Cardinal Wuerl Celebrates Candlelit Evening of Prayer at St. Matthew’s Cathedral

Monday, May 23, 2016

WASHINGTON – Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, led a prayer service on Saturday, May 21, as part of the one-night evening of prayer and evangelization, “Light the City.”

Held at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle, the event included the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament followed by teams of volunteers going out into the streets of Washington’s Dupont Circle neighborhood and inviting passers-by to come into the cathedral amidst the busyness of a night in the city. People in the greater community were also invited to share their prayer intentions on social media using #LighttheCity. The cathedral remained open late into the evening to welcome people inside to talk with a priest, go to Confession, light a candle or spend quiet time in reflection or prayer.

“Light the City” was held one week after Pentecost, which is celebrated as the day the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles after Jesus ascended into Heaven. On Pentecost, Cardinal Wuerl noted in his reflection during the prayer service, we recalled the outpouring of gifts of the Holy Spirit on Mary and the Apostles as the “awesome moment in which God’s promise was fulfilled.” From then on, he continued, “God would be with his people always through the power of the Holy Spirit and in the Church, whose soul is the Spirit. Equally important, we also celebrated the gift of our anointing in the Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation. We too have been filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and we too are commissioned like the first Apostles, to go out and be witnesses.”

The Church from her beginning has understood her obligation to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, Cardinal Wuerl said, “For a number of years now the Church has been engaged in a New Evangelization because one of the things the Church has learned is that there are many, many people who have learned about Jesus only incompletely, who do not know the joy of a relationship with him. They may be people who have drifted away from the Church and the practice of prayer. Tonight, we are hoping to meet some of these people and remind them that though they may have drifted far from God, God has not forgotten them. Tonight you are acting as agents in the New Evangelization.”

Cardinal Wuerl also referenced the commencement speech given by Jim Gaffigan and his wife, Jeannie, at The Catholic University of America, where the comedian noted that the faith witness of his wife encouraged him to begin practicing his faith again. “I think, and we know from previous Light the City experiences, that you are going to meet people like Jim who live in this neighborhood, who come to this part of the city often to meet friends, or to have dinner or take a walk and have never noticed this church, have never come inside to experience its beauty,” said the cardinal. “They are busy and often distracted. They are unaware that the Risen Christ is so close, here in the tabernacle but also, here in each one of us.”

Noting that some of the faithful gathered might be nervous about going out into the streets and inviting people into the cathedral for prayer, Cardinal Wuerl reminded them that they would not be alone. “The blessings you receive are a reminder that it is the Spirit who will be at work in you tonight,” the cardinal said. “You have more to rely on than just yourself.”

He continued, “Tonight, you will be ambassadors for Jesus; you have been empowered by the Holy Spirit, filled with grace to be his witness. You will follow in Jesus’ footsteps as he first encountered his disciples – at their jobs mending nets, gathered with friends – and simply invite them to ‘come and see.’”

As the prayer service concluded, Cardinal Wuerl gave a special blessing to those going out to evangelize, adding, “Be assured that God goes with you. A smile, a sincere invitation, a kind greeting, an encouraging word, that is what the Lord is asking of you tonight. All of these are manifestations of the Spirit within you. The very encounter will be a reminder to people to take notice of the Church, to take notice that God is near.”


The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 95 Catholic schools, located in Washington, DC, and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

Lindsey Frechou
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