Pity Then The Child

A Service of Reconciliation for Lent

Gather a group to prepare this liturgy. Start from scratch or present the group with the outline of the service. Invite them to fill out the contents in their own style. It would be good to get a cross section of the community if possible involved at this stage.

Extend the invitation to the reconciliation service beyond those regularly attending church. Use local newspapers, parish website, and an attractive mail shot to draw the event to people’s attention. Hand out invitation cards at the local supermarkets, sporting events and pubs. A large eye-catching poster on the church gate or notice board may draw others in.

Keep the setting simple and uncluttered. A visual of the 8 Trócaire Posters for 2006, if they are available, mounted on a board could be in a prominent position. If you have the facility for powerpoint presentation this would be very effective too. You could also print a black and white image of the photographs on the participation sheet. Use different coloured cloths in the liturgy space to create the effect of the rainbow which is the underlying theme of that year’s Lent/Easter programme.

Participation Sheet
Draw up a clear order of service with relevant explanations, directions for posture and words for participation in prayers and songs. The distribution of the sheet will be part of the ministry of welcome on the occasion.

Gathering Song
Because of the focus on justice for children in the Trócaire Lenten Theme Liam Lawton’s Pity Then The Child would be very effective. It has a singable refrain.

Pity then the child whose heart is ever mild
Who wanders at the earth, the sky, the sea.
Tender is the child whose heart it knows no guile
Who gaze the face of God eternally. (Celtic Story)

 Welcome and Opening Prayer
A representative of the planning group might offer words of welcome followed by the invitation to prayer from the celebrant.

Compassionate God, with our diversity and uniqueness, we know that we have a place in the multi-coloured bow of your love.  As members of the Church give us courage to follow Jesus into the wilderness during this service. There we will face the darkness of our neglect of others who we have consigned to the rubbish heap of life where they scavenge for dignity and respect. Give us insight into our selfishness and our failure to live the commandment of love. May we embrace this opportunity for healing as we struggle to let go of our own hurts too in a spirit of true forgiveness. We pray this the Spirit, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Word of God
One reading is suggested. Mark 1:12-15 is the gospel of the First Sunday of Lent (Year B) and has many strands. You could focus on the forty days in the wilderness and temptation or importance of acting now (‘the time has come’). A short reflection would follow or an extended examination of conscience.

Examination of Conscience

These are some ideas that might be used to prompt the assembly at the service. After each section all could sing the Pity Then The Child refrain.

 Trócaire Picture 1.                 Together We Can Create A Better World

 How do we use our time and talents?
This poster presents us with several challenges. The call to work with others to create a better world for all people requires an immediate response. We can come up with many reasons for not answering this call now or ever – our families, our careers, our children – all very worthwhile. In 1985 we were shocked by famine in Ethiopia. In 2005 and many humanitarian crises later we were touched by the effects of the Tsunami, the Pakistani earthquake and food shortage in Malawi. The response of the Irish people is always generous and above average in responding to these crisis situations. Yet we probably don’t go short ourselves as a result – it’s just that we have so much. We know that we can do more but we allow ourselves to be trapped in our cash rich time poor society.

 Trócaire Picture 2.                 Children Scavenging On The Rubbish Heap

 Who have we discarded?
We consign these children and others to the rubbish heap by ignoring their right to education and a real childhood.
Who else have we consigned to the rubbish heap of life where they are left to scavenge for friendship or acceptance? Who else have we discarded because they are different and don’t measure up to our standards?
What faces come to mind that we cannot bear to see for what they have done to us?

 Trócaire Picture 3.                 Child Staring Out From Behind Bars

 Who have we imprisoned?
We can interpret this piece in the light of the scandal of child labour throughout the world and in particular in Nicaragua. In this service we can also own up as a society to our failure in the area of child abuse. As a Church, as a society and as a family, we ask forgiveness for failing to act in time and in an effective manner to prevent child abuse.  By our failure more children suffered abuse and further pain was inflicted on some of them when they came to tell their story.  The effects of this will continue to influence the lives of those caught up in the ripples of this social sin as they find themselves in a prison of memory that they wish to escape.

Trócaire Picture 4.                 Children Beating Tin Cans For Recycling

 How do we use our natural resources?
This picture could lead to a reflection on our stewardship of God’s creation. It is ironic that these children make a living by hammering flat the disposable cans for recycling. We have to be prodded to take part in recycling campaigns and our response as a nation is still very low. Our commitment to protecting the environment, our use of limited sources of energy and water that are so scarce in other places could be addressed here.

 Trócaire Picture 5.                 Boy Transporting Bottled Gas

What needs to change in our lives?
? in the picture would love to live as boys of his age do in other parts of he world where a bicycle means the latest racing model. He transports bottle gas for sale around the city. Trócaire aims to help him and others achieve their potential in life.  we look at our own lives and examine the areas where change could help us live the values of the Gospel more faithfully.

 Trócaire Picture 6.                 Young Girl With Pannier Of Coffee Beans

How can I continue my religious formation?
The wistful expression on the face of ? and her companions in this picture stands out from all of the Trócaire boxes this year. Working with ? and the other young children who labour on the Coffee Plantations in Nicaragua is one of the projects that Trócaire have spearheaded in this region as they work to improve their standard of living and education. Religious education for many begins and ends at school. Knowledge of our faith, the richness of the scriptures, the tranquillity of prayer and the call to live the values of the Gospel remain at an immature level if not nourished by reading, adult religious education and guided prayer.

Trócaire Picture 7.                 Boy Cutting Down Leaves

What needs to be pruned from our lives?
The boy in the picture is cutting away leaves so that he can get at the coffee beans more easily. Many of our lives are full of things that we do not need by way of possessions, commitments and addictions. This may be an opportunity to let go of those things that hold us back, weigh us down and dampen our potential as we bring them to the Lord who wants to set us free.

Invitation to Confession

A period of silence is observed after the examination of conscience. All stand for the final prayers of preparation.

Lord Jesus, you came to redeem us and not to condemn us
Lord Have Mercy, A Thiarna Déan Trócaire, Kyrie Eleison
Lord Jesus, you draw us back from exile with your forgiving love
Christ Have Mercy, A Chríost Déan Trócaire, Christe Eleison
Lord Jesus, you call us out of darkness into the light of your mercy
Lord Have Mercy, A Thiarna Déan Trócaire, Kyrie Eleison

Act of Sorrow
The act of contrition is then said together – the one chosen for the service might be printed on the participation sheet.

Confession and Absolution
Let music and prayer alternate during this part of the service as they encourage participation and allow some privacy of conversation.

 Concluding Rites
The Lord’s Prayer could bring the assembly together once more in a spirit of communion and solidarity. The final visual image could be highlighted.

Trócaire  Picture 8.                Colourful Wall Mural
The final picture celebrates the progress made in Nicaragua through the educational programmes that Trócaire operate This colourful poster can be highlighted after the individual confession and absolution. It symbolises the transformation that can take place when love and care is experienced. It is a perfect bookend to the opening image when we were invited to create a better world together. Our hope is that the grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation may be experienced as an encounter with the love, care and compassion of Jesus Christ.