Prayer and Fasting

by Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Prior of Silverstream Priory, under the patronage of Our Lady of the Cenacle, in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. From his blog: Vultus Christi

In the Sight of the Nations

The impending presidential elections in the United States, and also the plight of Christians affected by the conflict in Syria, have motivated many to give themselves to prayer and fasting, begging God, through the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, to manifest His power and His mercy “in the sight of the nations” (Psalm 97:2). These, however, are not the only situations that cry out for prayer and fasting.

Against the Lord and Against His Christ

There is not a nation on earth where Christ is not suffering in the members of His Body. There is not a nation on earth where the Catholic faith is not threatened by the machinations of the wicked. The prophecy of the psalmist unfolds, even as I write: “Why have the Gentiles raged, and the people devised vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the princes met together, against the Lord and against his Christ” (Psalm 2:1-2).

Shall the Son of Man Find Faith on Earth?

While certain political situations are, without any doubt, critical at the moment, there is, I believe, one single crisis underlying all others and causing them. It is the loss of faith. I am haunted by Our Lord’s words: “The Son of man, when he cometh, shall He find, think you, faith on earth? ” (Luke 18:8). The Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI sounds the alarm.

Ignorance and Loss of Faith

Families that have preserved the Catholic faith and transmitted it from one generation to the next for well over a thousand years — and this, often at great cost — are seeing more and more adults to whom the Faith means little or nothing, and children deprived of the sacraments, and growing up in complete ignorance of the religious heritage that is rightfully theirs. The reasons for this are many and complex: among them are, I think, the modernist sabotage of liturgical reform following the Second Vatican Council; the destruction of sound catechesis and sacramental preparation; the pervasive climate of dissent that began in 1968 with the widespread refusal of the teaching of Humanae Vitae; and the shamelessly anti-Catholic bias of the secular media.

Maternal Side

My maternal ancestors are rooted in the region around Alife in Campania (Italy). The diocese of Alife was, according to a well-established tradition, evangelized by Saint Peter the Apostle himself, as he made his way to Rome. This means, in effect, that on my mother’s side, my family can claim 2000 years of Catholic and Apostolic Christianity. It does not mean, necessarily, that the flame of the faith burned tall and bright in every generation; it does, however, mean, the the light of the faith was transmitted, even if only in the form of a spark, from one generation to the next down through the ages.

Paternal Side

My father’s side of the family can claim a faith going back to the evangelization of Ireland by Saint Patrick in the 5th century. The cruel persecution of Catholics in Ireland under Elizabeth I, and then Oliver Cromwell, and the centuries of Penal Laws that followed, did not succeed in tearing the Faith out of the hearts of the Irish. Dungeon, fire, exile, sword, famine, and emigration were not able to snuff out the Catholic faith of the Irish. Only in the past forty years have we begun to see children of Irish heritage deprived of the very soul of that heritage: the Catholic faith incarnated in an heroic devotion to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, to the Priesthood, and to the Rosary.

The Real Threat: Loss of Faith

My intention is not to minimize the gravity of the upcoming presidential elections or the sufferings of Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere. It is, rather, to suggest that the loss of faith, particularly in the old Catholic nations of Europe, and among the descendents of CatholIc immigrants in the United States, represents a greater threat to peace, to freedom, and to the protection of human life from conception until natural death, than does anything else. The conscience of voters cannot be formed in a kind of pre-election crash course. Catholic consciences flourish in Catholic families, and Catholic families flourish in a Catholic culture.

The Shortness of Life on Earth

Children deprived of the Catholic heritage that is rightfully theirs will, sooner or later, suffer from a chill in their hearts and a terrible darkness in their spirits. I have no doubt that God, in His infinite goodness, will devise a way to reach out to them in their distress, and that the Blessed Virgin Mary will offer them the care of her Maternal Heart in this earthly vale of tears. All the same, I fear for them because this life is short, and because this planet has become a precarious place to live, and because the human heart can, alas, become accustomed to living in the chill and darkness of a practical atheism, and so grow hardened in sin.

Yes, Pray and Fast

I would propose that as we pray and fast in the days ahead, we meditate the prayer of Azarias in the Book of Daniel, and make its sentiments our own:

Blessed art thou, O Lord, the God of our fathers, and thy name is worthy of praise, and glorious for ever: For thou art just in all that thou hast done to us, and all thy works are true, and thy ways right, and all thy judgments true. For thou hast executed true judgments in all the things that thou hast brought upon us, and upon Jerusalem the holy city of our fathers: for according to truth and judgment, thou hast brought all these things upon us for our sins. For we have sinned, and committed iniquity, departing from thee: and we have trespassed in all things: And we have not hearkened to thy commandments, nor have we observed nor done as thou hadst commanded us, that it might go well with us.

Wherefore all that thou hast brought upon us, and every thing that thou hast done to us, thou hast done in true judgment: And thou hast delivered us into the hands of our enemies that are unjust, and most wicked, and prevaricators, and to a king unjust, and most wicked beyond all that are upon the earth. And now we cannot open our mouths: we are become a shame and reproach to thy servants, and to them that worship thee. Deliver us not up for ever, we beseech thee, for thy name’s sake, and abolish not thy covenant. And take not away thy mercy from us for the sake of Abraham thy beloved, and Isaac thy servant, and Israel thy holy one:

To whom thou hast spoken, promising that thou wouldst multiply their seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that is on the sea shore. For we, O Lord, are diminished more than any nation, and are brought low in all the earth this day for our sins. Neither is there at this time prince, or leader, or prophet, or holocaust, or sacrifice, or oblation, or incense, or place of firstfruits before thee,That we may find thy mercy: nevertheless in a contrite heart and humble spirit let us be accepted. As in holocausts of rams, and bullocks, and as in thousands of fat lambs: so let our sacrifice be made in thy sight this day, that it may please thee: for there is no confusion to them that trust in thee.

And now we follow thee with all our heart, and we fear thee, and seek thy face. Put us not to confusion, but deal. with us according to thy meekness, and according to the multitude of thy mercies. And deliver us according to thy wonderful works, and give glory to thy name, O Lord: And let all them be confounded that shew evils to thy servants, let them be confounded in all thy might, and let their strength be broken. And let them know that thou art the Lord, the only God, and glorious over all the world.

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13 Responses to Prayer and Fasting

  1. Pastorious says:

    The rather grim and apocalyptic Dom Kirby speaks of the “plight of Christians affected by the conflict in Syria”, and it’s unfortunately true that Christians (and Muslims) have suffered here and in other ‘Arab Spring’ countries. I hope the Syrian Melchit tradition with its beautiful chants continues in peace as it has done for a very long time.

    Yet it’s a strange fact that under dictators like Ghaddafi, Assad, Hussein and Mubarak, Christians were largely left unharmed.

    Anyone know why?

  2. toadspittle says:

    .

    “…and the shamelessly anti-Catholic bias of the secular media.”

    Toad, cowering under the hail of wails (and the odd brickbat) from Dom,
    will confine his response to the quote above. Dom is Irish, as he tells us, at some considerable length.
    Does he really, seriously, believe that there is more “anti-Catholic bias in the secular media” in his country now than there was 100 years ago?
    That the “anti-Catholic bias in the secular media” in the North is worse than it was 50 years ago?

    Grounds for a bit of optimism here, rather than all this hand-wringing blarney, thinks Toad.

    Toad also suspects that, Godless though they may be considered these days, a great many of the Irish people, freed from the grim talons of the Black Crows (as he has heard them described), have never been happier, or more cheerful, or more sane, as far as religion goes.
    The same can be said for Spain and England, he thinks. (Of other countries, he knows too little to offer an opinion.) The Church, whenever it gets the chance, bullies people unmercifully. Will do so again, too, given another chance, he also thinks. Dom, clearly, would like to give it that chance.

    To be fair to Catholics, all churches do the same. The Anglicans bullied every other religion in England for centuries. The Muslims are currently bullying everyone they can, everywhere they can.

    Of course, Toad might be dead wrong about all this. If so, he’d very much like to be told in what way.

    As to today’s U.S. elections, don’t get all fretful, advises Toad.
    America voters will get the president they deserve.

  3. Pastorious says:

    T says that “American voters will get the President they deserve”. True, but hold on! Don’t forget that the US political system is the best that money can buy.

  4. toadspittle says:

    .
    “…life is short, and because this planet has become a precarious place to live…”

    Perhaps, if no answer is forthcoming from Dom himself – though that would be best – someone else can enlighten us on when this planet was not a precarious place on which to live?

  5. Pastorious says:

    T refers to the Irish and the “Black Crows”. I havent heard that expression but my mother’s family left Ireland for the UK because of poverty, British colonial thugs, their Black and Tan terrorists – and priests. All were lumped together, and we knew of this as children.

    My mother remained a Catholic all her life, may God help that good woman, for her faith as Dom says, was not “snuffed out” by these Four Horsemen.

    Dom complains about a widespread loss of faith – but he fails to enquire as to why.

  6. Pastorious says:

    Correction – he does give reasons for the decline of faith which appear on his website, tho’ not here.

    ‘Modernists’ of course, destruction of catechesis, a climate of dissent; none of this stacks up. There’s too much missing.

  7. kathleen says:

    “Yet it’s a strange fact that under dictators like Ghaddafi, Assad, Hussein and Mubarak, Christians were largely left unharmed.

    Anyone know why?”

    That’s an interesting question Pastorius.
    Speaking personally: no, I don’t know why for sure, but I could hazard a guess.
    Dictators rule with a heavy hand; they don’t tolerate troublemakers and uprisings of bellicose groups attacking others.
    The Christian populations of the countries of those dictators you mention were certainly better off before, and, as unfortunate and ironic as that is – it’s true. When those dictators are removed, the historical Christian population is seen as siding with the West (the “Christian” West), even though that’s not necessarily the case at all, and so they are persecuted.

    Another reason could be the intransigent factions of Islam, that take over once the dictators are ousted, want an Islamic state where no other religions are tolerated.

  8. Pastorious says:

    Yes an interesting view K, which may well be justified. Yet, there was no problem for Christian populations in these countries till a decade or so ago. The British and the French interfered in/invaded these countries (and more), for a century or so, but Christians were not seen to ‘side with the West’ as far as I know.

    What has changed is the recent attacks on these countries by the West, led by the US, and if you are right, then the ancient Christian populations are paying the price of this, in the form of Islamic extremists who may have appeared due to the West’s ‘crusade’, as Bush crowed, plus widespread anti-Muslim views. I guess most Muslims feel aggrieved to be blamed for events they were not responsible for, just as Catholics would be if they were blamed for the actions of a handful of crazed Catholics.

    Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians fled the country after the chaos left by the West, once they got the oil. We don’t hear much about their plight do we? Very sad.

    Not without good reason, you use the word ‘intransigent’ for Islamic factions, which of course means ‘uncompromising’. :)

  9. kathleen says:

    Unfortunately it is a lot more than just a “handful” of “crazed” Islamists who, whilst screaming, “Allahu akbar”, murder, plunder, destroy anything or anyone to do with Christianity. There is absolutely no comparison with the wrongdoings of any other religion, either in our present day or in the past, with the fanatical islamic persecution ongoing in the world today.
    Of course not all Muslims behave like this……. we would be in a real pickle if that were the case! And for that precise reason, I believe it is imperative that we support and aid the Muslim moderates, who really detest the fanatical elements in their countries…. and ours! In fact, if we don’t do that – if we just put all Muslims in the same boat – we are sunk.

    I quite agree with you that we do not hear nearly enough about the plight of the Iraqi Christians (or of any of the barbaric Christian persecution happening today), and as many Iraqi Christians fled to Syria to escape the persecution in Iraq, they are now once again suffering the same in the country where they took refuge. It is a terrible and deplorable situation.

    One more thing I forgot to add yesterday: not all dictators are favourable to Christianity by any manner of means. Did you know that over 8.000 Christians (mostly Catholic) have been murdered by the Communist dictatorship in North Korea? I have heard a quarter of a million Christians in China have suffered the same fate!!…… And then let’s not forget Vietnam, Burma, etc., etc.

    If you have just under an hour to spare, listen to this interesting interview of Kathy Sinnott with Lord David Alton (ACN member) about Christian persecution on EWTN’s Celtic Connections: http://ewtn.edgeboss.net/download/ewtn/audiolibrary/celtconn_20120526.mp3

  10. toadspittle says:

    .

    “There is absolutely no comparison with the wrongdoings of any other religion, either in our present day or in the past, with the fanatical islamic persecution ongoing in the world today.”

    I take that to mean, Kathleen, that no matter how horrible Catholics and Protestants have been, mainly to each other – but also to to Aztecs, Incas, “Native Americans,” Muslims, Jews (of course!) and God knows who-all else – over the past few centuries, present- day Muslims are even worse.

    Well, very possibly. Though not a very elevating comparison, I suspect.

    However, I won’t argue. But let’s keep a sense of history, and proportion, here. What goes round, comes round.

    It would be unkind, and maybe unfair, to suggest “A plague on all their religious glass houses,” So I won’t.

    And none of us ought to be throwing any stones..

  11. Pastorious says:

    I agree with much of what K has to say above, but will say that those extreme Muslims are indeed a handful among the hundreds of millions of Muslims. And it must be accepted that the reason that there are Muslim extremists is because the ‘West’ armed, financed and supported them – the evil Taliban are the creation of the ‘West’. The West left hellish chaos in Iraq which lost a million dead by sanctions and illegal invasion – on a lie. I think that produced many ‘extremists’ as do the drone killings in Pakistan, Yemen etc. ‘We’ reap what we sow, and a failure to understand that drives antiMuslim bigotry. It always dismays me to see Christians join in this mob feeding frenzy – they should know better. But we have the example of N. Ireland to inform us about bigotry.

    I think of the murderous assaults on Islamic countries whenever the ‘extremists’ respond with violence.

  12. afmm says:

    What a lot of lefties CP&S has attracted. What a shame.

  13. Pastorious says:

    Facts, dear af, facts. What a lot of rightwing extremists are around!. Try to substitute the word ‘Catholic’ or ‘Jew’ for Muslim and try to be aware of history. Muslims today, you tomorrow.

    No more Nacht und Nebel from you, please?

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