By Debbie Shelley
The Catholic Commentator
“Oh Lord, let my prayer rise like incense before you,” rang the notes of an arrangement of Psalm 141 with angelic, harp-like grace during the first evening prayer session of 24 Hours for the Lord at St. Aloysius Church in Baton Rouge on March 31.
Spending time before the Blessed Sacrament during 24 Hours for the Lord at St. Aloysius Church in Baton Rouge are, from left, Anthony, Marco, Kari and Gino Canizaro.
“When we light candles and thank God for the gift of light (Jesus), we also reflect on our lives and offer prayers asking for protection and forgiveness of sins. These prayers rising to heaven are symbolized by the incense burned during vespers,” said Ken Thevenet, director of worship for St. Aloysius. The Psalm 41 arrangement used was by Darryl Ducote, director of the Office of Marriage and Family Life of the Diocese of Baton Rouge.
Many people throughout the Diocese of Baton Rouge accepted St. Aloysius’ invitation to spend time during Lent in communion with God during the 24-hour period. The event kicked off with Mass at 8 a.m. on Friday.
Many families participated in 24 Hours for the Lord.
Barbara Schwartzenburg and Father Paul Yi, pastor of Ascension of Our Lord and St. Francis of Assisi churches in Donaldsonville, sang the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
Father Yi said, “Why does Jesus ask us to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet? Is it just another devotional prayer among many? What Jesus revealed to St. Faustina is that God’s greatest attribute is his mercy. Unfortunately, many of us do not know this nor understand what it means. Many of us don’t trust God that he is merciful. I’ve encountered many people who left the church after a loved one’s death, after a tragedy, after divorce or after being hurt by someone in the church. In their pain, they lost trust in God. They asked, ‘How can God who is supposed to be good allow this pain and suffering to happen?’ They need God’s mercy the most, but they do not ask for his mercy because they don’t trust. Many are quick to presume God as a just judge who is swift to punish or that God does not care. But that is not the heavenly Father that Jesus reveals.”
The chaplet resonated with event attendees.
“It’s just beautiful,” said Wendy Carbo, who attended 24 Hours with her son, Will. “It’s like heaven for a brief period of time.”
Will Carbo, a student at Catholic High School, had been through a stressful day, but felt peaceful after the singing of chaplet.
“It brings more meaning to Lent,” said Will.
Matthew and Mary Torrance said 24 Hours was a good way to immerse their children in eucharistic adoration. Their children include Jack, 8, Kate, 4, and Emma, 3.
“The atmosphere that comes across during adoration is so reverent. It’s what Lent is about,” said Mary Torrance.
Matthew and Mary noted that Jack made several trips to 24 Hours last year.
“He stayed until midnight and then he came with me at 4 a.m. the next morning,” said Mary. “He said ‘Wake me up.'”
“It was really cool seeing all the people,” said Jack.
Although her children would be sleeping when the movies “The Letters” and “Mother Teresa” would be shown at midnight and 2 a.m., Lindsey Aucoin said bringing popcorn for the movie goers that afternoon was an opportunity to teach them the importance of supporting their church and community. Her children include Claire, 7, Kate 4, John Paul, 2 and James, five months.
“It’s been a good experience, especially for my oldest daughter as she prepares for first Communion and first reconciliation,” said Aucoin.
She said 24 Hours was an opportunity to draw people to the church, some who may never have been in a Catholic church or who have been away for a long time.
“It’s good to have different, fun activities like this,” said Auction. “Once we get them in the door then we can do further explaining of the faith.”
Brett Henchy also said he appreciated the corporal works of mercy, which included a 24-hour food bank, assembling blessing bags, Easter baskets and baskets for seminarians. St. Aloysius parishioners were encouraged to take the blessing bags and give them to those in need.
“It’s nice to have something to hand to people going through a hard time to let them know we are thinking about them,” said Henchy.
Jason Summers, who was attending his first 24 Hours, said the social justice projects were a good way to develop a sense of gratitude.
“It makes you count your blessings and be thankful for what’s in front of you,” said Summers.
There was also big participation by St. Aloysius School students.
“My favorite mystery of the rosary is the fourth sorrowful mystery. It is my favorite because he (Jesus) carried the cross for us and died for us,” said sixth-grader Brooks Babin, who helped her classmates lead the rosary by reading the fifth sorrowful mystery, Jesus dies upon the cross.
The resurrection of Our Lord of the glorious mysteries is a favorite of the devotion for Matilda Johnson.
“I like to focus on the empowerment and glory of Jesus. This mystery has made a huge impact on my life. It reminds me that I can always get back up,” said Johnson, who read the first sorrowful mystery, Jesus’ agony in the garden.
Seventh-grader Olivia Hotstream carried the cross during Stations of the Cross.
“It was beautiful to see all those people,” said Hotstream.
Her dad, Shawn, said the stations were a good opportunity for Olivia to express her faith and to draw closer to God by learning to better communicate with him.
Other activities included Liturgy of the Hours, praise and worship, testimonies by students from Catholic High and St. Joseph’s Academy on visiting Calcutta and closing benediction.
The 24-hour opportunity to receive the sacrament of reconciliation drew many to the event.
“It’s good to be refreshed for Easter and to be ready for his (Jesus’) resurrection” said Caroline Besin, who graduated from LSU in May.