SEATTLE – Step through the doors of Blessed Sacrament Church on Mercy Night, and you’ll find a chance to encounter Jesus in quiet prayer, song and the sacrament of reconciliation.
“There’s a deep sense of openness to what God is doing in that place,” said Andrea Garcia, a parishioner who helps organize prayer teams for the quarterly event at the Dominican parish.
On the next Mercy Night, March 31, the church lights will be dimmed, candles lit and a spotlight placed on a monstrance, where the Eucharist is displayed for adoration. Musicians will perform a range of sacred songs, from traditional hymns to Taizé prayer. Several people will give their personal faith testimonies.
“Stay five minutes or for the full three hours as the Spirit leads you,” reads the parish’s worship aid from December’s Mercy Night.
The reverent evening is consistent with Dominican spirituality, which includes an emphasis on eucharistic adoration, a devotion to Mary and a contemplative approach to prayer, said Walt Sears, Blessed Sacrament’s director of faith formation and evangelization. It also serves as an evangelization tool for the parish.
“We get a fairly good number of people who are coming to our church for the first time,” Sears said, and parishioners often invite friends to visit during Mercy Night. “It’s the best way we have to introduce folks to the parish,” he added.
The evening is offered four times a year — usually March, June, September and December. Its spiritual offerings often lead to people experiencing the sacrament of reconciliation in a profound way, Sears said: “It’s some of the most powerful confessions [the priests] hear.”
For those who want to pray with others, specially trained two-person teams are available. Garcia said the team members complete a year-long program that emphasizes three principles — listening to God, listening to the people asking for prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit.
“They’re putting their trust in us,” Garcia said of those seeking prayer. “They need to know we’re taking this seriously, and we do.”
Mercy Night at Blessed Sacrament began more than a decade ago, after parishioner Janelle Bighinatti experienced Mercy Night in Europe through Emmanuel Community, a Catholic charismatic lay movement that started in France in the 1970s.
“I really appreciated the accessibility to prayer without expectations,” Bighinatti said. “I could just sit there and be with the Lord.”
Bighinatti said she organized Mercy Night at Blessed Sacrament after feeling a call to evangelization while attending 2002 World Youth Day in Toronto. Although Bighinatti is now focusing on a prayer ministry for artists, a new group of organizers has stepped forward to continue Mercy Night.
Attending Mercy Night is like a mini-retreat, offering visitors some time to be with God. “The Lord can touch you at a deep level that is hard to get to in daily life,” Bighinatti said.
Experience Mercy Night
Mercy Night is held four times a year at Blessed Sacrament Church in Seattle. The next event is slated from 8-11 p.m. Friday, March 31, at the church, 5050 Eighth Ave. N.E.
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