by Fr David Stewart SJ
In early October, Pope Francis gave the Church an urgent new mission encouraging the faithful to pray every day the Holy Rosary with the intention that the Virgin Mary help the Church in these times of crisis, and to pray each day to St Michael the Archangel that he defend us against the attacks of the bad spirit.
During these last years and months, we in the Church have lived through difficult situations, brought about by shocking abuses of sex, power and conscience on the part of clerics, consecrated persons and lay people. Added to these are internal divisions in the Church. Certainly these are abetted by the evil spirit: ‘the mortal enemy of our human nature.’ (Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola 136)
We should be aware, or remind ourselves anew, that evil manifests itself in diverse ways and the Church’s mission of evangelisation is made more difficult, even discredited. The Church is all of us, the people of God, and all share this evangelising mission, while those who are called to be leaders have a particular responsibility. Part of this is our own responsibility for having let ourselves be drawn by passions which do not lead us to true life, such as: riches, vanity, and pride.
As St Ignatius saw, these are the stages by which the evil seducer seeks to draw us away, bringing first good thoughts and intentions, little by little drawing persons to his perverse intentions (discord, lies, etc). The ‘father of lies’, or Lucifer, desiring only to sow discord, often presents himself as an angel of light, under a cloak of good, leading into deceit, shame and confusion. Pope Francis sees this happening in and among the people of God at this historical moment.
During the month of October, therefore, the Holy Father invited us to pray every day the Holy Rosary with the intention that the Virgin Mary help the Church in these times of crisis, and to pray each day to St Michael the Archangel that he defend us against the attacks of the Devil. According to spiritual tradition, Michael is the chief of the celestial armies and the protector of the Church (Revelation 12:7-9).
Pope Francis invited us to pray at the conclusion of the Rosary that most ancient invocation to the Holy Mother of God, Sub Tuum Praesidium as well as the traditional prayer to St Michael ascribed to Pope Leo the XIII:
Under your protection
We fly to thy protection,
O holy Mother of God;
Do not despise our petitions
in our necessities,
but deliver us always
from all dangers,
O glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen.
St Michael prayer
St Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defence against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
Pope Francis reminded us in his Letter to the People of God of 20th August 2018, citing St Paul (1Cor 12:26), that ‘If one member suffers, all suffer together with it.’ When we experience the desolation which these ecclesial wounds produce in us, it serves us well to be with Mary ‘to insist more on prayer’ (St Ignatius Loyola, Spiritual Exercises 319), seeking to grow all the more in love and fidelity to the Church.’
Adapted from the worldwide message of International Director Fr Frederic Fornos SJ, with Fr Luis Ramirez SJ, International Assistant, and the international team of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.