An Teaghlach Naofa

24 Hours for the Lord

One evening in March last year, a priest friend from Cork ‘phoned to ask if I’d heard anything about “24 hours for the Lord” – a new initiative of Pope Francis for Lent. The Diocese of Cloyne, he said, were embracing the Pope’s invitation with gusto, making five churches available for 24 hours confession and adoration. Up Cork! I phoned several prayer friends here in the North and no-one knew anything about it. One said, the priest must be mistaken, for a papal initiative for Lent would be in the church bulletins in all the parishes.

Googling 24 hours for the Lord, the programme for the event in Rome was certainly very colourful. It opened with a reconciliation service and audience with Pope Francis in St Peter’s, after which 4 churches across the Eternal City, were opening 24 hours for confession and adoration. Catholic youth groups planned to work from each church going out into the streets to encourage people back to confession. It all seemed very exciting and in the spirit of the new evangelisation. All dioceses worldwide had been invited to join the global initiative.

So what of Ireland? After a phone around, Dioceses responding to Pope Francis request were Cork and Ross, Cloyne, Kerry, Elphin, Kildare and the Archdiocese of Armagh were doing “6 hrs for the Lord”. The other Diocesan offices didn’t seem to know anything about it. Across all of the province of Ulster, only 6 hrs for the Lord in one church! Thank God for St Joseph’s Oratory in The Drummond Hotel, in Ballykelly, who opened all night for it. Meanwhile, media reports from Rome, suggested that Dioceses across the world were responding enthusiastically to the Pope’s request. As with any new initiative, it can take time to get off the ground. Still clearly there was a problem, either one of poor communication from Rome, poor communication here or indifference to the Pope’s request. Pope Francis recommended last month that we all give up indifference for Lent. Letters to all dioceses and episcopal conferences were sent a little earlier this year from Rome in November 2014, so hopefully there will be a better response across Ireland this year.

Two nights before 24 hours for the Lord, I wakened at 3 a.m. with the thought to go to Rome. I booked a morning flight from Dublin online and a last minute hotel deal. It was a fast pack. I was staying in a beautiful 17th century hotel in Travastere, a former Augustinian convent. The Augustinians certainly knew how to live! It was fabulous. And lovely to stay in a hotel with a chapel where mass is celebrated each morning. The next day, I met a friend and we went to St Peter’s. Our first stop was Chiesa Santo Spirito, close to St Peter’s for the Divine Mercy at 3 p.m. Santo Spirito is one of the nicest churches in Rome and one of the four churches chosen for 24 hours for the Lord initiative. After the chaplet, we had a blessing with the relic of St Faustina and I asked her to bless us for the rest of the day.

We walked over to St Peter’s to join the now long queue. A priest in front of us explained we needed tickets to get into the Basilica today. I hadn’t thought of that! Two nuns in grey habits joined the queue, I asked them where they got the tickets. One opened an envelope and handed us two tickets. Thank you St Faustina! Those with tickets, were called first and we ended up about 20 rows from Pope Francis. The Basilica filled quickly, with people of all ages. What was most noticeable, the large numbers of young people present and really heart-warming to see.

Pope Francis opened 24 hours for the Lord. Addressing the congregation he said, “Human beings are worth more for what they are than what they have. Set your eyes on the essential. This is the difference between a life deformed by sin and one illuminated by grace. From the heart of the renewed person, according to God, comes all good behaviour”. Pope Francis continued “Our Father never tires of loving and his eyes never tire of looking at the path toward home to see if His son which has left and is lost returns. We can talk about God’s hope. Our Father always waits for us. He not only leaves the door open, He waits”.

The Pope then joined all the priests present to hear confessions. Before taking his place in one of the large confessional boxes in St Peter’s, he went to confession himself. The simple act of humility, and his leading example, featured in media reports around the world the next day. He then proceeded to hear confessions. The priest hearing confessions for my queue, was an elderly Irish priest over in Rome from Sydney and despite decades away from home, he hadn’t lost his rich brogue.

After the opening ceremony in St Peter’s, four churches opened across Rome for 24 hours Eucharistic adoration, with priests from across the city going to one of the four churches to be available for confessions.

I chose the Divine Mercy chapel. Sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I opened a book of St Fasutina’s prayers, that a friend, PJ, from Donegal, gave me. The first prayer on the page, one of her many prayers for her homeland. “Most merciful Jesus, we beseech You through the intercession of Your Saints, and especially through the intercession of Your dearest Mother who nurtured You from childhood, bless our native land. We beg You, Jesus, look not on our sins, but on the tears of little children, on the hunger and cold they suffer. Jesus, for the sake of these innocent ones, grant us the graces that we ask You for our country. Amen.” This prayer is so true for Ireland today, where so many children are hungry and cold, in a different way, from a lack of faith. In her diary, St Faustina writes "Jesus, I beg You for my homeland; protect it against the assaults of its enemies" ( 119). We need to beg His mercy for Ireland.

The next day the sun was shining and I travelled to the church of Santa Agnese (St Agnes) in Piazza Navona. Pope Francis certainly picked his spots for 24 hours for the Lord. Piazza Navona is a large square lined with restaurants and cafes with all sorts of street theatre. It is on a par with Dublin’s Grafton St, or London’s Convent Garden and packed with locals and tourists. Here a catholic youth group worked from Santa Agnese, inviting people in the square to return to confession. Inside the church, at least 15 priests were available to hear confessions in different languages. The joy and the enthusiasm of the young people’s outreach work was fantastic to witness. I thought of our many vibrant catholic youth groups back home, it would be wonderful to see them doing this during Lent.

The closing thanksgiving ceremony and vespers, was 24 hours later back in the Divine Mercy Chapel. Rome was certainly blessed this week-end and I wondered how many people returned to confession because of this great initiative.

The week after 24 hours for the Lord, a local church in the Northern Argentine city of Tucaman, placed confessional booths in the streets to encourage people back to confession during Lent. Wonderful to read and in keeping with the message of Evangelii Gaudium to bring the church into the streets. Could this ever happen in Ireland?

Pope Francis has asked churches to join in 24 hours for the Lord this year on 13 and 14 March. “Let us not underestimate the power of so many people united in prayer”, he said. The theme of this year is God rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4)). Dioceses, parishes and communities around the world are invited to adapt the initiative to their local situations and needs. A poster of the event can be downloaded at: There is a pastoral aid available to support priests wishing to get involved. Here’s hoping that this year, every Diocese in Ireland will accept the Pope’s invitation to unite with 24 hours for the Lord and that people in every diocese , who are trying to live their faith, will be informed about the initiative. If nothing is arranged in your diocese, why not encourage your local priest to get something going in your own parish. And if that’s not possible, there is always a last minute trip to Rome!

For further information on 24 hours for the Lord visit or email To order a copy of the prayer guide God Rich in Mercy for 24 hours for the Lord visit The English language official for the 24 Hours for the Lord initiative, is Rev. Geno Sylva, contact at or +39 06 698 69512.
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