Question: I have asked my local bishop to have all the parishes restore the St. Michael Prayer after all Masses. I have not heard from the bishop and wonder what I can do to see this practice restored.
— Diane Siereveld, Hamilton, Ohio
Answer: Your desire to pray this prayer is understandable and good. The prayer can, in fact, be said. However, perhaps a little history and context is appropriate to understand why it fell away in the early 1970s.
Historically, the liturgical movement that began in the 1940s and continued through the Second Vatican Council sought to re-emphasize the Eucharistic liturgy by distinguishing it from some of the devotions that had grown up around it. The hope was to emphasize participation in the Mass as the greatest devotion.
Among the devotions that attached themselves were a number of prayers said after the dismissal from Mass, which included the prayer to St. Michael.
Liturgists of the time sensed that lesser devotions after the greatest devotion somehow implied an inadequacy in the prayer of holy Mass.
Whether or not you agree, that was the thinking at the time, which led to the elimination of many, if not all, devotions immediately after the Mass.
That said, you and fellow parishioners are not forbidden from praying certain prayers and devotions after Mass, even with the priest. It is best, however, to allow those who need to depart to leave before the beginning of devotions. Otherwise, people feel trapped, and the instruction that they may go is lost or reduced in meaning.
Please also be aware that while the St. Michael Prayer is an important prayer, many others also insist on other devotions for similar reasons. Thus some pastors are reticent in fostering such public devotions, since requests tend to multiply. So, pastoral discretion is needed, and solutions will vary from parish to parish.
Why is there hell?
Question: We learn that God loves us unconditionally. But then why is there hell? That doesn’t seem unconditional.
— Peter Smithers, via email
Answer: Perhaps you would agree that if someone loves someone else, that love would not include him forcing his will on the other. And while it is certainly true that the Lord wills to save everyone, he does not force us to accept his. God is not a slave driver, he is love and love invites us to freely accept his offer of an eternal relationship.
While some think that everyone wants to go to heaven, generally they have a heaven in mind of their own design. But the real heaven is not merely a human paradise; it is the Kingdom of God and all its fullness. In heaven is celebrated: Charity, worship of God, truth, chastity, forgiveness, esteem of the poor, humility, etc. And yet there are many who reject some or all of these values. Why would a loving God force people to enter into the eternal place which celebrates things they reject?
Hence, the existence of hell is not opposed to God’s love. It is in conformity with the respect necessary for our freedom to accept or reject the relationship of love. Mysteriously, many come to a place in their life where they definitively reject God, and the values of the Kingdom he offers.
Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to firstname.lastname@example.org . Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.