Monday, April 28, 2014

Prayer for Persecuted Christians?

Edward Pentin has an article at the National Catholic Register on adding a prayer after all celebrations of the Sunday liturgy according to the various liturgical norms of the Latin Church as well as the Eastern Churches. Yes, it's nine days old, but I didn't see it til now...

There are a couple of interesting points.
It follows regular appeals from Pope Francis, who has urged people to speak out against persecution of Christians, whom he has likened to the Church’s first martyrs. Cardinal Timothy Dolan also made a point of bringing it to people’s attention. In his final speech as president of the U.S. bishops’ conference last November, he called on his brother bishops to champion the cause of people persecuted for their faith and to fight to protect religious freedom.
Yes, the present Bishop of Rome has made it quite clear that Truth in the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ is under attack as those who testify to Him as the Christ, the Son of the Living God are attacked and killed for this. St. Augustine provides the etymology for martyr in his first homily on the 1st Epistle of St. John. In Latin, at least at the time, they were referred to as testes, witnesses, which is rendered martyr in Greek. And what did Christ do as He entered into the world? "Pilate said to him, 'So you are a king?' Jesus answered, 'You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.' Pilate said to him, 'What is truth?'"

To die for the Truth of the Catholic and Apostolic faith is to share in the suffering of Our Lord, and in the Eastern traditions the martyrs are sometimes referred to as Passion-bearers, and it is to die for the revelation of the way God works to bring us into His interior life. Martyrdom is to live a life worthy of the Gospel. From my perspective, it seems that it is not so much the suffering that is undergone that is the problem, but it is the denial of charity and truth that precedes persecution. This in effect shuts off evangelization, at least on human terms, for God's grace can surely lead persecutors to repent (in fact it does, if St. Magnus, the centurion whose relics are kept at my home parish of St. Martin of Tours in Louisville KY is any example!).

Cardinal Dolan's comments remind me of Leo XIII's Libertas, which needs examining alongside Dignitatis Humanae and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. That'll probably have to wait for the "Fortnight for Freedom" once again being held by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

I have a suggestion for those prayers. It would be quite easy to make mandatory once again the Leonine Prayers, which did not call for the conversion of Russia. Granted, many people only remember them as the prayers for Russia, but it's a disservice on Pentin's part, though certainly not a malicious one, to describe them as calling for the conversion of Russia. The Leonine Prayers consist of 3 Hail Mary's, the Salve Regina, the Leonine prayer itself, and the simple prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. They were established and their intentions varied, from the release of the Papal States and once that occurred, for the conversion of Russia.  The language is applicable to many a situation and what better prayer for the persecuted than this one, "for the conversion of sinners and the liberty and exultation of our Holy Mother the Church"?

And maybe it's just me, but I am not a fan of the prayer at the end of the article. Perhaps in addition to the Leonine prayers could be composed by people are familiar with the tradition of Christian  prayer and give us one that is more elevated than a prayer composed as if the 1973 ICEL translation was still the authoritative translation.

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