Saturday, August 2, 2014

Praying for the Persecuted Christians in Iraq and Elsewhere

Yesterday, our monthly First-Friday Exposition, Litany, and Benediction were augmented by prayer for the persecuted Christians in Iraq and elsewhere. Looking to utilize some existing formulary for such a prayer, I ended up drawing upon my childhood memories and turned to the old (and generally not much missed) "Leonine" Prayers that used to be routinely recited after every Low Mass from 1884 until the 1960s. In those days, after the Last Gospel the priest and congregation together recited three Hail Marys and the Hail, Holy Queen, after which the priest prayed a Collect followed by a prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel. It was that once-familiar Collect that I used yesterday: 

O God, our refuge and our strength, look down with mercy upon the people who cry to you; and by the intercession of the glorious and immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God, of Saint Joseph her spouse, of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and of all the saints, in your mercy and goodness hear our prayers for the conversion of sinners, and for the liberty and exaltation of the Holy Mother the Church. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.

The history and practice of the old "Leonine" Prayers was as unique as their format. Originally prescribed by Blessed Pope Pius IX exclusively for use in the Papal States in 1859, when papal sovereignty was threatened by the newly forming Kingdom of Italy, they were revised and extended to the Universal Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1884. After the 1929 Reconciliation between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy, Pope Pius XI continued the recitation of the prayers, assigning as their new purpose freedom for the people of Russia to profess the faith.

So. while the specific intentions changed somewhat over time (from the freedom of the Church in united Italy to the freedom the Church in Soviet Russia), the heart of the intention was always the same - the freedom of the Church. Hence the renewed usefulness of the old, almost forgotten Collect - refitted for our contemporary concern for the persecuted Christians in iraq and elsewhere in the Muslim Middle East.

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