Sunday, May 27, 2012
“What’s old becomes new again” is all I can say in response to a letter sent to the priests of the Diocese of La Crosse by our Ordinary, Bishop Callahan, this week. Bishop Callahan is joining many of his brother bishops in re-instituting the practice of praying the prayer to St. Michael at the end of Mass in the Diocese of La Crosse. And so, in response to our bishop’s direction we will begin this practice in all of our parishes within our tri-parish cluster next week – giving me time to get cards printed and giving you time to digest and prepare spiritually for this change in practice.
The obvious first question is: “Why is this being done?” The answer is that the bishop’s, following the lead of Pope Benedict XVI continue to rely on the Church’s firm belief that prayer must be our first remedy for the ills we experience in our lives and in society. We must also never forget that the foundation for action, if it is to be godly and effective, must be prayer.
Over time the ills we face in society change. When Pope Leo XIII first wrotethe prayer he had just experienced a vision of a conversation between Christ and Satan. He immediately sat down and wrote the longer version of this prayer and asked that priests pray it is often as possible for the salvation of souls. (The longer version is four pages long! I offer it for our parishes each Saturday evening. The shorter version that we have all learned growing up I offer every day.) Starting in the 20’s many parishes began offering this prayer more specifically for the conversion of Russia and other countries being taken over by Communism. My own parents recall offering this prayer for the release of Cardinal József Mindszenty.
Today we are asked to pray for the Freedom of Religion which has been under attack for some time before the recent HHS mandate situation. In addition to the mandate, the Obama administration tried a little over a year ago to force a Catholic school in Indiana, to take back a teacher who was clearly inappropriate to hold her position. It went all the way to the United States Supreme Court where, thankfully, the Church prevailed. It has also happened recently that the state of Alabama passed a law forbidding clergy (including Catholic priests) to baptize or in any other way serve those who may be undocumented aliens. Obviously, this is a completely unacceptable infringement on our freedom to practice our religion. I am not an agent of the government. My only concern, and it SHOULD be my only concern, is whether or not someone wants to know Jesus Christ. And if a baptized Catholic comes seeking my assistance I, of course, have a moral obligation to serve them. I am an agent of GOD, not Caesar!
We must all remember that the freedom of religion is not the freedom to pray how we want. It is the freedom to live according to our most fundamental beliefs – including the care and education of whomever is in need (remember the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy?). Our nation was founded on this conviction and it is enshrined in writing in our Constitution (the First Amendement). And so we follow our bishop’s lead and storm heaven in prayer, begging God’s mercy, wisdom, and fortitude on us as we step up to defend this most precious right for ourselves and our posterity.