Today I discovered a beautiful apostolate, Will You Be a Ninevite, begun by a fellow Catholic writer from Minnesota, Barb Ernster. It’s a concrete way to spiritually combat the disintegration of the culture, particularly of the family, and is catching on fast throughout the country. Below is Barb’s message with instructions for subscribing to the email reminders to pray and fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. I hope you’ll support this initiative.
I’m writing to help spread the word about a new movement that has formed in the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Mpls. called The Ninevites in response to what is happening in our country, and to the Bishops’ request for prayer and fasting. We are connected by a desire to fast or do some sort of penance on Wednesdays and Fridays in reparation for sins, particularly the sin of abortion and the contraceptive mentality from which it stems, and to reclaim and rebuild a culture of traditional marriage and family. Each week, a short email reminder will be sent to the group to offer support and encouragement, to mobilize on this issue and to stay strong. We can overcome the darkness of the Culture of Death with our sacrifices, just as the Ninevites did. Please respond to this email firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com and forward to any friends and family who you think may be interested.
Will You Be a Ninevite?
The recent ruling by the Obama Administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that mandates Catholic employers to offer health coverage for sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and contraception, and forces individuals to buy this coverage as part of their health insurance plans, has been the impetus behind a new movement of people who want to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays and pray in reparation for the sins of our country, especially the sin of abortion and the contraceptive mentality from which it stems, and for the sanctity of marriage.
Calling themselves, the Ninevites, the movement has formed some enthusiastic legs from the get go, as people see the need to hit the ground running in response to the U.S. Bishops’ request to fast and pray. We are at a pivotal point in our nation’s history. Never before has the federal government in such a blatant and uncompromising fashion, thrust aside the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, denying U.S. citizens, and most particularly Catholics, their religious liberty. In a sense, we are being told to eat the food offered to the idols of the Culture of Death.
But as Catholics, we must ask if we are reaping what we have sown. Is this the rotten fruit of apathy and disinterest, of a stubborn and ill-advised people that seeks a “king” (1 Samuel 8:4-9) to give them what they want rather than a God Who loves them and knows what they need?
Consider the sad statistics from CARA, (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate)—only 20% of Catholics attend Mass weekly and only 12% on Holy Days of Obligation; 45% of Catholics never participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and 30% less than once a year; only 57% believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. A Pew Research study found that 72% of young Catholics (18-29) believe homosexuality should be accepted by society. If fallen-away Catholics were a religious denomination, it would be the largest in the country. We who live in the most affluent nation on earth can’t even muster up a prayer of thanks for our blessings every day or give one hour a week to a God Who wants nothing more than to immerse us in His mercy and love.
As Jesus said in quoting Isaiah (Matthew 15:8-9) “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me; in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.”
In his 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI issued several prophetic warnings with regard to the consequences of embracing artificial birth control. Besides cautioning that it could lead to marital infidelity, a general lowering of moral standards, and a reduction of women as mere instruments for man’s satisfaction, he had this to say:
“Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.”
Just 44 years later, abortion has become an effective and highly favored contraceptive method.
As Pope Paul VI succinctly summarized: “There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication.” And this said before the digital age.
Now imagine Jonah having to go out and preach to the Ninevites in the fifth century B.C. Nineveh was a great city, the Assyrian capital, and the Israelites had intermarried with the Assyrians and adopted their pagan culture. Jonah was sent by God to preach to them their impending destruction. He preached for just one day. It was enough for the Ninevites to take his message to heart and believe. They declared a great fast among them. Even the king covered himself in sackcloth and sat among the ashes. When God saw their actions and how they turned away from their evil way, He did not carry out His plan. The message of the story is that of God’s great mercy and love for everyone and the possibility of redemption.
Jesus tells us in Mark 9:29 that some demons cannot be driven out except through prayer and fasting. When He exorcises the demoniac in Gerasene, He commands the unclean spirit to reveal his name, Legion, which literally means 6,000 demons. The people of the region were not happy with Jesus and asked Him to leave because they had become accustomed to the evil in their midst and were seized by fear of this miraculous healing. How many Legions are we contending with in our modern world that we have become accustomed to and would rather that Jesus just go away?
In the Gospel of Luke (11:29) Jesus rebuked the people who demanded a sign. “No sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation…At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.”
Our “sign of Jonah” is the Lord’s Death and Resurrection. We are even more blessed in our modern world than those of Jesus’ time to have the Eucharist in our midst—every day; to have the sacraments at our disposal—every day; to have the teachings of the Church and the Word of God instantaneously accessible through the printed word and digital technology. How much more are we held accountable for our apathy and indifference?
We can respond to the bishops’ request for prayer and fasting that came to us in one day, and like the Ninevites, repent. Or we can be like the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, synonymous with impenitent sin, where not even ten righteous men could be found, which would have spared their destruction.
So the question is: Will you be a Ninevite? Will you fast and pray in reparation for sins in our country and help rebuild a culture that values all life, from conception to natural death?
Prayers of the Angel of Peace at Fatima, Portugal
My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You.
Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly, and I offer You the Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended, and by the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of poor sinners.
“Do not offend the Lord your God anymore for He is already too much offended.”
Our Lady of Fatima, 1917