Since the end of the 19th century, Catholics have recited the prayer to Saint Michael in the face of illness, disaster and despair.
It proclaims, in part: “St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. … O Prince of the celestial armies, by the power of God, throw Satan and all the evil spirits who roam the world in search of the ruin of souls into hell.
Before Vatican II, this prayer was often recited after Mass, even if it was not in the rubrics. In 1994, Holy Pope John Paul II urged Catholics to embrace it – while preaching about threats to the unborn child.
The faithful of St. Joseph Parish in Libertyville, Illinois, stopped saying the prayer to St. Michael aloud after masses last summer. As the debate continues over the instructions of the Archdiocese of Chicago, the associate pastor’s live-streamed remarks have gone viral in a wave of ‘worship wars’ in modern Catholicism.
“What I’m going to say, I’m going to say with great respect. Following Cardinal Cupich’s directive, we want to remind everyone that the prayer of Saint Michael should not be said publicly after Mass,” said Fr. Emanuel Torres-Fuentes. “As a priest, I must obey, and I obey that in peace.”
While the actions of Cardinal Blase Cupich made the news, this drama opened in July with an apostolic letter from Pope Francis titled “Traditionis Custodes (Guardians of Tradition).” It restricted the use of the old Latin Mass, thereby undermining retired Pope Benedict XVI’s “Summorum Pontificum (of the Supreme Pontiffs)”. This document stated that the post-Vatican II Novus Ordo was the “ordinary form” of the Mass, but that the Tridentine Rite was an “extraordinary form” that could be encouraged.
Pope Francis’ letter seemed to give local bishops some freedom to control the use of the Old Latin Mass. Then the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship issued guidelines Dec. 18, explaining the pope’s edict.
Many bishops, for example, had granted dispensations allowing certain diocesan parishes to use the Latin Mass. But Rome’s new guidelines stated that this was not allowed – only the Vatican could grant exceptions.
On Christmas Day, Cardinal Cupich issued his own guidelines, building on the Rules of Rome. For starters, any parish or group authorized to use the Old Latin Mass would also be required to use the Novus Ordo once a month, as well as on Easter, Christmas, and certain feast days.
The cardinal’s critics also posted online criticisms of his decision requiring priests to obtain his permission to celebrate any Mass in a traditional “ad orientem” position, as opposed to the modern “against populum” option in which the clergy, when he is at the altar, faces his congregations.
For progressives, the key is that any use of the Latin Mass has strengthened Catholic conservatives, according to Rita Ferrone, author of “Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium.”
“Opening up more space for older rites has deepened the conflict in the Church and led to the politicization of the Eucharist,” noted Ferrone, writing for Commonweal Magazine.
In a typical Twitter exchange on these issues, Christopher Lamb of The Tablet noted, “We have a pope from Latin America determined to implement the Second Vatican Council, both in word and in spirit. This still confuses some in the church.