In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily…
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name;
Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
On Oct. 1, 1884, Pope Leo XIII had a deeply disturbing mystical experience at Mass. He had just finished celebrating in his private chapel when he suddenly stood transfixed in…
On Oct. 1, 1884, Pope Leo XIII had a deeply disturbing mystical experience at Mass. He had just finished celebrating in his private chapel when he suddenly stood transfixed in front of the altar. For perhaps 10 minutes he stood there as if in a trance, his face drained of color. Then he went to his office and composed a prayer to St. Michael. He told his staff the prayer should be offered throughout the Church.
He explained that he had heard two voices in the vicinity of the tabernacle. He believed they were the voices of Our Lord and of Satan. Pope Leo heard Satan boast that he could destroy the Church in 75 or 100 years, if given the opportunity. Then he heard Our Lord give Satan permission to try. (This sounds somewhat similar to what we read in Job 1.)
The prayer which Pope Leo XIII composed was 10 times the length of the version we use today. Use of the prayer was discontinued in 1964. Thirty years later, in his Regina Coeli address, Pope John Paul II revived use of the prayer. He said, “Although the prayer is no longer recited at the end of Mass, I ask every one not to forget it and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against the forces of darkness and against the spirit of the world.” The pope clearly intended that we should offer this prayer in our homes as well. The prayer, by the way, is as follows:
St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense 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.
It depends a bit on what is meant by the word “hear.” It can never be argued in a literal sense that God cannot hear something. For nothing escapes God’s…
It depends a bit on what is meant by the word “hear.” It can never be argued in a literal sense that God cannot hear something. For nothing escapes God’s notice, and in no sense could He be said to be incapable of hearing a prayer.
However, if “hear” means that a prayer would be favorably received by God, that is another matter.
Generally, it would seem that God pays little heed to the prayers of unrepentant mortal sinners, though there are surely some exceptions. For example, in Scripture we read, “No, the hand of the Lord is not too short to save, / nor his ear too dull to hear. / Rather, it is your crimes that separate you from God, / It is your sins that make him hide his face / so that he does not hear you” (Is 59:1-2). Or again, “Those who shut their ears to the cry of the poor / will themselves call out and not be answered” (Prv 21:13).
So it would seem that there is a good basis for concluding that unrepentant mortal sinners are going to have a pretty hard time getting their prayers answered as they would like.
However, experience teaches that even mortal sinners do partake of many of God’s blessings. And this, too, Jesus affirms in Scripture: “The [Lord] makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Mt 5:45).
How God chooses to bless or withhold blessings from the unrighteous is therefore not an all or nothing proposition, but is caught up in the mystery of His providence. Perhaps He knows a person will one day repent; perhaps He knows that an answered prayer now will help lead to repentance later. Perhaps, too, He knows that to withhold a blessing is the better course. Thus God remains sovereign in applying wisdom to each situation.
That said, we ought to remain sober about the need to pray in righteousness. For if God cannot trust us with the blessings we already have, why should He trust us with further blessings?
The First Letter of John has some advice about praying with and for those in serious sin: “If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly” (5:15-17). While the instruction of John here is complex, he is saying in effect that, if we are reasonably sure that someone is in serious sin, we ought skip over praying for lesser things like a new job for them, etc. Rather the essential and only really efficacious prayer for them is to pray for their repentance. For to be dead in sins is to rather powerfully block any other blessings.
So, while God can bless even serious sinners, we ought not presuppose that He will do so and make our priority to pray for lifesaving repentance.
It is an ancient tradition in the Catholic Church that when plagues strike the people would recite litanies. A litany is a series of invocations, usually of saints or titles…
It is an ancient tradition in the Catholic Church that when plagues strike the people would recite litanies. A litany is a series of invocations, usually of saints or titles of a saint, that ask for intercessory prayers. A litany is a prayer of petition.
Some litanies are public and others for private use only. The Directory on Popular Piety (No. 235) says, “The Litanies of the Saints contain elements deriving from both the liturgical tradition and from popular piety. They are expressions of the Church’s confidence in the intercession of the Saints and an experience of the communion between the Church of the heavenly Jerusalem and the Church on her earthly pilgrim journey.” Likewise, the Code of Canon Law states in canon 1166 that, “sacramentals are sacred signs which in a sense imitate the sacraments. They signify certain effects, especially spiritual ones, and they achieve these effects through the intercession of the Church.”
Certain litanies were popular when a plague struck a region or nation. Often they invoked saints that were known to be powerful intercessors for the sick or in case of natural disasters. Often they were prayed during processions in an antiphonal manner. One of the more popular litanies during the time of plague was the Litany of the Saints. In addition, particular saints were often called upon singularly or in groups, such as the 14 Holy Helpers.
In this time of pandemic, especially since public worship is difficult or impossible, we can still invoke saints and pray litanies. Popular devotions can help sustain our faith. We believe that we are part of the communion of saints and that their prayers are efficacious. The saints want to help us.
Here is a litany of some of the saints that were often invoked during times of sickness and plague. This litany is for private use only. Feel free to add your own special patrons.
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us. Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father in Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.
Holy Mary, Help of the Sick, pray for us.
Holy Mary, Health of the Roman People, pray for us.
Holy Mary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for us.
Holy Mary, Consoler of the Afflicted, pray for us.
St. Joseph, Spouse of the Virgin Mary, pray for us.
St. Joseph, Hope of the Sick, pray for us.
St. Joseph, Patron of the Dying, pray for us.
St. Joseph, Terror of Demons, pray for us.
St. Michael, Light and Hope of souls near death, pray for us.
St. Michael, our most sure aid, pray for us.
St. Michael, receiver of the souls of the elect after death, pray for us.
St. Raphael, God’s remedy, pray for us.
St. Gabriel, God’s messenger, pray for us.
Guardian Angel, my protector, pray for us.
All you holy angels, pray for us.
St. George, valiant martyr of Christ, pray for us.
St. Blaise, zealous bishop and benefactor of the poor, pray for us.
St. Erasmus, mighty protector of the oppressed, pray for us.
St. Pantaleon, miraculous exemplar of charity, pray for us.
St. Vitus, special protector of chastity, pray for us.
St. Christopher, mighty intercessor in dangers, pray for us.
St. Dionysius, shining mirror of faith and confidence, pray for us.
St. Cyriacus, terror of hell, pray for us.
St. Acacius, helpful advocate in death, pray for us.
St. Eustace, exemplar of patience in adversity, pray for us.
St. Giles, despiser of the world, pray for us.
St. Margaret of Antioch, valiant champion of the Faith, pray for us.
St. Catherine of Alexandria, victorious defender of the Faith and of purity, pray for us.
St. Barbara, mighty patroness of the dying, pray for us.
All you Fourteen Holy Helpers, pray for us.
St. Luke, patron of physicians, pray for us.
St. Agatha, patroness of nurses, pray for us.
St. Martin De Porres, patron of public health, pray for us.
St. Roch, who did expose your life to heal the sick, pray for us.
St. Sebastian, comforter of the dying, pray for us.
St. Corona, patroness of plague victims, pray for us.
St. Benedict, protector of those who cry to you, pray for us.
St. Charles Borromeo, whose selflessness during a great plague won the hearts even of your foes, pray for us.
St. Gregory the Great, whose prayers ended a plague, pray for us.
St. Aloysius Gonzaga, who died as a result of caring for the sick, pray for us.
St. Rosalie, by whose intercession a plague was ended, pray for us.
St. Casimir, known for generosity to the sick, pray for us.
Sts. Cosmas and Damian, holy brother-physicians, pray for us.
St. Camillus de Lellis, patron of the sick and health care workers, pray for us.
St. John of God, patron of hospitals, pray for us.
St. Frances of Rome, dedicated to the sick and the poor, pray for us.
St. Quirinus of Neuss, patron of those affected by plague, pray for us.
St. Anthony the Great, patron of those infected by disease, pray for us.
St. Edwin the Martyr, patron of pandemics, pray for us.
St. Damien of Molokai, compassionate to the sick and outcasts, pray for us.
St. Godeberta of Noyon, who miraculously brought an end to a plague, pray for us.
St. Henry Morse, who cared for plague victims, pray for us.
St. Marianne Cope, who saw in the sick the face of Jesus, pray for us.
Bl. Francis Xavier Seelos, holy priest who died caring for the sick, pray for us.
Blessed Engelmar Unzeitig, chaplain amid an outbreak at Dachau, pray for us.
All holy saints of God, pray for us.
From every evil, Lord save your people.
From every sin, Lord save your people.
From your anger, Lord save your people.
From sudden and unforeseen death, Lord save your people.
From the snares of the devil, Lord save your people.
From anger, hatred, and all ill-will, Lord save your people.
From the spirit of uncleanness, Lord save your people.
From lightening and tempest, Lord save your people.
From the scourge of earthquake, Lord save your people.
From plague, famine, and war, Lord save your people.
From everlasting death, Lord save your people.
Be merciful to us sinners, Lord, hear our prayer.
That you will spare us, Lord, hear our prayer.
That you will pardon us, Lord, hear our prayer.
That it may please you to bring us to true repentance, Lord, hear our prayer.
To deliver our souls from eternal damnation, and the souls of our brethren, kinsmen, and benefactors, Lord, hear our prayer.
To give and preserve the fruits of the earth, Lord, hear our prayer.
To grant eternal rest to all the faithful departed, Lord, hear our prayer.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world: spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world: graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world: have mercy on us.
Let us pray.
Almighty and eternal God, our refuge in every danger, to whom we turn in our distress, in faith, we pray, look with compassion on the afflicted, grant eternal rest to the dead, comfort to mourners, healing to the sick, peace to the dying, strength to healthcare workers, wisdom to our leaders and the courage to reach out to all in love, so that together we may give glory to your Holy Name. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Father James Goodwin writes from North Dakota.
Imagine this: With some trepidation about their future, a small band of people with a newfound faith commit to a period of intense prayer, out of obedience to their spiritual…
Imagine this: With some trepidation about their future, a small band of people with a newfound faith commit to a period of intense prayer, out of obedience to their spiritual master. He has left them seemingly on their own, promising something big on the horizon.
After they follow their leader’s instructions for nine days, God answers their prayers by acting in a singularly dramatic, transformative way. And the world is never the same again.
That’s precisely what happened to Our Lady, the apostles and the other early disciples of Our Lord. After His ascension they prayed, waited and perhaps even felt some anxiety over “losing” Him again.
But they also trusted and persevered. In the end, He rewarded them on the Day of Pentecost with the coming of the Advocate He had promised, the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:1–2:4).
Jesus had instructed His followers to pray, and they obeyed. They were not disappointed.
Those nine days of prayer can be seen as the model for the Catholic tradition of the novena. A novena (from the Latin novem, “nine”) is a prayer, or set of prayers, prayed for nine days, hours, weeks or even months.
It is often prayed for a specific intention or grace and may be directed to particular saints for their intercession.
Sometimes non-Catholics, and even a few Catholics, may ask, “Why should we pray novenas?” The short answer is simply that Jesus Christ calls us to pray. In fact, He tells us to “pray always without becoming weary” (Lk 18:1), to pray with persistence.
We’ll never go wrong when we obey Christ. He promises that prayer works, and He often responds with electrifying results.
But that’s only the first, most fundamental reason why we should pray novenas. A look at the history of this tradition provides ample encouragement for making it a personal practice.
Over the centuries, four specific types of novenas have emerged: novenas for mourning, preparation, petition and indulgences.
Novenas of mourning are the earliest type. They probably grew out of an early Christian custom of offering nine days of Masses for the departed. The global Church witnessed such a novena in 2005 with the death of Pope John Paul II.
Preparation novenas are joyful and anticipatory. They look toward major feasts (such as a Christmas novena) or celebrate the founder of a religious order.
Novenas of petition developed historically among the laity. They most likely originated as petitions for good health and eventually became generalized to include requests for other needs as well. For instance, a novena to St. Hubert, for protection against madness caused by a dog bite, was first prayed in medieval times and is still prayed today.
Many other novenas of prayer, directed to saints for special intentions, have proliferated over time.
The final type of novena, the novena for indulgences, overlaps with the others. The Church offers partial and plenary indulgences for more than 30 novenas, including one of the most recent, the Divine Mercy novena.
If the Church has not only approved and recommended a variety of novenas, but has also designated certain novenas as a prerequisite for an indulgence, we can be sure that these prayers are much more than just an instance of popular piety.
The Church recognizes the special value of the novena, whose form is particularly suited to overcome certain tendencies of our fallen human nature.
Boon to Prayer Life
We concupiscent human beings tend toward laziness. Countering that tendency, the repetitive form of the novena can serve to intensify and reinforce our prayer life. It forms a habit of persevering prayer in those of us who, left to our own devices, may fall away from prayer despite the best intentions.
Fallen human beings also tend toward rebellion. We balk at being told what to do. But following a divine prescription such as a novena can be the perfect remedy for such rebelliousness.
In praying a prescribed set of prayers, for a prescribed length of time, we are drawn out of ourselves and our vanities and into prayerful concentration and obedience. In this way, our prayer time is kept on track, becoming more focused by observing a set form.
A novena can also release us from a false attitude that we are somehow in control of a situation and its outcome through our prayers for a desired result.
With its repeated appeal to divine aid, the novena recognizes that we are helpless without God, and that control of the situation is squarely in His hands.
We are like the desperate widow in Jesus’ parable who repeatedly asked the judge for help — whose humble, persistent petitions the Lord offers as a model in prayer (see Lk 18:1-7).
To suggest that with a novena we relinquish (rather than make a play for) control may contradict popular perceptions. After all, some novenas actually promise “never to fail” should we meticulously follow their directions.
Of course, such instructions (always tacked on anonymously) are little more than superstition. Novenas are not magic and cannot manipulate the Divine Will. After praying in a specific way for a specific number of days, we are no more in control than we were at the start.
Instead, we receive from God a result of His own choosing. Our part is simply to demonstrate faithfulness in our commitment to prayer.
That’s not to say, of course, that novenas aren’t powerful. They certainly are, as is any faithfully attended prayer. A novena may even lead to miraculous results.
So, even though the specific, “guaranteed” promises attached to a number of novenas needn’t be taken literally, they do reflect the confidence in this approach to petition that has grown through the experiences of millions who have received answers to their prayers.
In short, novenas work, and we should pray them because they are a valuable form of conversation with God and His saints. They flow from faith, and God always attends to the prayers of His faithful.
We may or may not get what we want. But as we pray novenas, we are praising, preparing, waiting and trusting. And we will be rewarded, just as Christ’s first disciples were, in whatever way God sees fit.
Perhaps, then, what “never fails” when we pray a novena is that we always grow in faithful perseverance. And again, like the first disciples, we will not be disappointed.
Karen Edmisten is the author of “The Rosary: Keeping Company with Jesus and Mary” (St. Anthony Messenger, 2009).