DETROIT — In the subdued setting of Sacred Heart Major Seminary’s chapel, Msgr. Todd Lajiness led the next generation of priests in praying for reconciliation for the sins of the Catholic Church.
Msgr. Lajiness, rector of Sacred Heart Major Seminary, placed the Blessed Sacrament on the altar before the seminarians, students, priests and professors in attendance. He then knelt before the Real Presence of Christ, leading the congregation in praying for forgiveness for all the sins of the Church and healing for the victims of abuse.
The Sept. 14 Holy Hour was a private event, a chance for men in formation to spend time with the Lord during a time of crisis in the Church.
After reading from Psalm 51, Msgr. Lajiness addressed the congregation before benediction began.
“We come here today, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and really all Fridays we come to the foot of the cross, to ask for healing,” Msgr. Lajiness said. “We pray with the Psalmist with this thorn in our hearts.”
The Psalm that was read details King David of Israel’s lament for disobeying God and his asking for mercy.
“The Psalm is a humble prayer of penance,” Msgr. Lajiness said. “It is both personal and communal in spirit. And when we give voice to it, it becomes an act. This act joins in all parts of the world, not only in this hour, but the acts before and after this hour, in our archdiocese and all the dioceses in our area and throughout the world.”
The Holy Hour occurred a week after Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron publicly apologized for the sins of the Church during his homily on Sept. 9 at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Other acts of public penance have been carried out at parishes in the archdiocese and other dioceses across the state.
Msgr. Lajiness encouraged seminarians to consider the Exaltation of the Cross, to ponder Christ’s sacrifice and devotion to the Church.
“Our act fills in the holes in which the nails of sin pound,” Msgr. Lajiness said. “The voice of the psalmist recognizes that sin and brings that sin to the appropriate place, the foot of the cross.”
For the seminarians, it was an opportunity to spend time with the Lord and reflect on Christ’s sacrifice for his Church.
“One of the things that came to me as I was reflecting, I was thinking about the word ‘reparation,’ and how there is a repairing that’s going on,” said Deacon Derik Peterman, a Theology IV seminarian for the Archdiocese of Detroit in his last year of formation prior to ordination as a priest. “I was thinking how by praying, we are uniting ourselves to our Lord on the cross, and that brings a healing to the world and to the Church.”
Deacon Peterman added that he and his fellow seminarians try, as is prescribed in the Book of Hebrews, to “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus,” and to take the Church’s wounds as a calling to become holier priests.
“I think the news of scandal in the Church really inspires us to arise to a greater holiness, a greater virtue,” Deacon Peterman said. “Because we see that now, more than ever, priests need to be saints.”
In addition to using the time before the Blessed Sacrament to become holier men, the seminarians wanted to use the time to pray for their fellow seminarians and priests.
Seminarian Jack Pfeiffer, a Pre-Theology II student from the Diocese of Kalamazoo, was reading and reflecting on the story in the Gospel according to St. John when many of the disciples couldn’t comprehend that Jesus was the Bread of Life, so they walked away from him.
“I was praying and meditating, and I was relating that passage with the current times,” Pfeiffer said. “If God’s pastors really recognized what it means that we have Him present in the Eucharist, then these things wouldn’t have been committed. I was focusing on praying for a greater awareness for the gifts given, that Jesus gives us in the Eucharist.”
Pfeiffer added that throughout the Church’s history, times of crises have turned into times of rebirth, as the Church switched its focus back to God and called upon His graces to lead holier lives.
“I think this serves as a wake-up call to be intentional about what we do to be men of God,” Pfeiffer said. “The main thing is humility, and it takes recognition that I can’t repair all of this damage on my own, so I need to be intentional about my praying and asking the Lord for assistance in this task. It takes a sense of humility to ask for God’s forgiveness, it takes even more humility to ask for God’s help going forward.”
Before the end of his reflection, Msgr. Lajiness offered the seminarians and all in the congregation a word of encouragement: God has never abandoned his Church, and through God’s grace, all is possible.
“The psalmist concludes his Psalm with hope that God can and does purify, that God can and does heal, and that God can and does forgive,” Msgr. Lajiness said. “This is a call for reparation, a restoration, a confidence that this can be fixed if we draw closer to the Lord. We ask the Lord with confidence, we ask that we be blessed, be healed, and we call upon the lord to direct us to that as we pray.”