Province’s Leaders Recommend Prayer, Fasting to Honor St. Francis

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

NEW YORK – Holy Name’s Provincial Council is encouraging prayer and fasting next month as a way to honor its patron saint and also to bring awareness to the problem of violence in society.

As the Transitus and Feast of St. Francis are celebrated Oct. 3-4, the Council writes: “We invite you to join with other U.S. Franciscans, who are receiving similar invitations from their provincial administration, to commit ourselves to a day of prayer and fasting on Oct. 3 in the spirit of Jesus and Francis.”

In a Sept. 7 letter sent to all friars, Council members describe how violence seems to permeate many aspects of contemporary U.S. culture.

They said: “Video games and toy stores promote crusaders of violence. The movie and television industries project violence as an appropriate response to all forms of conflict. Our government justifies the use of violence in its pursuit of extending democracy to Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the Middle East, and in its treatment of political prisoners.“

Much like the disciples, Council members said, “We, too, must turn to the Lord of Life and ask the same question:  ‘Why could we not drive the unclean spirit out?’ The much-awaited reply, the call of Jesus to prayer and fasting, is a call to all of us to take seriously our responsibility to ‘cast out the demons’ of violence which pervade our United States culture and slowly erode our understanding and commitment to the common good.”

A Call from St. Mark

“When he entered the house, his disciples asked him in private, ‘Why could we not drive it [the unclean spirit] out?’ He said to them, ‘This kind can only come out through prayer and fasting.’ ”  Mark 9:28-29

The Council further writes: “In Chapter Three of the First Order Rule, Francis refers to the passage above from Mark and calls all of his followers to take up lives of prayer and fasting, powerful instruments for the transformation of the human heart. These same instruments are recognized and employed by Jews, Muslims and many other faith traditions, the councilors added. They also are critical tools for peacemaking and reconciliation.”

“This effort flows directly with our call from Chapter 2005 and reaffirmed at this past year’s Chapter of Mats to be a peacemaking province. Part of our strength as Franciscans is to link our prayer to action. In addition, the Shalom Center and the Tent of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar are calling for an Interfaith Fast on Oct. 8, 2007, to move us from “Conquest to Community, from Violence to Reverence.”

The Council’s letter also said, “We ask that all Franciscans consider Oct. 8 another day of prayer and fasting – in fellowship and solidarity with our Muslim and Jewish brothers and sisters. To learn more about the Interfaith Fast and to sign up, go to

The Council also asked that, “You invite all Franciscan sisters, secular Franciscans, your partners in ministry and all people of good will to join you on this sacred pilgrimage on Oct. 3 and 8, a passing from violence and death to peace and life, so that the peace of God might take deeper root in our lives, our nation and our world.”

Resources Available Online

To help in further efforts, some Transitus prayer services, provided by Franklin Fong, OFM, of the Santa Barbara OFM province, and a Morning Prayer for Oct. 3 have been prepared. These resources are available on the Sacred Heart Province Web site, and will soon be available on Holy Name’s site.

The Council members said, “We thank you for heeding Jesus’ call to prayer and fasting in these critical times.”

In the years immediately following the Second Vatican Council, many traditional customs of fasting in both the Church and the Order were relaxed, some voices rejecting them totally as pharisaical practices,” said Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM. “However, a good number of contemporary spiritual authors, precisely to promote a holistic body-spirit unity, have rediscovered this ancient discipline, common to many religious traditions, certainly the great Abrahamic faiths.  Fasting is a vivid incarnation of the fact that “we do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  As someone who loves to eat, this day offers a stark reminder to me that I might just have to be open to a deeper life God is calling me to.”  

 Russell Testa, director of the Province’s Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, said that the OFM ESC (English-Speaking Conference) JPIC Council and the emerging Franciscan Action Network is inviting all Franciscans in the United States to participate in the Oct. 3 day of Fasting and Prayer and the National Interfaith Day of Fast and Prayer on Oct. 8.

Jim Hoffman, OFM, of the Sacred Heart Province, recommends observing an International Day of Non-Violence on Oct. 2.

In a letter distributed on Sept. 19, he said, “The idea for a day devoted to non-violence came from the conference of “Peace, Non-Violence and Empowerment — Gandhian Philosophy in the 21st Century” held in January 2007. India’s minister of state for external relations introduced the resolution to observe an International Day of Non-Violence on Oct. 2, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. On June 15, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously voted to officially recognize this day.

— Jocelyn Thomas is the Province’s director of communications.