SPARTA Patrons sometimes ask about the white-and-red wristband that 18-year-old Taylor Gudenkauf of Our Lady of the Lake (OLL) Parish here wears while working as a hostess at St. Moritz Grill & Bar in town. It’s not a reminder of a cause like heart disease awareness, a sports team or a music star like Taylor Swift. Instead, the teen reports, the wristband is a stylish and modern reminder that she should obey the Second Commandment: “Thou shall not take the Lord’s name in vain.”
“I wear the wristband [which displays the words, ‘Name in Vain‘] almost everyday. People are intrigued and come up to me and ask questions about it,” said Gudenkauf, one of the many members of OLL’s youth ministry, who have been wearing the rubber wristbands — white with red lettering — as a part of the Sussex County parish’s Lenten “Name in Vain Forgiveness Campaign” — among its many activities to observe of the Jubilee Year of Mercy in the universal Church. “It [taking the Lord’s name in vain] is instilled in our culture, in our movies and music. Now, I realize just how much I have been doing it. It’s been a good reminder that I need to watch how I speak,” she said.
Before Lent, the youth ministry, which consists of teenagers and college students, started to wear the wristbands to promote the “Name In Vain Forgiveness Campaign,” now under way at OLL. Also prior to Lent, the youth ministry and religious education students, third to 10th grade, received prayer cards that the parish created for the initiative. They are encouraged to pray for themselves and also recite a simple, one sentence intention — “Father, forgive him; he knows not what he does” — when they hear someone taking the Lord’s name in vain, said Nancy Hefele, a OLL Confirmation catechist, who devised and helped develop the program.
“By simply, yet sincerely, praying for others with faith in God’s mercy, our youth have such a simple, doable way to exercise three important aspects of mercy: asking for God’s mercy through that simple prayer, being merciful toward the person for whom they pray and completely trusting in God’s mercy, knowing that they need not actually ‘say’ anything to the person, but just trust that God will hear their prayer and be merciful,” said Hefele, who collaborated on the “Name in Vain Forgiveness Campaign” with Laurie DiCianni, OLL’s coordinator of Confirmation and youth ministry, and Betty Heldak, director of religious education.
The “Name in Vain” wristbands help the youth ministry members not only to remember to hold their tongues, but also to spread to word to people, who might ask about them. That could inspire them to perform other Spiritual Works of Mercy, such as instructing the uninformed — along with already praying for the living and the dead, Hefele said.
The back of the prayer cards displays a “prayer counter” to help participants keep track of their prayers to encourage them to pray consistently throughout Lent. Hefele said that she has reminded the young people that the prayer counter should not encourage competition or false reasons to pray for others and that one sincere prayer in good faith is worth far more than hundreds of prayers without sincerity and faith.
Participants write their names, grades and total number of prayers in the spaces provided and will bring the cards to OLL on Good Friday, the day that Jesus uttered the words, “Forgive them, they know not what they do.” A basket filled with their cards will then be placed at the altar. Because this campaign focuses on the Second Commandment, they can multiply their total number of prayers by two. Then they can perform a Corporal Work of Mercy — feeding the hungry — by donating that amount of money to the Sparta Food Bank, said Hefele, who earned a Certificate in Catholic Evangelization from St. Paul Inside the Walls: the Diocesan Center for Evangelization at Bayley-Ellard, Madison.
“This is important not only to make us participants more aware of what we are saying, but also more aware of choosing our words and actions,” said Gretchen Riker, a youth ministry member. “It also reminds us of God’s forgiveness and eternal love.”
During OLL’s “Name in Vain Forgiveness Campaign,” parishioners can get extra wristbands or prayer cards if they want them. They are encouraged to pray that God blesses the young participants and the people for whom they are praying. Originally, Hefele had presented the idea to the parish advisory council. Before Christmas, youth ministry members enthusiastically endorsed the initiative, which is voluntary, she said.
“People may say things like, ‘Oh, my God’ all the time without even realizing it. It’s disrespectful. We need to remember to love and honor God. It also makes us more aware not to say things like that,” DiCianni said. “We should not confront other people when they take the Lord’s name in vain but pray silently. It’s not about judging others; it’s about the power of God to convert people’s hearts,” she said.
Likewise, Father David McDonnell, OLL’s pastor, remarked that people often “take the name of God in vain out of routine.”
“It [the ‘Name in Vain Forgiveness Campaign’] makes us stop and think and reminds us that His name is holy,” Father McDonnell said.