Wednesday, March 14, 2012

If We Turn Out the Lights, We Can Expect to Stumble in the Dark

Ever stop to think about why it is that the world is steeped in darkness, and in particular, why the Church is under siege in our time?

I was thinking tonight that maybe part of the reason we are so inundated with evils is because, for the last half-century or so, we quit praying for protection from them. 

The Extraordinary Form of the Mass is full of powerful, muscular, soldierly prayers.  The 1962 Missal is also well-stocked with votive Masses for all sorts of occasions and all sorts of intentions.  There is a Mass for the propagation of the faith; a Mass for the defense of the church; a Mass for deliverance from death in time of pestilence; a Mass for the forgiveness of sins; a Mass for the grace of a good death.  How often have any of these Masses been offered since Vatican II?  And what about the St. Michael prayer for protection from the forces of hell that used to be said at the end of every Low Mass (and still is said wherever the Extraordinary Form is celebrated)?  Consider Compline according to the breviary of 1962: the hymn "Te Lucis ante Terminum" contains a powerful verse that has been expunged from the breviary of Paul VI:

Procul recédant sómnia,
Et nóctium phantasmata;
Hostémque nóstrum cómprime,
Ne polluántur córpora.

From all ill dreams defend our eyes,
From nightly fears and fantasies;
Tread under foot our ghostly foe,
That no pollution we may know.

A couple of weeks ago, this space featured a piece on the old Rituale Romanum, full of petitions for blessing and protection from various evils, and how these prayers help us, among other things, to avoid sin and excess in the use of material goods.  Why did we get rid of this?  How are we better off for having done so?

The Church used to pray constantly for protection from all sorts of ills, temporal and spiritual.  Yet for the last almost half-century, those prayers have been all but wiped out.   Somewhere along the line, we got the idea that we no longer needed divine protection. This was, and is, a dumb idea.  It was especially dumb in the midst of the blackest and bloodiest century in human history, wracked with apostasy, heresy, immorality and fratricidal slaughter.  But the horrors of the 20th century came in no small part precisely because this dumb idea had long been brewing under the surface: we had long ceased to pray from our hearts, and that made it easy to cease praying with our lips.  We ceased to view the world in the light of eternity; that made it all the easier to scrap the traditional Mass and the Rituale Romanum, and replace them with the spiritual gruel that has been rationed out to us most of our lives.  And the Church and the world are far poorer because of it.

St. Alphonsus Liguori says there are certain graces God doesn't ordinarily grant us unless we ask for them.  We haven't been asking for the conversion of sinners, deliverance from natural disasters or protection from harm for 40+ years, so we probably shouldn't be surprised that the world is saturated in sin, widely stricken by natural (and often man-made) disasters, and physically exceedingly dangerous.  Now, after decades of dumbness, we need to re-learn the long-forgotten words in order to re-train our hearts.  We need to recognize our utter dependence on God, and call on Him once again to protect us from evil.  We need to reconnect with our immemorial Catholic traditions in order to remind ourselves how to do this.  We need the Extraordinary Form of the liturgy -- Mass, Sacraments, Divine Office -- to be restored in every parish.  We cannot survive on business as usual.


  1. Praying on my knees helps more than I thought possible before I began it.
    I joke with Catholic friends that all these decades (pun not intended) on my knees has helped my soul a lot but hasn't done much for my knees.
    I found that the Prayer to St. Michael, the Memorare, and sometimes the Hail Holy Queen, just sort of slipped back into my nightly prayers, as if God wants to remind me to pray as I did as a child. Those are good solid prayers, and yes, we do need them very much.
    After 68 years of post-birth life (I count my age at 69 as of mid-June) I have a far greater wary appreciation of the almost-incredible subtlety and sneakiness of the Devil, and I know better than I did before that I need all the help I can get.
    Thank you, Anita, for your observations!

  2. Bob, going it alone against the devil is indeed exceedingly foolish.

  3. If you haven't already, I humbly suggest you read this post:

    ...and the comments.

  4. Hi TH2, have now read the post and the comments. I think everybody's overreacting to Peters and his comments about Fr. Guarnizo. To say that Fr. Guarnizo violated canon law is not to say that there is no excuse for his violation, or that he should be punished for it. In fact, in an earlier post, Peters said he thought correction, not punishment, was called for. Now that Peters has addressed my main concern about this case, I agree that the good Father was not covered by the relevant canon; but I still support him -- not because I don't care about violations of the law, but because he acted from motives of love, and he is now being treated unjustly.