What are prayers of reparation?
Catholics believe in the duty to repair the spiritual damage done by our sins and the sins of humanity.
Ever since Adam and Eve, humans have tried to repair the damage they inflict upon other people. While Jesus Christ made the ultimate act of reparation on Calvary, Catholics believe that we still need to do what we can to repair the damage we have committed.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that after confessing our sins in the sacrament of reconciliation, we still need to repair the harm we inflicted upon others.
Many sins wrong our neighbor. One must do what is possible in order to repair the harm (e.g., return stolen goods, restore the reputation of someone slandered, pay compensation for injuries). Simple justice requires as much. (CCC 1459)
While this refers primarily to physical acts of reparation, it’s also possible to offer up prayers of reparation for both personal harm and damage done by other people. The Catholic Encyclopedia explains, “We are restored to grace through the merits of Christ’s Death, and that grace enables us to add our prayers, labors, 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 offenses 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.”
In this way we can help repair the spiritual damage that others have done and contribute to the healing of the world. Jesus himself appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and asked her to promote devotion to his Sacred Heart as a way to make reparation for various sins committed against him.
Prayers of reparation can also be thought of as “prayers of love,” proclaiming to Jesus the love you have for him, even when others reject him. It provides an opportunity to recognize the damage our sins have upon the world and to repair it by our acts of love.
One of the most common ways this was expressed in the past was when a church was vandalized. The parish community would then host a “night of reparation,” offering up prayers to God to repair the spiritual damage done and to help restore our communion with God. It was a way to express love to God when others had expressed their hatred.
Above all, prayers of reparation helps us understand that our actions have both physical and spiritual consequences. Justice requires that we repair the damage in both ways, invoking God’s healing touch upon our sins and the sins of the world.