Mass Against Violence fosters peace, solidarity
As if on cue, the sounds of sirens roared Feb. 24 outside the doors of St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Church on Louisiana Avenue as people of all ages and cultures took a prayerful stance as peacemakers in a violent world at the “Mass Against Violence.” “Why do I have to deal with this pain; why are our streets stained?” read a young adult from the poem, “Wash It Away.” “Lord, help my brothers and sisters handle my pain and wash it away.”
This year, the Imani Team of the CYO/Young Adult Ministry of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, which has organized an annual spiritual event for youth for the past six years, chose a Mass instead of a revival. The youth organizers said they were tired of seeing their peers die on the street and nobody saying anything about it.
“Jesus died innocently, and a lot of their friends and family have died innocently,” said Ansel Augustine, black youth ministry coordinator for CYO/Young Adult Ministry office. “They wanted to honor them.”
The Young Voices of Praise from St. Raymond/St. Leo the Great Parish in Gentilly set the tone with worship and praise before the Mass and belted out their love of God throughout the service.
Violence was illustrated in Imani Team members’ performance of a skit between two youths engaged in an altercation over a card game and through posters identifying youths who had died. One poster was titled “The Victims Under 30.” Other written slogans urged: “Stop the Violence” and “Pray for Us All.”
Transformation for all
Auxiliary Bishop Shelton Fabre spoke of the power of prayer and how God strengthens everyone gathered as they prayed for those whose lives have been lost, affected or broken by violence.
“When we come together in prayer, we witness the glory of God,” he said.
Bishop Fabre said God holds true to his promise to be with us, even in difficult times, but we have to do our part and be imitators of his self-giving love and “live as Jesus lived; serve as Jesus served; and love as Jesus loved.”
During the prayers of the faithful, Mass attendees were invited to call out the names of those they knew who were lost to violence.
In his homily on the Transfiguration – where Jesus transformed himself in glory before the apostles Peter, James and John on the mountain – Bishop Fabre said Jesus hoped that the apostles would remember that moment and find the strength they needed when they experienced his passion and death on the cross.
Jesus hoped, Bishop Fabre said, that they would accept the challenge and be like him even when life gets difficult, just as he hoped those gathered could find the strength they needed when confronted by violence.
“In our world and in our city, we stand before violence in so many of its manifestations,” Bishop Fabre said. That includes the times when young people live their lives in violence and misunderstanding, say mean things to or about others that can “engender violence,” fail to communicate and harbor the belief that “physical force will resolve it.”
“Here in this place (Mass), the Lord transfigures us,” Bishop Fabre said. “He manifests to us the power of his love.”
Bishop Fabre urged Mass attendees to bring Jesus to those who need him, even though they may not recognize or accept it.
“The Lord asks you and me as well to be imitators of him to all of those who need his love – to be peacemakers and healers in a world crippled and broken by violence,” he said. “In this gathering, we see we are not alone. The Lord Jesus is with us and we are with each other.”
Bishop Fabre suggested offering a kind word, an understanding heart and a helping hand in order to combat violence.
“As we stand before violence, let us remember this experience and bring his peace and his love to all those who may need it,” Bishop Fabre said.
Those attending the Mass were uplifted by the experience and realized they were not alone in the battle against violence.
“It will help people to remember our commandments and what they think is right instead of going around and killing people,” said Brianne Phipps, an Imani member and parishioner at St. Gabriel Parish in New Orleans.
Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarion herald.org.