Monday, September 12, 2011

The Relevance of Today's Reading: Praying for rulers of States

"First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity.

This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth...It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray..." (1 Timothy 2:1-8)


How often do we pray for those who hold high offices- civil or religious? And yet if I were to be honest I would I have to say that I have been derelict in this most important spiritual duty. In mostly every Mass that is celebrated the Church has made it a point to offer prayers for civil rulers during the petitions. This liturgical practice, which can be traced back to the times of the Apostles, is a reminder for Christians to carry out this act of charity. But for what reason? St. Paul answers by saying that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity.

It is true to day, on the other hand, that throughout history the Church has been strengthened and given new life by persecution. This is why T.S. Eliot could say, "When the Christian is treated as an enemy of the State, his course is very much harder, but it is simpler. I am concerned with the dangers to the tolerated minority; and in the modern world, it may turn out that most intolerable thing for Christians is to be tolerated." Indeed, the Cross (i.e. opposition and persecution) has always been the surest sign that the Catholic Faith is on the ascendancy. Hilaire Belloc, in his book, "Survivals and Arrivals," could go so far as to say the following: "But if I be asked what sign we may look for to show that the advance of the Faith is at hand, I would answer by a word the modern world has forgotten: Persecution. When that shall once more be at work it will be morning."

Persecution, however, especially by the State, has always been a double edge sword. Although Christianity has historically thrived under persecution and martyrdom it has always been a noble petition to God to be either spared from such persecution or delivered from them. After all, St. Paul hoped and prayed that the Church in his day could "lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity."

The Apostle doesn't stop there. He further hopes that God "wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth." He continues, "It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray..." Curiously, the departure from this goal, this hope, and this wish is at the very heart as to why Catholics in America- and Christians at large -are less free and more encumbered to express their faith in public.

According to the Apostle, everyone should be saved! Believe it or not there are many Catholics- both clergy and laity -who have decided that converting souls to Christ to the fullness of the Catholic Faith is no longer necessary. The important thing, they say, is to affirm what the Catholic Church has in common with other religions and then to leave it at that! But to "leave it at that" ignores one very important fact (in addition to many others): There is no neutrality with regard to Christ. Eventually, as he himself said, people will be either for him or against him. And when Catholics seize to advance the Faith, drawing souls into her fold, then not a few of the unconverted will end up being against Christ and his Church. Indeed, there are many who would nothing more than to see Christians go away. This is part of being "wise as a serpent" as our Lord bids us to do.

Finally, this leads us to the last aim of the great missionary, St. Paul. He had wished "that in every place the men should pray..." It just so happens that in America there are fewer and fewer places where Christians are allowed to pray; but pray in public we must! It can be as simple as praying grace before a meal at a restaurant. Moreover, it includes seeing the importance of students praying before they begin their school day. Oh! How public education has changed for the worse since they expelled God in 1962/63!! Review your history books. You will not see a more rapid change, a downward spiral, of America's education system than from the early 1960's to the present day. Take any 30-40 year period in American history! No such abrupt change in schools with regard to both academics and social behavior can be found. If prayer means anything at all then we must believe its absence has had a devastating affect on public education.

But as much as I lament today's public schools, the crux of the problem is not to be found there! It is to be found in the relaxed mission of many Christians who no longer wish everyone to be saved as does God. St. Paul could have spared himself a lot of heartache and trials if he would have stayed in Tarsus. He certainly didn't believe conversion was a matter of indifference.

Whether the Catholic Church is persecuted or free to carry out its mission unhindered, the goal is still the same: To make disciples of all nations. To further the knowledge of Christ. To give people the opportunity to begin their journey to heaven and to enjoy a foretaste of its happiness as they struggle to press forward.