We find ourselves again rocked by scandal in the Catholic Church. On Aug. 14, a Pennsylvania grand jury released its report on an 18-month investigation into seven decades of clerical sexual abuse allegations in six Pennsylvania dioceses. The details are sickening and devastating.

I’ve been thinking about and praying about it ever since (although I would have much preferred to avoid it). As a mother, as a Catholic, as a person with a platform, how do I respond to . . . this?

I spent time talking with other moms, other writers, other Catholics. We all wanted to stop feeling so helpless. We all wanted to channel our outrage. We all wanted to make this better in some way.

Others, including Bishop Barron, Bishop Morlino, and the USCCB have made concrete suggestions for how the magisterium will address the issue of suxual abuse and cover-up. That is good and necessary. My husband wrote an email to the USCCB, voicing his concerns and offering his assistance, and received a prompt and personal reply. I talked to our children about sexual abuse. But now, we want to suggest something else. Something real and important beyond letter-writing that WE can do.

Based on the words of Daniel 9:3: “I turned to the Lord God, to seek help, in prayer and petition, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes,” and the longstanding Catholic concept of making Acts of Reparation, my friend Bonnie Engstrom and I have written this statement . . .

“We are Catholic, faithful to the Magisterium and disgusted by the abuse and cover-ups that have plagued the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. We are heartsick over the 1000+ victims of abuse in the state of Pennsylvania and all the other boys and girls, men and women who have been sexually abused by priests and further victimized by the bishops who covered up these crimes. We pray for justice for the victims and their families and communities. We believe in the Catholic Church, founded by Christ and sustained by the Eucharist. We are one body in Christ. As such, we invite you to join us in observing a forty day period of prayer and fasting as an act of reparation to God for these sins. From the feast of the Queenship of Mary on August 22, through the month of September, we will join our sorrow with Our Lady of Sorrows, and make daily sacrifices appropriate to our own circumstances for this intention.”

We decided to champion a campaign of Acts of Reparation by the faithful. We decided that we would personally pledge to observe a period of prayer and fasting, and we would invite other Catholics to join us. The response has been humbling and heartening. Catholic bloggers, artists, podcasters, reporters, and social media content creators all immediately wanted in.

We hope you will join us as well. In consultation with a spiritual director if that’s possible, you decide on a plan of prayer and penance that works for you, and observe it from August 22 through the month of September. You can publicly pledge to join us by commenting here or on social media, or by sharing this post or any or all of these images on your own blog, social media account, or chain letter. You can print the images and put them on the fridge. Whatever you want. You can share your own words and/or images using the hashtag #sackclothandashes You can also participate privately, if you prefer.

Here are some more details.

What Acts of Reparation are:

By voluntary submission to His Passion and Death on the Cross, Jesus Christ atoned for our disobedience and sin. He thus made reparation to the offended majesty of God for the outrages which the Creator so constantly suffers at the hands of His creatures. We are restored to grace through the merits of Christ’s Death, and that grace enables us to add our prayers, labours, and trials to those of Our Lord “and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ” (Colossians 1:24). We can thus make some sort of reparation to the justice of God for our own offences against Him, and by virtue of the Communion of the Saints, the oneness and solidarity of the mystical Body of Christ, we can also make satisfaction and reparation for the sins of others. (Catholic Encyclopedia)

In layman’s terms, that means that we believe that God is hurt and offended by sin, and that we can console God and make up for those sins in some way by our prayers and sacrifices.
What they are not:
Just to clarify, because we know this is a struggle for some of us. We make acts of reparation as a gift to God not as a service to particular sinners. If your grandma got attacked by a mugger, you would rush to her side and spend time with her. You’d go out and buy things to replace what was in her purse. You wouldn’t do that for the mugger’s benefit. Doing it wouldn’t lessen his culpability. Hopefully you could also one day bring yourself to pray for him and wish for his conversion. But doing something to lessen the hurt of your grandma is something different than that entirely.
What you can do:
We will be observing this forty day period as a time of increased prayer and penance, like another Lent. Beginning on August 22, the feast of the Queenship of Mary, we will ask Our Lady to bring the gift of our sacrifices to her son. The month of September is dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. It also includes the fall Ember Days on September 19, 21, and 22. (More on those here.)
Consider adding prayers to your daily routine, like the Morning Offering:
Or the Chaplet of Reparation, recommended by Our Lady to the children at Fatima.
Or another Chaplet of Reparation, known as Offering the Precious Blood for Priests, found in In Sinu Jesu.

(meant to be prayed on ordinary rosary beads)

Incline (+) unto my aid, O God; O Lord, make haste to help me. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Alleluia. (DURING LENT: Praise be to Thee, O Lord, King of eternal glory.)
ON THE OUR FATHER BEADS: Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Precious Blood of Thy Beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb without blemish or spot, in reparation for my sins and for the sins of all Thy priests.
ON THE HAIL MARY BEADS: By Thy Precious Blood, O Jesus, purify and sanctify Thy priests.
FOLLOWING EACH DECADE: O Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and earth is named, have mercy on all Thy priests, and wash them in the Blood of the Lamb.

Consider fasting, a little or a lot. From meals, from snacks, from sugar or caffeine, from technology. The Catholic Gentleman has some great thoughts on how and why we should fast.
Know that if you are suffering, you are not alone. Know that there are thousands, millions, of Catholics praying for you. Know that your own prayers are important and efficacious. It is my hope that doing this together will console the heart of Jesus and heal our own sore hearts.

By request, here are the images with a white background, easier for printing.