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: “Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. … O Prince of the heavenly armies, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan, and all evil spirits, who roam the world seeking of the ruin of souls.”
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 remarks live-streamed by the associate pastor have gone viral, amid a rise in worship wars in modern Catholicism.
“What I am about to say, I will say with great respect. Following Cardinal Cupich’s directive, we want to remind everyone that St. Michael’s Prayer should not be said publicly after Mass,” Fr. Emanuel Torres-Fuentes. “As a priest, I must obey, and I obey that in peace.”
While Cardinal Blase Cupich’s actions made headlines, this drama opened in July with an apostolic letter from Pope Francis titled “Traditionis Custodes (Guardians of Tradition).” He restricted the use of the old Latin Mass, thereby undermining “Summorum Pontificum (Of the Sovereign Pontiffs)” by retired Pope Benedict XVI. 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 said that was not allowed – only the Vatican could grant exceptions. Additionally, any parish authorized to celebrate the Tridentine Mass would not be able to list this service in the printed or online Mass schedules.
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.
Vatican News reported that Cardinal Cupich sent a letter to priests stating that his goal was to help Catholics “better understand and accept more deeply the restored and renewed liturgy that is part of the precious heritage of the Second Vatican Council.”
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.
“The restrictions in Chicago extend not just to the Old Rite, but to Novus Ordo celebrations that look too much like the Old Rite,” Stephen White wrote to The Catholic Thing.
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.” This has helped fuel bitter debates over the sacramental status of President Joe Biden and others who oppose Church doctrines on abortion, same-sex marriage and related issues.
“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. “Opposition to Pope Francis has also found a base in traditionalist communities. His teaching on marriage and the family, his call for pastoral care, and above all his commitment to ecological responsibility and economic justice, have been violently opposed in these circles.”
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 members of the Church.
National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty replied, “No one is confused about what’s going on. Hey, when are they implementing the Council’s call for keeping Gregorian chant in the liturgy?”