Purgatory in the Celtic Folklore of All Hallows Eve

Although we still can see a connection between All Saints and All Souls by their mere proximity on the calendar, we seem to have lost a sense of Hallowtide, in its pre-1955 form, as a discrete season with several overarching themes.

One of those themes is praying for the dead in Purgatory.

Of course, All Souls Day is the quintessential day for that–and that has not changed, even in the aggressively pruned calendar of 1970.

But All Hallows Eve has also played a key part in praying for the dead, particularly in Celtic countries. And despite the feverish imaginations of some authors, it seems to be Celtic Catholicity, not Celtic paganism, that is most responsible for shaping the original folklore of what we know today as Halloween.

At first blush, the liturgical books seem not to offer much evidence of this.

We could certainly observe how in the vigil Mass–the Mass of Halloween–the Gradual and the Offertory take the future tense: Exsultabunt sancti in gloria, laetabuntur in cubilibus suis: “The saints shall rejoice in glory; they shall be joyful in their beds”. This passage from Psalm 149 points toward the eventual establishment of the Church. It also takes on a new, deeper meaning in the context of a vigil Mass, pointing forward to the next day’s feast.  And we could further admit a third application of this future tense: the freeing of the souls currently in Purgatory. These souls are as-yet-unrealized saints–being led inexorably to that future joy just as surely as those on earth today who will be raised to the altars.

Yet admittedly, that inference by itself is not terribly compelling evidence.

It is, rather, in Catholic folklore and devotional life that Halloween really begins to show itself not only as a preparation for the celebration of the Church Triumphant, but also as a preparation for relieving the Church Suffering.

Office of the Dead illustration

For instance, a devotion in Celtic lands was the recitation of “Black Vespers”, or Vespers of the Dead, at the parish church on the vigil, followed by a trip to the cemetery to pray for the dead. In Brittany, hymns would be sung at charnel houses as if the bones were beseeching the living for prayers, and a folk belief was current there that the souls of the dead were freed from Purgatory on this day and allowed to visit their homes and participate at Mass.

Memento Mori

That folk belief may well have been inspired from Black Vespers, whose opening line is: Placebo Domino in regione vivorum, commonly translated as: “I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living”. It seems quite natural for this phrase to have powerfully influenced the medieval mind, especially given the common contemporary images of memento mori and the “Dance of Death,” featuring skeletal figures dancing with living men and women.

In Ireland’s County Kerry, a large uncut loaf and a jug of water were, somewhat superstitiously, put out for the Holy Souls on Halloween night. And even outside the Celtic-speaking lands and under the strict legal injunctions against certain Halloween festivities of post-Reformation England, the vigil remained there a day for children to beg for “soul cakes” in return for prayers for the dear departed.

All Hallows Eve among the Celts and the English was both a day to liturgically prepare for the great octave of All Saints and a day to devotionally prepare for All Souls. And this particular combination, it seems, is what is at root of the modern holiday.

While deprecating, of course, the flat-out immorality and neopaganism that has crept into Halloween as currently practiced in the United States, it would still seem a worthwhile goal to fight for its original intention and spirit as part of our Catholic patrimony.

Not just for our own sakes, but especially for the souls in Purgatory, who are counting on us for prayers and Masses on their behalf.


October 14, 2020

“Staring into the Abyss”: An Election Homily by Fr. Ed Meeks

We recommend to Missive readers the following powerful homily on the US election, given by Fr. Edward Meeks of Christ the King parish in Towson MD:

October 13, 2020

Sacraments and Sacramentals

by Fr. William Rock, FSSP

One often hears that the Sacraments work ex opere operato (i.e. by virtue of the action itself) while Sacramentals work ex opere operantis (i.e. by virtue of the one performing the work).

While this is a helpful way to distinguish the modes in which they work, stating that Sacramentals work ex opere operantis does not fully capture how Sacramentals produce their effects for the ones who use them.  But before exploring that point more fully, it is important to have a clear idea of what a Sacramental is.

The Sacraments are outward signs instituted by Christ which confer grace.  According to St. Thomas Aquinas, the Sacraments are also “signs in protestation [declaration] of the faith” (S.T. III, q. 61, a. 4, c).  Sacramentals, for their part, are “things or actions which the Church uses in a certain imitation of the Sacraments, in order, in virtue of her prayers, to achieve effects, above all of a spiritual nature” (CIC/17, §1144).

Sacramentals, like the Sacraments, are signs of the Church’s faith, and both Sacraments and Sacramentals produce spiritual effects, albeit in different ways.  Unlike the Sacraments, the Sacramentals were instituted by the Church, not by Christ.

Traditionally, Sacramentals were divided into four different classes: (1) ceremonies customarily associated with the Sacraments (e.g. the anointings with the Oils at Baptism, blessings at Mass); (2) independent religious actions (e.g. blessings outsides of the celebration of the Sacraments); (3) the religious use of blessed and consecrated items (e.g. using a blessed Rosary to pray); (4) the blessed and consecrated items themselves (e.g. Holy Water, the blessed Rosary).  Generally, when one uses the word “Sacramental,” it is being used in the fourth way, to indicated a blessed or consecrated item, but as was just see the word “Sacramental” has a fuller, much more extensive meaning.

Blessing the baptismal water at FSSP Pequannock

Regarding the first type of Sacramentals – ceremonies customarily associated with the Sacraments – as they are used in the Mass, the Council of Trent said the following:

And since the nature of man is such that he cannot without external means be raised easily to meditation on divine things, holy mother Church has instituted certain rites, namely, that some things in the Mass be pronounced in a low tone and others in a louder tone. She has likewise, in accordance with apostolic discipline and tradition, made use of ceremonies, such as mystical blessings, lights, incense, vestments, and many other things of this kind, whereby both the majesty of so great a sacrifice might be emphasized and the minds of the faithful excited by those visible signs of religion and piety to the contemplation of those most sublime things which are hidden in this sacrifice. (Session XXII, Doctrine Concerning the Sacrifice of The Mass, Chapter 5, The Ceremonies and Rites of The Mass.)

As was noted previously, the Council teaches that these ceremonies were instituted by the Church and even claims their use is in accordance with apostolic discipline and tradition.  Additionally, what Trent said regarding the use of Sacramentals in the Mass can also be applied to the Sacramentals used in the celebration of the other Sacraments, namely that the use of these Sacramentals is in accordance with human nature and that “the minds of the faithful excited by those visible signs of religion and piety to the contemplation of those most sublime things which are hidden” within the Sacraments.

Moving from the first type of Sacramental, the remaining three are often interconnected, but not always.  The second type – independent religious actions – includes those ceremonies which produce blessed objects (the fourth type) which can then be used by the faithful (the third type), but it is not always the case.  Some Sacramentals of the second type (independent religious actions), such as those use to invoke blessings on persons, are used to implore God’s favor on the one being blessed without him being set aside for a religious use.  The being said, however, one cannot have a blessed item to use without these independent religious actions.

When an item is blessed in one of these independent religious actions, a new relationship is formed between the item, the Church, and God.  In such a ceremony, a minister speaking in the person of the Church (in persona Ecclesiæ) asks God to produce certain effects when the item is used.  For example, the blessing of a Rosary reads in part as follows:

Let it [the Rosary] be endowed with such power of the Holy Spirit, that whoever carries it on his person or reverently keeps it in his home, or devoutly prays to you while meditating on the divine mysteries, according to the rules of his holy society, may fully share in all the graces, privileges and indulgences which the Holy See has granted to this society. May he always and everywhere be shielded from all enemies, visible and invisible, and at his death deserve to be presented to you by the most blessed Virgin Mary herself, Mother of God.

Two things should be noted regarding the requested effects.  First, different specific effects are being requested (e.g. being shielded from enemies, being presented to God at death by the Virgin Mary).  Secondly, all the intended effects are expressed as being conditional, not guaranteed.  How this is conveyed in the original Latin is expressed in the English translation by the word “may”.  An explanation of how a sacramental produces its effects will shed light on why these two observations are important and will also explain why Sacramentals do not work purely ex opere operantis.

Let us imagine someone goes to a store and buys a Rosary.  Before it is blessed, she uses it to pray.  God, looking down from Heaven, sees and thinks to Himself “she is using those beads to keep track of her prayers” and the spiritual fruit which she gains from the use of the that Rosary and saying her prayers will be dependent on the intensity of her devotion (her ex opere operantis) and God’s love for her.  After a few days, she has her Rosary blessed.

Girl's hands folded in prayer and holding rosary.

The next time she uses it, God, looking down, thinks to Himself “she is using those beads to keep track of her prayers, but my Church, in the person of one of her ministers, asked that I grant certain gifts to one who uses that particular Rosary”.  God then considers each of the requests made by His Church regarding the use of these Rosary beads and then fulfills them, according to His wisdom, mercy, and love.  Now, not only are the effects produced dependent upon devotion of the girl praying (her ex opere operantis), but certain effects produced are also depend upon the ex opere operantis Ecclesiae as the requests made by the Church over these Beads are answered by God based, not only on His love for the girl praying, but also based on His love for His Church.

From the above, we can see that the ex opere operantis Ecclesiae effects, produced by God in conjunction with the use of the Church’s Sacramentals, are dependent upon what the Church requests for when she blesses the item and God’s own wisdom in the distribution of His gifts.  This, then, sheds lights on why the blessing of the Rosary was written as it was – with the Church requesting, but not guaranteeing, certain effects.  To further illustrate this point, The Old Catholic Encyclopedia states the following:

The special virtue recognized by the Church and experienced by Christians in the Sacramentals consists in the official prayers whereby we implore God to pour forth special graces on those who make use of the Sacramentals. These prayers move God to give graces which He would not otherwise give, and when not infallibly acceded to it is for reasons known to His Wisdom. God is aware of the measure in which He should bestow His gifts…All the Sacramentals have not the same effect; this depends on the prayer of the Church which does not make use of the same urgency nor have recourse to the same Divine sources of merit. (s.v. Sacramentals)

The different ceremonies used by the Church explain why the use of one blessed item (say Blessed Salt) is said to produce different effects when compared to the use of another item (say a Rosary).  Additionally, this means that when there are different ceremonies and prayers used in the blessing of similar items, say two Rosaries blessed using different ceremonies and prayers, the possible divine favors associated with the use of one will be different from the divine favors associated with the use of the other.  Not all blessings are the same, nor do all blessings request God to provide the same divine gifts.  It is advantageous to the faithful, then, not only to have their items blessed, but also to ensure that the blessings used fully express the specific effects the Church wishes to attach to each different type of item in order to ensure that the greatest possible spiritual benefit, from the reverent and devout use of their Sacramentals, may be received.

Fr. William Rock, FSSP was ordained in the fall of 2019 and is currently Assistant Pastor at Mater Misericordiae parish in Phoenix, AZ. 

October 12, 2020

Authority and the Open Mind

We need authority to live almost as much as we need air and sunlight.

Authority is required for order and harmony. We move to a new location and ask someone we know if he could recommend a good doctor; in other words, we use that person as an authority. We are selective in what avenues we use to obtain accurate news of current events or the weather. We trust the airline who employs the pilot who flies the plane we are sitting on.

There could be a long list of examples, but the key point is that we seek out authority in most instances of our lives because we are not competent, are not capable, and don’t have the time to do the individual labor involved in finding out everything on our own.

Even if we were, it would not be appropriate in the majority of cases, as there is an expectation for us to accept the authority structures around a given need or circumstance. We see a dentist’s license displayed on the wall of her office, and that should be sufficient; it would be inappropriate to want to see the scores of her board examinations.

Our reason, made for truth, constantly seeks after trustworthy authority in its search for truth. One trusted authority leads us to another.

But in today’s age where “open-mindedness” is praised as a virtue, the underlying impetus for open-mindedness (particularly in the realm of ethics and morality) amounts to a challenge to established authority. Those wishing to subvert and undermine our society, like any revolutionary force, always need to call into question the structures responsible for that authority’s existence and sow seeds of doubt about its integrity and trustworthiness.

This is as old as Eve, though. The serpent questions her about whether God actually said something and meant it in the way she thought; Satan is quite clever, starting with some truth and then twisting it for his own devices.

In tempting Eve, the devil – the first revolutionary – wanted her to transfer where she placed her trust and authority. Some command, some truth, was dependent upon God, and the serpent wanted to compromise that. He succeeded.

After conversing with the devil (one of several mistakes she made), Eve’s correct perception of God’s command was altered; she doubted God’s trustworthiness, acted contrary to His command, and all hell broke loose as a result.

Putting things back together would take a long time and come at a great price.

Evidently, we must select well who we hold in authority; but sometimes we do not get to choose.

We witness with genuine alarm how our civil authority structures are called into question, making us feel a bit exposed, yet these structures still command respect.

It is no different with the Church. Failures within various sectors of the Church can also leave us doubting her authority and the integrity and truth of the Faith. Any legitimate authority carries responsibility with it, and scandal is the result when this responsibility is neglected.

Because of the Church’s mission to proclaim the truth of the Gospel for the salvation of souls until the end of time, the greatest authority and responsibility rest upon her. No wonder why Christ sternly warned about scandal, because it undermines the integrity of an authority that ought to be trusted for the sake of truth and security, causing far-reaching damage (cf. Mt. 18:7-10).

But while the failures of the human element of the Church can be evident and egregious (the behavior of the Apostles at the time of our Lord’s arrest was indicative of what the Church would look forward to through the centuries), our Faith constantly challenges us to look for the divine element through it all and to remember the words of St. Peter: Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of everlasting life (Jn. 6:69).

The Church still remains the only revealed and certain path of salvation; the constitution of the Church does not change because of scandal; governance of souls is still dependent upon the hierarchy in union with the Roman See; and the administering of the Sacraments is still left within the hands of priests, men taken from amongst men, ordained for men in things that appertain to God, complete with all their fallen humanity (cf. Heb. 5:1).

Like a music score with all the correct notes written in it, we have the deposit of Faith formulated in both Creed and catechism, with a long Sacred Tradition to rely on when the musicians go off-key.

Despite the failures of the Apostles, our Lord remained faithful to them. He kept all His promises to a motley crew that seemed to deserve so little from Him. He prayed for them, that they be unified, and He endured the Cross for this prayer to be realized through the centuries, in view of the failures and scandals that would come. The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent bear it away (Mt. 11:12).

So how pleasing must it be to our Lord when we hold firm to the Faith and remain faithful to the structure He established. The truth at times may be obscured by weakness, failure, and scandal, but it is never destroyed and will always rise again.

That belief alone should keep us from being too open-minded when the devil comes to make us doubt the authority of the Church, prompting us to take to heart the words of Justin Martyr: I open my mind like I open my mouth, ready to close it on something solid.

Wise is the man who knows what to close his mind on, because his eternal survival is dependent on it.

October 9, 2020

Press Release: Statement on Calls for the Legal Codification of Abortion in the USA

Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary

October 7th, Anno Domini 2020.

Statements have come to our attention in which political candidates have called for the permanent legal codification of abortion throughout the United States.

The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter wishes to remind all Americans, and the Catholic faithful in particular, of the clear teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.”

Furthermore, Holy Mother Church has repeatedly condemned abortion as a grave evil.

Catholic voters in the United States are called to prudently assess candidates, making every effort to support those who can secure the greatest amount of good and least amount of harm. However, no Catholic in good conscience may support any legislation that directly contradicts the moral law.

The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter renews its commitment, during the month of October, to pray that the grace of divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, and that all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, may be enabled, by God’s aid, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

October 7, 2020

The Beads that Vanquish Goliath

“As for the Rosary, we sometimes meet people who despise it, considering it a devotion fit for children and pious women. Yet, did not Jesus say that we must recapture the humility of little children if we are to enter into the kingdom of heaven?  (Mt. 18:3)”

“Here is an example to help you understand the efficacy of the Rosary. You remember the story of David who vanquished Goliath. What steps did the young Israelite take to overthrow the giant? He struck him in the middle of the forehead with a pebble from his sling. If we regard the Philistine as representing evil and all its powers: heresy, impurity, pride, we can consider the little stones from the sling capable of overthrowing the enemy as symbolizing the Aves of the Rosary. The ways of God are entirely different from our ways. To us it seems necessary to employ powerful means in order to produce great effects. This is not God’s method; quite the contrary. He likes to choose the weakest instruments that He may confound the strong. (1 Cor 1:27)”

“Now, why is the Rosary so efficacious? First of all, on account of the sublimity of the prayers which make it up. The Pater comes to us directly from the love and sanctity of the Eternal Father by the lips of His Son Jesus; the Ave was brought down from heaven with the salutation of the angel Gabriel. The Church, as the interpreter of the needs of her children, has added a petition to this salutation: she makes us repeat to Mary one hundred and fifty times the request that she may be with us now and at the hour of our death.”

“Then again, the recitation of the Rosary makes us relive the different stages of the Redemption. Each event in the life of Christ gives forth, as it were, a divine power, and this power operates on us when we meditate on the scenes of the Gospel. Through the Rosary, we render to the Savior, but the mediation of Mary, the worship of our thought and of our love, in His childhood, in His suffering, and in His glory, and in virtue of this contact of faith many divine aids are accorded to us. Besides, in the actions of the Virgin, all so simple and at the same time so generous, we find many examples of virtues to imitate, many inspirations of hope, of charity, of joy. ”

-from Blessed Columba Marmion, Christ the Ideal of the Priest.

The Liturgical Sources of Carroll’s Prayer for the USA

Given Fr. Stinson’s initiative of prayer for October, it is a perfect time for a more in-depth examination of Archbishop Carroll’s “Prayer for the Church and the Civil Authorities“.

Archbishop John Carroll
Archbishop John Carroll

This prayer has been a part of American Catholicism almost since the Republic’s founding–indeed, it could rightly be said that it is the American Catholic devotion par excellence, given its long history and its prominent presence in myriad devotional manuals and Missals, notably including the Baltimore Manual of Prayer (1888), the New Roman Missal of Fr. Lasance (1945).

Structurally, Carroll’s prayer consists of a series of orations imploring God’s assistance on behalf of:

* the catholicity and preservation of the Church
* the ecclesial hierarchy
* the Federal government
* the state government and judiciary
* the citizens of the United States
* the faithful departed

Conceptually these seem to draw from the Intercessions in the Good Friday Mass of the Presanctified, which has a similar progression of prayers for the Church, the Pope, the clergy, the Faithful, and for rulers, etc. In fact, the opening of Carroll’s prayer is a direct translation from the first collect of the Good Friday liturgy:

We pray Thee, O Almighty and Eternal God, who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy; that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue, with unchanging faith, in the confession of Thy name.

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui gloriam tuam omnibus in Christo gentibus revelasti: custodi opera misericoriæ tuæ; ut Ecclesia tua, toto orbe diffusa, stabili fide in confessione tui nominis perseverat.

Following this are similarly-constructed but apparently new prayers, specifically tailored to the government established by the 1787 Constitution. The offices of President and Congress, Governors, and the judiciary are directly referenced. Carroll may have composed these petitions himself, perhaps influenced by a vaguely similar prayer published in 1789 by the Abbe Claude de la Poterie and recited each Sunday at the Church of the Holy Cross in Boston.

The final paragraph, however, is again directly liturgical. Much of its language is taken verbatim from the Commemoration of the Dead in the Roman Canon (Memento etiam):

“Finally, we pray Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember (Memento) the souls of Thy servants (famulorum famularumque) departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith, and repose in the sleep of peace (qui nos praecesserunt cum signo fidei, et dormiunt in somno pacis).”

Carroll’s prayer then names various categories of the departed: parents, relations, and friends, etc. that are not specifically mentioned in the Mass. It concludes, however, with an almost exact quote from the Canon, the only difference being Carroll’s insertion of the word “everlasting.”

“To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace.”

 Ipsis, Domine, et omnibus in Christo quiescentibus, locum refrigerii, lucis et pacis, ut indulgeas, deprecamur.

Overall, while this composition shows much that has been newly tailored to the new government and the new situation of the Catholics in the United States, it also kept one foot firmly in tradition by modeling itself on immemorial liturgical prayer and by directly translating passages from the Roman Canon and the Solemn Intercessions of Good Friday.

And as this important part of the American Catholic patrimony has seen action in some of the nation’s most critical hours, including the Civil War, it seems only right to keep it close at hand in our own.

October 5, 2020

On the Motives of the North American Martyrs: Part 3

Concluded from Part 1 and Part 2.

Many think we enjoy a culture of freedom.

But amidst enslavement resulting from our gross economic irresponsibility, we are killing ourselves through contraception and abortion at a rate alarmingly greater than any Iroquois tomahawk could have ever achieved.  This is the reality the Catholic is confronted with today, and so we must beware of just going with the flow and burying our heads in the sand.

Granted, there is little we can do to stop certain things, but we can educate ourselves and evaluate how much we permit ourselves to be influenced by the culture we live in.

The Catholic is the sign of contradiction.

This does not mean we stand in opposition to everything, but rather that everything we do we strive to put under the influence of Christ. That is the mission spirit of Christ which compelled the Apostles to go and teach, a mission which must always begin with example, based upon that same grace-driven conviction that inspired the martyrs and all the saints to do it before us.

We all play a part in this – large or small, it does not matter – because each of us constitutes a cell of Christ’s Mystical Body.  We all must daily be willing to die to self, to embrace the Cross, and love Christ no matter what, refusing to make the world’s maxims of happiness our own.

How do we read the trials of the martyrs? Are we inspired to be less motivated by convenience, comfort, or human respect? Although we will likely be spared the physical tortures they had to endure, the mental tortures do run a close second, so let us not forget how our efforts are supposed to seed the world for the blossoms of new faith.

God is permitting the fields to be burned, and they stand in need of re-seeding.

Even though we are not in mortal danger at the present moment, let the martyrs’ examples inspire us to make most important what is most important: Sunday Mass and Holy Communion – that contact with Christ through the Mass – should hold the greatest importance in our lives. As the world tries to kick us down, let us be inspired by the heroes the Church gives us to lift us up, so that we are convinced of the power behind the Church’s mission.

Perhaps we will find inspiration to make an extra Mass during the week if possible, even if a little inconvenient, or to get to confession more regularly, or immediately if the case calls for it.

Maybe their example will inspire us come to terms with some suffering we have to endure, or – better yet – need to embrace; maybe it will make us think twice about the movies we watch, or music we listen to, or the websites we view or the clothes we wear; maybe their example will inspire fathers to lead their families in prayer, to abandon occasions of sin, and take their role as spiritual head seriously; to inspire mothers to realize that the chapped hands of their labors proves that the stigmata is not reserved only to mystics.

Should not the trials of the martyrs, in their efforts to spread the love of our Lord, inspire reconciliation between spouses and renewed commitment under difficulties?

Remember, our faith is seeded by those who have gone and suffered before us. Let us make a return for what we have been given by praying regularly, by uniting our sufferings with the Cross, by doing that family Rosary at least once a week, by making the First Fridays, and by doing everything we can to keep ourselves in a state of grace and increase it through works of charity.

One theme that runs through the lives of all the saints and martyrs is consistency and resignation to the trials God’s Providence permits so as to gain profit for eternity, and so we must pray for the same spirit of the missionary-martyrs if we want to reap the same kinds of fruits, whatever our trials may be – and we should want to, because it could mean all the difference between a life without Jesus Christ and a life with Him.

Ever think why the hearts of those two disciples burned as they walked unknowingly with Christ on the road to Emmaus, as He expounded the divine truths about our Redemption?

It was because that was what they were thirsting for. Our own thirst for Christ will make others thirsty, and so we should all seek and cultivate that same desire, especially when the chips seem down – ask for it, pray for it.

For that is what mattered most to these saints and enabled them to endure the pains they did, a veritable labor of love for fruit they would never see in this life, a labor that magnified Christ in their bodies, so as to forfeit their lives on the battlefield of salvation for the love of Christ, only to gain Him forever after death and possess that true joy no one can ever take away.

October 2, 2020

Prayer for the Church and Civil Authorities

In this time of trial for the Church and the nation, and amidst continued restrictions on the sacraments and churches, North American District Superior Fr. Michael Stinson, FSSP has asked friends of the Fraternity to recite the Prayer for the Church and the Civil Authorities daily during October 2020, invoking God’s intervention on behalf of our ecclesiastical and civil leaders.


Prayer for the Church and the Civil Authorities

Archbishop John Carroll, A.D. 1800

We pray Thee, O Almighty and Eternal God, who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy; that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue, with unchanging faith, in the confession of Thy name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life our chief bishop, Francis, the Vicar of our Lord Jesus Christ in the government of His Church; our own Bishop, (or Archbishop,) N., (if he is not consecrated, our Bishop-elect); all other Bishops, Prelates, and Pastors of the Church ; and especially those who are appointed to exercise among us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee, O God of might, wisdom, and justice, through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgments decreed, assist, with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude, the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people, over whom he presides, by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our role and government; so, that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge, and may perpetuate to us the blessings of equal liberty.

We pray for his Excellency the Governor of this State, for the members of the Assembly, for all Judges, Magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare; that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise to Thy unbounded mercy all our brethren and fellow-citizens, throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge, and sanctified in the observance of most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and, after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith, and repose in the sleep of peace: the souls of our parents, relations, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation; and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship, and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance. To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

As October is dedicated to the Blessed Mother, readers are also urged to unite their rosaries under her title of Our Lady of Victory.

September 29, 2020

On the Motives of the North American Martyrs: Part 2

Continued from Part 1.

As we know, the phrase Church militant is not very popular nowadays, possibly because the sound of it seems so opposed to the modern conception of love and peace and nicety which, for the most part, is romanticized and sentimental.

Catholicism, at its core, is anything but romanticized and sentimental.

Since it originates in Christ, our holy Faith when lived has the same effect as the Incarnation: penetrating, invigorating, convicting, transforming, certain, secure, filling one with hope and zeal, especially because it creates a perspective on suffering that gives real meaning to it. Of course, being sympathetic and compassionate to the sufferings of another, no matter who they are – which we all must be in imitation of Christ – hardly means sacrificing one ounce of the integrity of the Faith or our conviction of truth. And this is how our lives are to be seen as forfeit for the sake of Christ.

Do we not find this to be, then, the motive of the martyrs that blanket the history of the Church?

When reading the history of the missionary efforts of the North American Martyrs, our modern “tolerant” and politically correct world has no choice but to hold their labor in disdain, calling it insensitive, perhaps imperialistic, an unwelcome and unnecessary intrusion upon autonomous and “peaceful” cultures that were best left to themselves (regardless if, in reality, they were locked in brutal war with one another).

If the injustices committed during colonization are cited as support for this argument, and there were many, we need to remember that those injustices were at the hands of corrupt individuals or governments seeking to exploit the natives for monetary gain. That is not the spirit of Christ, and the missionary efforts had nothing to do with that; in fact, throughout history we see the missionaries condemning such things.

Quite to the contrary, St. Isaac Jogues and his companions looked upon the natives, not in some economic and utilitarian way, but as souls Christ had redeemed by His Blood who, since they did not know that, were considered as the poorest of the poor.

When was the last time we heard of the poor described as that, of those ignorant of the Faith rather than being monetarily and materially needy? To these missionaries, the natives were truly victims of darkness and idolatry and stood in need of the real freedom only the Holy Faith could give, a depraved nation on account of never hearing the name of Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, ignorant of the perfections and wonders of His life, the power of His Cross, and the effects of His Sacraments.

This is why they sought to evangelize them.

Think about all that we as Catholics take for granted: Baptism, the Holy Mass, the Holy Eucharist, the parables of our Lord that we hold so dear and that give us faith and hope, the Our Father, the Blessed Mother, the Rosary, the security of the Church’s maternal authority under the Pope and Magisterium – all these things and much more did the missionaries regard as far more important than their own lives so as to impart them to ignorant peoples for the salvation of their souls, empowering them with the responsibility and freedom to love Christ, taking Christ’s command to heart to go and teach and baptize.

And it is this flame of holy charity that compelled them to repeatedly undergo unspeakable tortures to plant the seeds for the eventual conversion of all the tribes to the true Faith of Jesus Christ and to His Holy Catholic Church, to turn them away from darkness and frustrate the advance of Satan’s kingdom.

When we read the epic accounts of the North American martyrs, perhaps we stand in disbelief over what our Lord asked these men to endure for His sake in order to secure the Kingdom for themselves and for others.

In fact, these missionary-martyrs would see little visible profit from their efforts (their journals even make mention of discouragement over the seemingly low conversion rate, although trying to temper that with a willingness to suffer for Christ).

We are the ones who get to enjoy the fruit reaped from the seeds of their humble and inspiring sacrifices, a bounty in which we are included. Therefore, the true apostle cannot stand to have things just live and let live if, in so doing, ignorance of Christ triumphs. Granted, sometimes we cannot say anything to change a situation, but we can endure patiently and use that time to strengthen hope in Christ’s victory.

For these martyrs, it was the conviction of their faith, a conviction which the world calls intolerant but from which the believer draws inspiration, that drove them literally into the wilderness to follow Christ’s call.

Is the call then any less for the Catholic today?

Perhaps it is even more imperative. We live in moral wilderness. Is the world really anything different than the savage conditions the martyrs labored under? Don’t let the iPods and computers and technology fool you: they amount more or less to a smoke-screen of sophistication that hides a prevailing blindness in regard to eternal truths and realities.

Ironically, in this age of information, the one thing that ought to be known goes ignored, and so the modern world is no less a victim of the idolatry of selfishness, greed and lust. Even more depraved, in fact, from once upon a time having heard the name of Jesus Christ and then rejecting it: He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.

To be continued….

September 28, 2020