Hundreds gathered in silence for the Prayer Vigil to Dry Tears at Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Winter Park, May 5th, seeking consolation and hope. Bishop John Noonan, entered prayerfully, sitting down in a pew among those in need of God’s comfort. The sanctuary was lit with red, gold and white candles, and filled with songs of peace, mercy, and hope. The scripture and reflections invited those gathered to draw closer to God and trust in Him during their time of trial. In Bishop Noonan’s homily, he reminded the community to look to Christ especially during their time of need saying, “Mercy is from God, begins and is a gift from God. Mercy is love in action. Jesus is the face of the Father’s love and mercy for each of us.”
Those gathered came for various and personal reasons. A group of ladies came to support their sister- in- faith, who lost a dear friend of thirty years, for whom she still grieves. Another woman came for reasons too personal to share.
“I came because I’m going through a lot with my son who is an alcoholic,” said Donna Jenkins. “I know that the mercy of God is so great. This (vigil) took me out of despair and gave me more hope.”
Those who wished to were invited forward to light a special candle for their prayer intentions whether for healing for themselves or someone else. After the vigil, Bishop Noonan and other priests of the diocese, were available for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Vietnam Veteran, Nick Petrillo came with his wife Judy.
“I’m having lung surgery in a month,” said Petrillo, who suffered survivors’ guilt after the war. “I didn’t want to go under the knife before going to confession.” Petrillo said that he and his wife lit candles for parents who are now gone, and for a friend whose wife is dying.
The Vigil to Dry Tears, part of the Jubilee of Mercy, was also celebrated in Rome and in parishes across the globe. In his address at Saint Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis expressed why the Vigil to Dry Tears is so badly needed, saying, “At times of sadness, suffering and sickness, amid the anguish of persecution and grief, everyone looks for a word of consolation. We sense a powerful need for someone to be close and feel compassion for us. We experience what it means to be disoriented, confused, more heartsick than we ever thought possible. We look around us with uncertainty, trying to see if we can find someone who really understands our pain.”
Pope Francis reminded the universal church where to find consolation and healing for those who are suffering, saying, “…In the light of the word of the Lord that gives meaning to our suffering, let us first ask the Holy Spirit to come among us. May he enlighten our minds to find the right words capable of bringing comfort. May he open our hearts to the certainty that God is always present and never abandons us in times of trouble.”