Q: Archbishop J, why is the Pope asking for special prayers?
In this month of the rosary, the Holy Father invites the whole People of God to unite with him in prayer against the evil that is attacking the Church from many sides. The specific request is for us to pray the rosary daily, ending with two special prayers—firstly, the prayer to St Michael the Archangel, “the heavenly being traditionally associated especially with combatting the devil”:
Saint Michael Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; may God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
In addition, the Holy Father invites the faithful “to conclude the rosary with the most ancient prayer of Mary, the invocation Sub Tuum Praesidium”:
We fly to Thy protection, O Holy Mother of God. Do not despise our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.
The official Vatican press release says: “The prayer—the Pontiff affirmed a few days ago, on September 11, 2018, in a homily at Santa Marta, citing the first book of Job—is the weapon against the Great Accuser who ‘goes around the world seeking to accuse’. Only prayer can defeat him. The Russian mystics and the great saints of all the traditions advised, in moments of spiritual turbulence, to shelter beneath the mantle of the Holy Mother of God pronouncing the invocation Sub Tuum Praesidium.”
With this request for intercession, the Holy Father asks the faithful worldwide to pray that the Holy Mother of God places the Church beneath her protective mantle to preserve her from the attacks of the devil, the Great Accuser, and at the same time make her more aware of the faults, errors and abuses committed in the present and in the past, and steadfast in combatting them without hesitation, so evil may not prevail.
In the Holy Father’s request there is a sense that evil and danger is looming over and within the Church. We all see this in the stories that have unfolded over the last few weeks.
We find ourselves in a most difficult time as Church, with terrible revelations of abuse and corruption and cover-up. There has also been much dissent and disunity at all levels. This is the work of evil and can only be overcome by prayer.
As individuals, families, ecclesial and parish communities, let us pray with the Holy Father that evil may not triumph; that God will protect his Church; that Mary will cover the Holy Father; and the Church with her protective mantle.
The Back Story
In July, the Pennsylvania grand jury report made a serious indictment against the Church in America. It implicated many bishops, priests, religious and Church workers in practices that have caused grievous harm to the young and innocent—that is to say, to Christ himself. The revelations rocked the Catholic Church. As a result many good Catholics lost trust in the Church and her leadership. The extent of the abuse, the cover-up and the whole horrid affair can only be described as evil.
This was only part of the story. Some priests, bishops and, some say, even cardinals used this opportunity to attack Pope Francis directly, trying to discredit him and calling on him to resign. This too is the work of evil.
When the Holy Father in Ireland was apologising to the Church and the world for the sexual abuse of clerics, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò released a letter to the media accusing the Holy Father of knowing and covering up the Cardinal McCarrick issue. He called on the Holy Father to resign. This was another shock for Catholics worldwide.
A second letter from Archbishop Viganò on September 29 was even more scathing in its attack. The Holy Father did not respond directly but told the media, “The statement speaks for itself … you have enough journalistic capacity to reach the conclusions.”
On Sunday the Vatican broke its silence. Cardinal Ouellet, the head of the Congregation for Bishops, wrote an open letter to Archbishop Viganò refuting all the claims and concluding Archbishop Viganò wrote and acted in bad faith (See page 7).
We are in unsettling times. Renowned Catholic TV hosts openly oppose the teaching of the Holy Father and encourage others to do the same. This is evil in our midst. The Holy Father is the Vicar of Christ on earth. We always owe him our obedience even if we cannot completely understand where he is taking the Church.
To openly defy and ridicule the Holy Father and his teaching is not the stance of a serious Catholic. If we undermine the Petrine office we undermine the Church. All suffer.
In our Archdiocese and in the Caribbean Church, there are Catholics who are feeding themselves on speeches from various American TV hosts and websites that speak openly against the Holy Father. This only makes the devil laugh. This is playing with the fire of division!
If you have any doubt about what is happening, see the cracks that this divisiveness is causing in the Church; see the way some Catholics are disseminating material against the Holy Father. This is evil and I beg you to desist. On the night before He died Jesus prayed that we may be one (Jn 17:20).
Peter was not perfect, but Christ chose him. The one who stands in his shoes today deserves respect. Sadly, those who disagree with Pope Francis treat him with great disrespect. They would never have tolerated such disrespect against Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI. The Pope has the guarantee of infallibility under Canon 749 §1—not those who judge him. Any fraternal correction must be done with respect.
I stay with the Pope, the guarantee of communion in the Church. I urge you to do likewise.
Pope Francis gives the homily as he celebrates morning Mass in the chapel of his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, at the Vatican September 11. The Pope said the devil seeks to reveal sins in order to scandalise the people of God. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)
Key message: We are in a time when evil is prevalent all around. This is not flesh and bones that we are fighting against but principalities and powers.
Action Steps: Pray the rosary, the prayer to St Michael and the Sub Tuum Praesidium every day for the intentions of the Holy Father and the Church.
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 6:10–20.