Skip to main content

Ash Wednesday Litany of Repentance


(Prepared by Art Laffin, used with permission)

Last year, members of the faith-based peace and justice community in the DMV area gathered near the White House to hold an Ash Wednesday Liturgy of Repentance. Sr. Ardeth Platte, OP.  Ardeth can be seen in the front left corner of the photo bending down marking the street with ashes. Ardeth Platte-Presente!


Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Lent is a time for personal and societal repentance, radical conversion and transformation. Living under the brutal occupation of the Roman empire, Jesus declared: "The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel." Living in the U.S. empire, which is responsible for so much needless death and suffering in our world, we need to heed Jesus' proclamation of repentance and conversion now more than ever. 

During this Lent, we call on Jesus, our crucified and Risen Savior, and summon the cloud witnesses--past and present--as we pray for repentance and conversion of ourselves, our society and our churches to the Gospel way of love, justice, nonviolence and a reverence for all life and creation. 

O God, help all Your people, who are made in Your very image, to respect the sacredness of all life and reject the idols of death. With contrite hearts and believing that all things are possible if we place our trust in You, that I/we offer this litany.               


Response--God Forgive the Wrong We've Done, God Forgive Us Now

1. Living in a nation whose origin is rooted in white supremacy, racism, sexism and mistreatment of women, slavery and genocide, we pray in repentance for those sins that has caused so much needless death and suffering in our society and world—past and present. We acknowledge, too, the churches' complicity in these sins. As the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative declared in its April 2016 Appeal: “Clearly the Word of God should never be used to justify violence, injustice and war. We confess that the people of God have betrayed the Gospel of Nonviolence many times, participating in wars, persecutions, oppression, exploitation and discrimination."                                    

Response--God Forgive the Wrong We've Done, God Forgive Us Now  


2. We pray for all those--past and present--who have been and continue to be crucified to a cross of racial violence. We remember and pray for all those American Indians and African Americans who were slaughtered, enslaved, lynched and murdered, and who continue to be oppressed today, simply because of their skin color.      

Response--God Forgive the Wrong We've Done, God Forgive Us Now  

3. Today, we are especially mindful of our duty as Christians to proclaim the Gospel mandates of love, mercy and justice and to nonviolently resist hate-filled and destructive attitudes and policies that have led to: a disproportionate number of African Americans who are imprisoned, victims of police violence and have been executed; the demonizing and targeting of Muslims; the unjust detention of immigrants, separation of families and construction of a border wall; and the desecration of native lands. We commit ourselves to ending all forms of racial hatred, systemic oppression, discrimination and injustice. We call for comprehensive immigration reform and debt cancellation for all poor countries. We call for an end to indefinite detention, torture and the closing of Guantanamo military prison.

Response: God Forgive the Wrong We've Done, God Forgive Us Now

4. During this Holy Season, we call upon the nation and churches to join with all those, including the new Poor People's Campaign (PPC), who are seeking to eradicate what Martin Luther King, Jr. identified as the "triple evils of poverty, racism and militarism." Today the PPC has expounded on these interlocking evils to include ecological devastation, the war economy, and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism. The PPC estimates that there were 140 million poor and low-income Americans prior to the pandemic. Since the pandemic, the ranks of the homeless and poor have dramatically increased in Washington, D.C. and in many other parts of the U.S. We call for an end to a political and economic order that fosters corporate domination, systemic racism and income inequality. We call for economic justice for the poor, homeless and jobless and affordable health care and housing for all. We call for the dismantling of the mass incarceration complex, a legal system that is based on restorative justice and an end to the death penalty and all state-sanctioned killing.

Response: God Forgive the Wrong We've Done, God Forgive Us Now

5. Tragically, the U.S. remains committed to being the single biggest military spender in the world. The U.S. has a military budget that is greater than the next ten countries combined: more than rivals like China and Russia, and more than allies like Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, and France. In a time of such urgent human need in the U.S. and worldwide, the recent passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes $740 billion be spent on the 2021 U.S. military budget, is an abomination–an affront to God and a colossal sin and crime! These exorbitant funds for the military budget should instead be used as a stimulus package to assist the poor of our country and worldWe call for the abolition of war and the conversion of our war-based economy to one centered on serving the common good and protecting the earth, our common home.

Response--God Forgive the Wrong We've Done, God Forgive Us Now 


6. When will the U.S. government repent for the death, destruction, trauma and destabilization it has caused, especially in the Middle East, North Africa, Central and South America, and the Asia-Pacific region through its years of military intervention, warmaking, arms sales and oppressive trade agreements, which has helped create the conditions for the rise of the Islamic State and a massive refugee and immigration crisis? Now is the time for the U.S. to repent and make reparations for the violence, death and suffering that it has inflicted on other countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan, and for its support for the Saudi war in Yemen, which has claimed untold lives and resulted in millions of Yemenis experiencing starvation and a cholera epidemic effecting up to a million people. We call on the U.S. to reject the way of revenge and retaliation as a response to conflict and to make peace with its adversaries. We call, too, on the U.S. to halt all arms sales worldwide and to end its support for the illegitimate regime in Honduras and Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. We call for the closure of the estimated 800 U.S. military bases worldwide. 

Response--God Forgive the Wrong We've Done, God Forgive Us Now 


7. We call on our nation to repent for the nuclear sin—for building, testing, using and continuing to build and threaten to use nuclear weapons. We remember and pray for all the victims of the nuclear age. We confess that the way we live today is desecrating the earth, changing the climate, the seas and the balance of life, and dispossessing the poor and future generations. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist has moved the "Doomsday Clock" to 100 seconds to midnight, because of the twin dangers nuclear weapons and climate change pose for civilization that are compounded by cyber-enabled information warfare, undercutting society's ability to respond--the erosion of the international political structure to manage these threats and worsening world tensions. See:

Response--God Forgive the Wrong We've Done, God Forgive Us Now

8. We call on the U.S. government to abandon its over $1.7 trillion 30-year nuclear modernization program. We appeal to the Biden Administration and Congress to heed the admonition of Pope Francis who has condemned the possession of nuclear weapons as immoral and called for their total elimination. We call on the U.S. and all nuclear nations to immediately ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which recently entered into force making nuclear weapons illegal. Until the U.S. takes the initiative to disarm its own nuclear arsenal, it cannot ask any other nuclear nation to disarm. We call for an end to the U.S.-NATO Missile Defense Programs which ring Russia and China, an end to the U.S. militarization of space, the termination of the U.S. Space Force, and that all the weapons of our time be beaten into plowshares--from ALL guns to killer drones to nuclear weapons.

Response--God Forgive the Wrong We've Done, God Forgive Us Now

9. O God, we confess that the way we live today is desecrating the earth, changing the climate, the seas and the balance of life, and dispossessing the poor and future generations. We repent for the way our environment and earth continue to be endangered by industrial pollution, toxic deadly chemicals, wasteful oil consumption, pipelines, nuclear radiation and the effects of preparing for and waging war.  With its vast global war machine, the U.S. military is the world’s single biggest consumer of fossil fuels and the single largest producer of greenhouse gases which has greatly contributed to destabilizing the earth’s climate. Creator God, help us to stop destroying your creation. Empower and sustain all those who are nonviolently resisting threats to land, water, air and sky throughout our world. Empower us to end the climate crisis by becoming responsible stewards of the earth's resources, ending our dependence on fossil fuels and pursuing renewable energy.  Empower us to safeguard the earth, our common home, and all of creation and choose life for all that is at risk.

Response--God Forgive the Wrong We've Done, God Forgive Us Now

Dorothy Day declared, "The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us." On this Ash Wednesday we commit ourselves, O God, to bringing about a revolution of the heart which can lead to a nonviolent revolution and transformation of our society and world. We are inspired by all those who have already undertaken this task, especially so many courageous women worldwide. Let us work in solidarity with sister's and brother's everywhere to create the Beloved Community as we seek to redeem the times by making God's reign of love, justice and peace a reality in our society and world, right here, right now!

Concluding Prayer 

"To keep Lent is to follow Jesus in the prayer of wilderness and garden... To keep Lent is to confront the principalities and powers first of all in prayer. With Jesus we face the dark side of ourselves this is so susceptible to capture and control by the powers. If it happens that we keep vigil publicly at the gates of economic, military, political or religious authority, we do so confessionally, acknowledging the solidarity of sin... To keep Lent is to discover and remember who in heaven's name we are, as person and community. We pray against all confusers and confusions for our true identity and vocation. We know that means standing before the cross and making some choices... The grace of this season is that Jesus suffers the choice with us. He's been over the turf and is our brother exactly on that score, with us in the struggle of our hearts. Let the further grace be that we make our choice as disciples, in the mind and heart of Christ."  

--From: Seasons of Faith and Conscience, By Bill Wylie Kellermann, Orbis, 1991.


Popular posts from this blog

Closing Guantánamo: 2021 in Review

7306 days open--and what are we doing about it? It is a credit to a committed coalition of human rights defenders that we have seen bi-annual attention to the issue since Obama left office. A closer look will show some of the minor victories month by month. This year in review is  partial.  Since a year ago, former prisoners of Guantánamo organized their  open letter to President Biden specifying demands --our role has been to amplify that letter.  Jan 11, 2021 Amnesty International publishes " USA Right the Wrong: Guantánamo Decision Time " Jan. 22, 2021 Ahmed Rabbani, still prisoner at Guantánamo has published in UK Independent a letter to Biden :  When I was kidnapped from Karachi in 2002 and sold to the CIA for a bounty with a false story that I was a terrorist called Hassan Ghul, my wife and I had just had the happy news that she was pregnant. She gave birth to my son Jawad a few months later. I have never been allowed to meet my own child. President Biden is a man who s

The Dragon's Story

Once she raised two eggs on a cliff on the moor. Word spread the Dragon had not been seen. Was she gone? Had she taken ill? Who would protect them! Armed bandits were the first to plan their raid on the nearby villagers. First they sent out a search party. As they neared, they saw she was in her lair. "Why are you here? I should ask you," the Dragon said. "I am the dragon but I fly no more. I fly no more yet am the dragon still." They thought she said, "I cannot fly now." They reported she was roosting eggs. That she did not fly. "Were they golden?" "How do you know?" "Is it true they have magic power?" On they talked until they believed it must be worth the risk. Now the Captain was a pious pirate, the best of the lot. He had risen as chief of them having some schooling in him before he ran from home and lettered, he added arithmetic, and map reading, and had made himself useful until he knew several of the seven seas. He was

Crucified Victims and Desecrated Earth

Photo shared by Art Laffin of Dorothy Day Catholic Worker with banner outside the Pentagon Good Friday, April 2, 2021       Today we mourn to mobilize and disrupt modern day crucifixions. (Revised from original script prepared by Art Laffin for vigil at Pentagon).  Crucified Victim #1--Victim of Torture   Jesus was a torture victim who was condemned by religious authorities and executed by the Roman empire. We remember all torture victims, past and present, who have suffered and died from the effects of torture. We remember those prisoners who died at secret U.S. military black sites, as well as the nine men who died at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo.  Last year Djamel Ameziane, a former Guantánamo prisoner, was legally and morally vindicated as the first complaint related to the "war on terror" in which the US was found responsible to a victim of torture, according to  the long awaited decision May 27, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) .      Let us c