Every year since 1989, Father Jim Goode, OFM, asked that in all our parishes we begin National Black History Month by praying for the African and African-American family. He began what is known today as National Day of Prayer for the African-American and African Family. The day designated for this celebration is the first Sunday in February.
The theme this year is "Stand for What You Believe In." We are challenged toward action. Too many times we may believe in something but do nothing about it. We have become complacent. We are asked to go out and let others know what we believe in as people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., St. Teresa and St. Oscar Romero did during their lives.
The following are suggestions for how we can celebrate National Day of Prayer for African-American and African Families. Begin by celebrating together at the Eucharistic table and pray as a family. We can also celebrate a meal together and tell your family story. Set some time to have a discussion as church family or your own family on, what are you willing to stand for? Here is what Father Goode suggests: I will stand for Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and forever. I will stand for the Eucharist. I will stand for Respect Life. I will stand for justice and peace. I will stand for the end of racism and hate. I will stand for the end of abortion and for all acts of violence. I will stand for respect for the family, especially our elders. I will stand for respect for our women and children and I will stand for the protection of our environment and all creation. I will stand with the poor and oppressed. I will stand with the forgotten, unwanted and unwelcome. Father Goode suggests that you add other things that you believe in.
Father Goode has prepared the following prayer to use on the first Sunday of February, "God of mercy and love, we place our African-American and African Families before You today. May we be proud of our history and never forget those who paid a great price for our liberation. Bless us one by one and keep our hearts and minds fixed on higher ground. Help us to live for you and not for ourselves, and may we cherish and proclaim the gift of life. Bless our parents, guardians and grandparents, relatives and friends. Give us the amazing grace to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Help us, as Your children, to live in such a way that the beauty and greatness of authentic love is reflected in all that we say and do. Give a healing anointing to those less fortunate, especially the motherless, the fatherless, the broken, the sick and the lonely. Bless our departed family members and friends. May they be led into the light of Your dwelling place where we will never grow old, where we will share the fullness of redemption and shout the victory for all eternity. This we ask in the Precious Name of Jesus, our Savior and Blessed Assurance. Amen. Holy Mary, Mother of Our Families, pray for us.
During the diocesan celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the guest homilist, Father Chester Smith from Indianapolis, challenged those in attendance with many great ideas on ways that we should allow ourselves to be captured by the Spirit and what this means. If we are captured by the Spirit, than we will stand up for what we believe in. Dr. King once said, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."