Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach and the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ Institute Justice Team
Traditionally, Lent is a time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It is a journey of faith, preparing us for Holy Week and Easter. It lasts 40 days, recalling Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness and Jesus’ 40 days in the desert. It is a time of conversion. Even more, it is a time to encounter God in those who are rendered poor, and to respond with justice, mercy and compassion. Lent awakens in us the grace of God, the Holy Spirit who sets our hearts and lives on fire and empowers us to be faithful witnesses.
In line with this, the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach and the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ Institute Justice Team developed a guide to nine days of prayer for the protectors of Mother Earth.
This Lenten novena invites people of faith to join in solidarity with indigenous communities and people who are courageously speaking out against the impacts of extractive industries. Too many of them have sacrificed their lives to protect water, land and sacred territory. Despite their experience of life-destroying and systemic oppression, they continue to bear witness to our world, claiming their fundamental rights, their essential and sacred dignity and their vision that we all share of water as a source of life.
The nine days begin with Ash Wednesday, 1 March, and includes the one-year anniversary of the murder of Honduran indigenous leader Berta Caceres, as well as International Women’s Day. This time of prayer also leads into the Native Nations march on 10 March organized by the Standing Rock Sioux and an advocacy visit of indigenous leaders from the Amazonian region of South America on 17 to 29 March in Washington, DC, USA.
Entering the nine days, there is an invitation also to consider listening each day to some native flute music as background for the daily prayer and reflections. Some music can be found here, the music of R. Carlos Nakai who is of Navajo-Ute heritage. The concluding prayer for each day of this Lenten novena is taken from Laudato si’, Prayer for Our Earth:
All powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
And in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
That we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace,
That we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
Help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
So precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
That we may protect the world and not prey on it,
That we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain
At the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
To be filled with awe and contemplation,
To recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature
As we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray,
In our struggle for justice, love and peace.
The Lenten Novena for Protectors of Mother Earth can be accessed here.