Public officials dealing with the coronavirus have forgotten one measure—the importance of prayers. Such a consideration is discarded by a secular society that does not believe that God can act upon the nature He created. Prayer is thus ineffective.
History proves otherwise. The Church recorded countless cases of individuals and societies that were saved by the power of prayer. Modernity has preferred to adore Science as a new god that can do all things. The recent statements of two very public figures reflect this secular attitude.
One such remark came from Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York. He was indirectly congratulating himself for his efforts to slow down the virus. The day after Easter, he said, “The number is down because we brought the number down. God did not do that. Fate did not do that. Destiny did not do that. A lot of pain and suffering did that.”
The second statement came from Chicago’s Cardinal Blaise Cupich. In an interview with a local TV station, Cardinal Cupich said, “God doesn’t allow us to have a religion into a magic formula where we say a prayer and think things are going to go away… we have to make sure we keep each other safe.” He gave his opinion about the best way to deal with the crisis. “[H]uman solidarity is something we need to rely on in this moment.”
These statements are troubling, especially during this crisis. They discourage the role of God and prayer when they are most needed. They also show how far modern society has fallen. Public officials would do well to look back to the wisdom of the past and reclaim the power of humility, penance and prayer. Holy Mother Church offers cures that go far beyond Cardinal Cupich’s “human solidarity.”
Pope Saint Gregory and the Saint Michael the Archangel
Church history is full of stories when prayer proved powerful against plague. Three cases will serve to illustrate what can happen when a fervent people appeal to God.
In the year 590, Rome was a plague-ravaged shell of its former self. Civil authority was almost non-existent. An earthquake made life even more tenuous. The area was split between Catholics, followers of the Arian heresy and pagans. On February 7, 590, Pope Pelagius II perished. His successor was Pope Saint Gregory the Great.
The new pope organized a procession around the city on April 25. Small processions began in various parts of the city and marched toward the church of Saint Mary Major. There Pope Gregory waited, holding a miraculous image of The Blessed Mother painted by Saint Luke. As the procession passed the tomb of Emperor Hadrian, all of the participants saw the Archangel Michael on top of the massive tomb, sheathing a flaming sword.
The crowd broke into prayer:
“Regina Coeli laetare, Alleluia! (Queen of Heaven, rejoice, Alleluia!)
Quia quem meruisti portare, Alleluia! (Son whom you merited to bear, Alleluia!)
Resurrexit sicut dixit, Alleluia! (He has risen as He said, Alleluia!)
The air cleared, and the plague ended. Hadrian’s castle-like tomb was re-christened Castel Sant’Angelo. A statue of Saint Michael was placed on the roof of the building. It remains there as a reminder to the city of its deliverance.
Saint Rocco was a French nobleman born about the year 1340. Orphaned as a child, Rocco gave away his possessions and went on a pilgrimage to Rome. He had nearly reached the Eternal City when he passed through plague-infested Acquapendente. He spent the next several weeks caring for the sick and dying until he contracted the disease. He retired to a cave, fed by a miraculously-occurring spring and bread brought to him by a dog. After recovering, he continued to travel through Italy and died shortly after returning to France. After death, he rapidly gained a reputation for miraculous cures.
Shortly after Saint Rocco’s death, Italy was ravaged by a series of cholera infestations, and many found cures by appealing to him. In 1414, the Council of Constance was threatened when the plague arrived in the city. The local bishop ordered processions in honor of Saint Rocco, and the outbreak ceased. From that point on, Saint Rocco’s fame increased greatly, and he was venerated over a wide area for centuries for his intercession in time of pestilence.
This prayer invoking his aid is especially appropriate in this time of the coronavirus. “O Great Saint Rocco, deliver us, we beseech you, from contagious diseases, and the contagion of sin. Obtain for us, a purity of heart which will assist us to make good use of health, and to bear sufferings in patience. Teach us to follow your example in the practice of penance and charity, so that we may one day enjoy the happiness of being with Christ, Our Savior, in Heaven. Amen.”
Bishop Belsunce Consecrates Marseilles to The Sacred Heart of Jesus
On May 25, 1720, the ship Grand Sainte-Antoine docked in Marseilles, France, with a load of fabric and silk from the Asiatic city of Sidon and eight dead crewmen. At the time, Marseilles was impoverished, and the decision was made to allow the ship to dock because of the value of its cargo. The plague that had killed the eight men spread to the city. Over the next year, the death toll was massive. The plague showed no signs of passing.
In June 1721, the Bishop of Marseilles, Henri Francois-Xavier de Belsunce de Castelmoron, decided to consecrate the city to Our Lord’s Sacred Heart. A large outdoor altar was built on the coast near the port. By July, the Bishop persuaded the local magistrate, Jean Pierre Moustier, to read the consecration. In July, the officials donned their ceremonial robes and led a public procession from the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde to the altar. Church bells pealed, and the local garrison’s cannons boomed, as the procession went to the newly-constructed altar. Bishop Belsunce met them, holding a gleaming monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament. The consecration was offered.
Immediately, the plague began to abate. By September, the city was plague-free.
Such examples are just some of the many marvels found in the history of the Church. Imagine the results if the modern Church were to re-read these great stories of deliverance and take them to heart. However, it is only through prayer, penance and pardon that such scenes will once again occur.
Unfortunately, most people only have recourse to God when reduced to great suffering. When the god of Science fails, one can then hope that many will return to the one true God and implore his help and protection. And God will once again deliver the nation.