A Report on the Ash Wednesday Prayer Service of Repentance

Art Laffin (Dorothy Day CW, Washington, D.C.) reports on the Ash Wednesday liturgy held in front of the White House to call for the repentance of the United States.

by Art Laffin

A Church that doesn’t provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed – what Gospel is that?… This Lent, which we observe amid blood and sorrow, ought to presage a transfiguration of our people, a resurrection of our nation. The church invites us to a modern form of penance, of fasting and prayer – perennial Christian practices, but adapted to the circumstances of each people…   

Lenten fasting is not the same thing in those lands where people eat well as is a Lent among our third-world peoples, undernourished as they are, living in a perpetual Lent, always fasting. For those who eat well, Lent is a call to austerity, a call to give away in order to share with those in need. But in poor lands, in homes where there is hunger, Lent should be observed in order to give to the sacrifice that is everyday life the meaning of the cross…

But it should not be out of a mistaken sense of resignation. God does not want that. Rather, feeling in one’s flesh the consequences of sin and injustice, one is stimulated to work for social justice and a genuine love for the poor. Our Lent should awaken a sense of social justice…

From the writings of St. Oscar Romero, 
Martyred Archbishop of San Salvador

Dear Friends,

Today, Ash Wednesday, from Noon-1:00 PM, over 40 peacemakers from the faith-based peace and justice community in the D.C.-Baltimore-Virginia area, gathered in proximity to the White House for a Prayer Service of Repentance. This Liturgy was organized by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker. Groups that endorsed and participated in this prayer service included the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, Assisi Community, Pax Christi USA and Pax Christi Metro DC-Baltimore, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Franciscan Action Network, and the Sisters of Mercy Justice Team.

Due to Pennsylvania Ave. being closed to the public for security reasons, we held our witness near the Peace Park Vigil site (going non-stop 24/7 since 1981) on the south side of Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House. (see above photo).

Below is the program for the Prayer Service. Please see the attached moving reflections of Marie Dennis (who just returned from occupied Palestine) and Scott Wright. Also please see attached the Litany of Repentance and the Opening Reflection that I offered.    

I am deeply grateful to everyone who attended this prayer service and for each of the program participants who read, sang and offered such inspiring prayers/reflections.

Toward the end of the prayer witness, ashes that were blessed by Fr. Paul Lininger and distributed among the participants. After receiving the ashes, peacemakers used a different batch of wood-stove ashes to mark the ground around us as a sign of repentance for the sins of the nation as well as our commitment to resist the forces of sin, death, violence and empire, and to follow the Gospel.  

During this Holy Lenten Season, let us pray with and for each other, and for our church and world, that we can truly repent and convert our lives to making God’s reign of love, justice, mercy and nonviolence a reality.

With great gratitude, 



February 22, 2023 Noon-1:00 PM — Across the Street from the White House

Song: Prayer of Peace

Peace before us, peace behind us, peace under our feet..

Peace within us, peace over us, let all around us be peace…Love before us…

Welcome/Opening–Art Laffin

Reading: Joel: 2, 12-18 — Sr. Marie Lucey

Reading: From the writings of St. Oscar Romero — Bill Frankel-Streit

Litany–Sung Response: God Forgive the Wrong We’ve Done, God Forgive Us Now (2x’s)

Art Laffin / Judy Coode / Joe Wiehagen / Frank Panopoulos / Thomas Kenney Gould / 

Amy Argenal / Jack McHale / Bill Frankel-Streit / Lauren Bailey / Sr. Carol Gilbert / 

Michele Dunne

Concluding Litany Prayer–Cathleen Cooney

Remembering Truth-Tellers, Whistleblowers and Prisoners: Kathy Boylan and Mike Walli 

Reflections: Marie Dennis, Scott Wright & Jean Stokan

Song: Ashes (by Tom Conry) –Led by Meade Jones Hanna

We rise again from ashes from the good we’ve failed to do. We rise again from ashes to create ourselves anew. If all our world is ashes, then must our lives be true, an offering of ashes, an offering to You. We offer You our failures, we offer You attempts; the gifts not fully given, the dreams not fully dreamt. Give our stumbling direction, give our visions wider view, an offering of ashes, an offering to You.

Then rise again from ashes, let healing come to pain, though spring has turned to winter, and sunshine turned to rain. The rain we’ll use for growing, and create the world anew, from an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

Blessing and Distribution of Ashes – Fr. Paul Lininger, OFM Conv. 

Ash Witness Ritual 

Closing Reading/Prayer from Seasons of Faith and Conscience by Bill Wylie-Kellermann – Bill Frankel-Streit

Song: World Peace Prayer  

Lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth, From despair to hope, from fear to trust; Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace; Let peace fill our hearts, let peace fill our world, Let peace 

fill our universe.  

V. 1-Let justice ever roll, let mercy fill the earth. Let us begin to grow into your people. We can be love, we can bring peace, We can still be your way of compassion. Refrain:

V.2-Still all the angry cries, still all the angry guns, Still now your people die, earth’s sons and daughters. Let Justice roll, let mercy pour down, come and teach us Your way of compassion. Refrain:

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