1st Sunday of Advent, Dominican Month of Peace 2018
In response to the Master General’s request this year for a Dominican Month of Peace to foster global Dominican solidarity with our brothers and sisters working to bring hope and peace to the Democratic Republic of Congo, we offer this simple ceremony integrating the Advent theme The Promise of Peace with the first of four weekly Advent Wreath lighting ceremonies.
Inspired by the readings for the First Sunday of Advent, the specific focus for this week is
The Promise of Peace: The Leader and the Martyrs
As presented here, it was written to follow the entrance procession, hymn, and opening greeting at Mass. It should, of course, be adapted to fit the needs and circumstances wherever it is used.
Presider: Gracious and loving God, we bless our Advent Wreath, asking that You make it a sacred sign for us, one that makes us conscious of our solidarity with our sisters and brothers in the Congo and in the Dominican family around the world. May this wreath, the light of Christ that it represents, and our Dominican solidarity deepen our longing for peace and nourish our trust in the coming of Your Reign in the Congo, in our nation, and all around Earth. We make our prayer in the name of Jesus and in the power of Your Holy Spirit where we live now and forever. Amen.
Presider: As we begin, let’s enter into the quiet of our spirits and ask for felt solidarity with the people and the Dominican communities in the tense context of the Congo…. Listening to their experience….
[a short period of silence…]
1st Reader: We in the Congo have been living through decades of devastating wars, ongoing massacres, and human rights violations. The army is guilty sometimes, but there are also more than 140 different armed and violent groups in the country, along with foreign powers and companies that are extracting the rich natural resources of our country.
2nd Reader: Our president’s term ended in 2016, but he canceled elections and refused to leave office. There was an agreement then, mediated by the bishops, to form a unity government. It promised elections in 2017. But the president did not put together the unity government. He governed in a way to divide the country and later canceled the 2017 elections too.
1st Reader: The bishops and other civil society groups called for peaceful demonstrations on New Year’s Eve last year to protest an unjust new elections law and mark the first anniversary of the 2016 agreement calling for the unity government. The government refused permits for the demonstrations, but more than 160 churches held them after Mass on New Year’s Eve. Police attacked the demonstrators with teargas, rubber bullets and live ammunition. One woman was shot in the forehead and one Dominican friar was shot in the face at close range with a rubber bullet. At least 7 people were killed and many more injured.
2nd Reader: The economy is collapsing. Youth who can’t find work are joining the armed youth groups, increasing the violence. And now there’s an acute food crisis in the rural areas. In 2016 and 2017, the Congo had the largest internal displacement of people in the world – more than Syria, Iraq or Yemen. And that’s not counting the tens of thousands of refugees outside the country.
1st Reader: The Catholic Church seems to be under attack from the government in order to sabotage our mission of peace and reconciliation: St. Dominic’s church in Kinshasa was vandalized and news of parishes and seminaries being attacked are common now. The Dominican Sisters’ convent in the capitol was attacked at 2 a.m. one morning. Hate speech and threats against the Church are common too. All in all, so far: 60 parishes, 34 convents, 31 Catholic health centers, and 141 Catholic schools have been damaged, and a diocesan center was destroyed.
2nd Reader: Now elections are scheduled for December 23rd, less 3 weeks from today. Please pray in solidarity and Advent hope that the elections will be peaceful and just, and that the people of the Congo will get a leader who can bring peace!
Presider: Lord, Have Mercy! Christ, Have Mercy! Lord, Have Mercy!
May almighty God have mercy on our sisters and brothers in the Congo and on us, forgive us all our sins, and bring us together to the fullness of life in peace. Amen
Hymn: Na nzela na lola – As long as we follow*
[During the singing, the first candle of the Advent wreath is lit.]
Presider: And we continue our prayer:
Our loving God, We pray that you will unite us in spirit, prayer and hope with our sisters and brothers in the Congo, Your children so in need of solidarity, good leadership, and peace. We recall Your promise through the prophets to raise up for us a leader who will do what is right and just in the land. Their hearts and ours desire the warmth of your love and our minds are searching for the light of your word to raise up among us these leaders and to lead us to Your peace.
Increase our longing for Christ, Our true Leader, and give us the strength to grow in love, that the dawn of his coming may find us rejoicing in his presence and welcoming the light of his truth in peace.
We ask this in the name of Jesus our brother who came to guide us into Your peace, and in the power of your Holy Spirit where we live and move and have our being, now and forever. Amen.
Prayer arrangement by James Hug, S.J. & Karen Rossman OP
Permission to copy and use
*Lyrics for Na nzela na lola – As long as we follow