Erin Kinsella is the Director of Campus Ministry at the Newman Centre Catholic Mission at the University of Toronto. She is launching the 54 Fridays initiative this Friday, March 8. Below, she shares an overview and tips on how to get involved.
1. What is 54 Fridays?
54 Fridays is an invitation to holiness. Participants are asked to pray and fast every Friday (excluding those that are solemnities) from the first Friday of Lent 2019 until Easter 2020 specifically for the intention of personal holiness and holiness of all the members of the Body of Christ. People are encouraged to do it with a partner or in a small group so that the length of the initiative is something that can be sustained through mutual encouragement.
2. How did the idea come to you?The idea came out of prayer and a sense of wanting to do something to support the Church I love in the midst of all the struggles present at this current time in our history. It isn't limited to issues of abuse (although it is certainly a response to them), but extends to issues of persecution in parts of the world, in the challenge of evangelization in increasingly secular cultures, issues of freedom of speech and religion, and any other challenge you can think of. A common response to all of them is simply holiness. Without it, we can change structures and policies, but it will not be lasting and effective change. With it, hearts become conformed to Christ and God can more freely accomplish whatever needs to be accomplished in His Church. We are all called to Sainthood, and 54 Fridays is an invitation to it.
3. You've started a Facebook group to encourage people to get involved locally. What the feedback has been like so far?
I've been off Facebook for about 3 years, but I reactivated my account specifically to be able to get more traction for this initiative. In just over a week, there were over 200 people who joined the group. Most of them are people that I don't even know! Those in the group have shared it with others they know, and I also invited people from various Facebook groups to participate. I know there are also a number of people who are not on Facebook who are also participating, so it's been exciting to see that there is a real desire from people to do something that is a very significant commitment. There are a lot of people who love the Church so dearly and want to participate in caring for Her, but aren't sure how, and this is certainly one very effective way. Jesus Himself commends prayer and fasting because they are powerful spiritual tools. In truth, they are something we're called to engage in on Fridays anyways. 54 Fridays just asks people to pray with a common intention, but also offers an opportunity to those who may not regularly pray and fast to make it a part of their lives.
4. How will you personally live out the call to fasting and prayer for 54 Fridays?
I will personally be living out this call to prayer and fasting by praying a Divine Mercy Chaplet Fridays for the intention of personal holiness and the holiness of all the members of the Body of Christ. My fast will be both in terms of food, but I'll also be fasting from connection on Fridays, meaning I won't be using anything relying on the internet (aside from work purposes) so that I can make more space for silence and prayer. I'm doing 54 Fridays with three other women. We formed a small group in the fall, and they've been a huge support to me (and I hope it's the other way around as well!).
5. What do you hope to achieve?
By taking part, I want to witness to my love of the Church in doing this with others, but most of all I want to grow in holiness. The more my heart belongs to Jesus, the more disposed I am to whatever His call is in my life. St Catherine of Sienna said, "Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire." My deepest desire is to be holy so that when people meet me, they meet Christ in me, and I know prayer and fasting support that desire.
6. If people want to get involved and connect with those taking part locally, how can they join in?
If people want to join in, they can find the Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/54Fridays/. They are also welcome to email me with any questions at email@example.com. They are encouraged to undertake this time with a partner or a small group so that they can pray together and support each other, whether it's in person or not. In person, communal prayer is certainly amazing if that can happen, but mutual support in terms of reminding each other Friday has arrived, sharing graces that come out of fasting, etc., will be helpful even if they don't happen in person. I'll be posting articles, quotes and other helpful items regularly on Facebook, and people are welcome to email me if they have ideas of things to share.