraments of healing and forgiveness,” said Rae-Kelly. “Priests are men in danger. Our prayers and sacrifices will help them to be courageous and pure and on fire for souls.”

To sign up for the Lay Fast for Priests, visit www.annaprae.com.  

© 2017 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing  †  Fall River, Massachusetts