Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

Check out the revised edition of this exciting and unique prayer book, filled with prayers that are sure to nourish the soul as we undertake the New Evangelization.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Pope Saint Pius V

This past Saturday was the feast of Pope Saint Pius V.  As a member of the Order of Preachers, he exemplified Dominican life.  He knew the power of prayer and experienced victory through the Rosary and Mary's intercession at the Battle of Lepanto.  He shared the fruits of his contemplation in the administration of the Church and in his role as teacher of the faith. 


Following the Council of Trent, Pius V undertook the publication of the Roman Catechism, Missal and Brievary, and codified the practices of the universal Church.  This meant that various liturgical rites celebrated in different countries and in religious orders (e.g. Sarum Rite, Mozarabic Rite, Gallican Rite, Dominican Rite) were suppressed and the Roman Liturgy was mandated universally.  This change had the benefit of preserving continuity in the Church but also eliminated much beauty and variety in liturgical expression.  The Mass established by Pius V remained essentially unchanged until 1970 - 400 years. 


Interestingly enough, this past week we heard that Pope Francis has extended an olive branch to the Society of Pius X and that reconciliation is more possible than ever before.  The Society remains convinced of the authenticity of the Tridentine Mass - the Mass of Trent and of Pius V - and believes strongly in preserving the true faith against perceived innovations by the Second Vatican Council.  The conflict and division stem from the actions of Archbishop Lefebvre, who ordained priests and bishops without permission a number of years ago.  There is another group, even more radically traditional, called the Society of Saint Pius V.  They have also performed their own ordinations without permission and remain in schism. 


Regarding the Society of Saint Pius X, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication against their members and, in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, opened the way for universal celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.  However, beyond liturgical spirituality, theological questions remain, which need to be ironed out before authentic reconciliation can take place.  SSPX members are hesitant to assent to all the teachings in the documents of Vatican II.  In the commentaries on the ongoing discussions, I have not so far seen mentioned the importance of distinguishing between the teaching of the council and its inconsistent and inauthentic implementation.  To this day, fifty years later, I hear people say that Vatican II eliminated or mandated things when these claims find no basis in the 16 documents.  If the council is understood in the context of a "hermeneutic of continuity," as Benedict XVI so remarkable taught us, there is necessarily less about which anyone needs to be concerned.  It appears, however, that there is an openness in the Vatican to "lowering the bar" concerning that which needs to be assented to in order to be reconciled to Christ and the Church.  That would be a mistake.  "Getting along" at the expense of vigorous orthodoxy is not authentic unity. 


This feast day of a great pope gives us an opportunity to reflect on the significance of consistency and continuity in the life of the Church.  May we always listen to the voice of Christ in prayer and defend what He has revealed to us. 


For Pius V, the Holy Rosary was a powerful weapon against evil.  Along with his living example of praying the Rosary as the Christian army battled the Turks at Lepanto, he codified the original 15 mysteries we know today.  Before he was able to do so, a rich tradition of prayer had developed. 


There are three stages of development to the history of the Rosary.  The first consists of two separate tracks, developing simultaneously.  On the one hand, the prayers of the Rosary are compiled and, on the other hand, the use of beads to count prayers is invented. 


1. The Hail Mary

By the 7th Century, prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary is common practice all over the world. 

By 1050, the "Hail Mary" has been compiled from the words of Mary and Elizabeth in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1, with the addition of the petition "Holy Mary, pray for us..."

In the 1100s, there is evidence of people praying the Hail Mary 50x per day in 5 sets of 10 or 150x per day, as a means for the illiterate to pray alongside the monks, who chanted the 150 psalms from the Bible. 

Saint Louis (1214-1270) prayed the Hail Mary 50x per day with a genuflection at each one.

Others prayed it 150x per day, 100 with a genuflection and 50 with a full prostration. 


2. Beads

The use of beads to count prayers transcends the Rosary. 

A regular discipline of prayer throughout the day existed in the Christian life from the time of the Apostles and people used beads to help the count their prayers in order to maintain a consistent rule of prayer. 

In the East, the Jesus Prayer (Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.) was prayed using the 33 or 100 "chotky beads" as early as the late 3rd Century. 

In 1075 there is a record of Lady Godiva threading stones on a cord to count her prayers. 

These two tracks, the writing of prayers and the use of beads, which spring organically from the human desire to praise God and seek His help, blend together as the Rosary becomes a regular part of the Church's prayer. 


The second stage of development is initiated by Heaven.  In 1208, Saint Dominic receives a vision of Mary, who presents to Dominic the Rosary and promises him it will be a powerful weapon of prayer. 

Heaven itself confirms the Church's writing of the Hail Mary and the use of beads to count prayers in a numbered pattern.  From then on, devotion to the rosary flourishes. 

In 1514, Gaspar Loarte wrote the first instruction for Catholics on how to pray the Rosary. 


The third stage brings us back to Pius V, who established the mysteries and made the Rosary as we know it today popular throughout the whole Church.  The mysteries make the Rosary a "Compendium of the Gospel," in the words of Pope Saint John Paul II, because they focus our attention on the principal events in the lives of Jesus and Mary.  The word "Rosary" itself is coined by 1597.  The essence of the devotion is established. 


As time has passed, additions are made which expand the richness of this great prayer.

The Fatima Prayer is added in 1917 at the request of Mary herself.

Pope Saint John Paul II adds the Luminous Mysteries in order to include the stories between Jesus' adolescence and Passion.

All of this came to pass because Pius V saw the importance of promoting the growth of the Rosary, which itself began in the hearts of the faithful and was confirmed by Heaven in the vision of Mary to Saint Dominic. 


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Do not attempt to adjust your computer screen.

In the past couple years, there have been some papal utterances that have made me cock my head and crinkle my face, wondering what they mean and from where they come. 

1. I was in Pittsburgh for a talk by Fr. Robert Sirico shortly after the publication of Pope Francis' encyclical Evangelii Gaudium.  In response to the Holy Father's criticism of "unbridled capitalist markets," I remember Sirico saying "Where are these markets?"  What the pope describes is not the free market system which best promotes authentic human flourishing. 

2. The Holy Father seems to have a bone to pick with priests.  He has used words like "careerists" and phrases like "little monsters" in speaking of priests and seminarians.  Are there some priests who abuse their authority or who seek their own interests?  Sure.  But when the Holy Father speaks this way, it leaves many priests feeling like he does not have our backs.  The priests I know are good men.  The seminaries I know are forming holy priests.

3. In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis speaks about situations in which the Church's teaching on Marriage is too strict or is presented in a way that is too demanding. 

"...we often present marriage in such a way that its unitive meaning, its call to grow in love and its ideal of mutual assistance are overshadowed by an almost exclusive insistence on the duty of procreation. Nor have we always provided solid guidance to young married couples, understanding their timetables, their way of thinking and their concrete concerns. At times we have also proposed a far too abstract and almost artificial theological ideal of marriage, far removed from the concrete situations and practical possibilities of real families. This excessive idealization, especially when we have failed to inspire trust in God’s grace, has not helped to make marriage more desirable and attractive, but quite the opposite."  (AL, paragraph 36)

"...a pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in “irregular” situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives."  (AL, paragraph 305) 

Until I read this, I was unaware that there more than a handful of places in the entire world where the Church's authentic teaching on Marriage, along with substantial marriage preparation, was actually being spoken.  Why can we not expect the best from everyone? 

So, the reality in which Pope Francis operates is motivated (at least in part) by a fear of unbridled capitalists, monstrous priests and of people being driven away from the fold by idealized orthodoxy. 

I do not know Jorge Bergolio's life experience or what shaped him into the man he is today.  I do not fully understand what motivates his vision for the Church.  I do not know the reality of every culture.  But I can conclude that, for myself at least, I cannot relate to these claims.  While they may contain some fragment of truth, they are not the reality of the universal Church.  They do not express support for the free market, priests or the Gospel of the Family. 

When one speaks who has a responsibility for a vast and diverse population, he ought to do so very carefully. 

All this is say with due respect for the Holy Father and acknowledging that I do not always speak perfectly myself.  I am simply puzzled. 

Where has all the common sense gone?

One of the highlights of the recent synod on the family is the valuable lesson that both the doctrine and the human person before us deserve our reverence and respect. The synod fathers call for a balance to be struck between mercy and fidelity to the truth of the Gospel. Whenever mercy and truth are separated, one can be sure that Christianity has been abandoned. 

It is possible to maintain a balance between remaining in the truth of Christ and sharing that truth in a manner that is loving, understanding and welcoming. 

It is absolutely possible – and essential for the salvation of souls – that human persons in irregular situations be welcomed and respected, all the while being challenged to avoid sin and seek greater holiness.  Jesus did not condemn the woman at the well; neither did He approve of her attempted marriages.

It is possible to maintain a balance between integration and avoiding scandal.  We can, with the inspiration of the Spirit, welcome people in irregular situations into the parish community, all the while not being unfair to those families who are blessed to be able to maintain the Church’s discipline.  If we cross the Church’s boundaries in making provision for those in unusual life situations to feel included in parish life, we risk scandalizing the faithful.  If public scandal has occurred, the truth must be spoken in love.  As we include and integrate, we need to be careful not to push away faithful Catholics. Cardinal Dolan warns us this phenomenon is already happening: “Can I suggest as well that there is now a new minority in the world and even in the Church?” Cardinal Dolan asked. “I am thinking of those who, relying on God’s grace and mercy, strive for virtue and fidelity.”  (Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Faithful Catholics are ‘new minority’ who often feel ‘excluded,’ even in the Church. October 14, 2015,

Each person is unique and so is each family.  Therefore the pastoral challenge is ever-evolving.  What matters most is that priests and laity alike have a sincere desire to forge the proper balance between mercy and truth.  It does no good to teach with authority and not also with love, or to speak falsely out of fear of offending. 

Because I recognize the value of balance in the life of the Church, I was disheartened by a homily given by a priest where I was attending Mass several weeks ago.  He began with a lengthy - a solid five minutes, which is long for a homily that should be no more than 15 minutes in order to be balanced with respect to time and integrated within the entire liturgy - description taken from a piece of 19th Century literature, the name of which eludes me and is not important for this exercise, of the agony of Hell.  I, a priest, was unsettled and squirmed in my seat as I imagined the rolling eyes of adults and blank stares of teenagers in the pews.  I wondered to myself: "Why would you lay on the faithful a frightening description of Hell as the introduction to an Easter Season homily?" 

Specifically, it was Divine Mercy Sunday, in the Jubilee Year of Mercy.  The next stage of the homily's descent was to assert, fairly explicitly that the purpose of the Year of Mercy was to set aside all talk of the pain of Hell in favor of a merciful description of God.  That's when it hit me: not only did the good Father bore us with a depiction of hell in language far more "antiquated" than one could claim the 2010 Roman Missal translation is, but he did so in order to set up a straw man which he later immolated on the altar of political correctness.  Classic silliness: mercy means there is no Hell! 

As if it could not get worse, he ended the homily with a Hopkins poem - one which, without the text before my eyes to read, even I could not comprehend. 

I had forgotten until that moment how much lack of balance and lack of sensitivity can really shake the soul.  The Catholic approach is "both...and" - both justice and mercy, love and truth, welcoming and defense of the faith, sacred beauty and active participation, eloquence and relevance.  So, pray and then be reasonable!