By Celeste Behe
Bishop Alfred Schlert presided Aug. 27 at a Holy Hour at the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena, Allentown, sponsored by the St. Monica Ministry, a diocesan initiative that offers support to families and friends of fallen-away Catholics.
Present were approximately 65 of the faithful, who had traveled to the Cathedral from as far away as Bangor. The Holy Hour was held on the memorial of St. Monica, honoring the fourth-century saint whose perseverance in prayer had delivered her wayward son Augustine from a life of sin and placed him on the path to sainthood. An inspiration to all whose loved ones have left the Church, St. Monica is the special patron of the St. Monica Ministry, which sponsors monthly Holy Hours at parishes across the Diocese.
The Bishop noted that the people who were gathered at the Cathedral “in front of Our Lord, present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity,” were fulfilling “a very human need for parents, spouses, friends, and loved ones … to pray intently” for the return of “those who for whatever reason are estranged from the Church.”
The Gospel was proclaimed by Father Alexander Brown, the newest priest of the Diocese of Allentown, who is serving as Parochial Vicar at St. Anne, Bethlehem.
Bishop Schlert, in his reflection on the apostle Peter’s declaration of Jesus as the Messiah, urged the faithful to “storm heaven, so that Our Lord continues to ask [our fallen-away], ‘Who do you say that I am?’”
Our hope, said the Bishop, is that “the persons you are praying for will finally say, like Peter, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’”
After the Bishop’s meditation, dozens of Candles of Entreaty, representing prayers for the return of estranged Catholics, were offered by members of the congregation. Placing the lighted candles on a table at the foot of the Altar, individuals paused in silent prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament before writing the names of their fallen-away loved ones in the Book of Petition and Hope. A standard component of a St. Monica Ministry Holy Hour, the book is a tangible sign of our belief that, no matter how far from God our loved ones may be, there is always hope for their return.
Afterward, everyone recited the Rosary of Supplication for our Prodigals, with original meditations that speak to the spiritual needs of those whose loved ones have left the Faith.
Bishop Schlert closed the Holy Hour with Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
“This was a healing balm for me,” said Priscilla Pecca, who, with her husband Bob, is praying for her two sons to return to the Church. “To know that we are not alone, to have a chance to come before the True Presence, and to have St. Monica interceding for us all. Our prayers and tears are not in vain!”
A buffet dinner in the Parish Center followed the Holy Hour.
Photo: Bishop Schlert meets with participants in the St. Monica Ministry after Aug. 27 Holy Hour.