Today was the last day for my apostolate, Christendom’s Rome study abroad program. The students were amongst the most brilliant, most intellectually-curious, and most devoutly Catholics I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. This morning, Cardinal Burke celebrated a closing Mass for us (in the usus antiquior) in St. Peter’s. After Mass, he gave us each each holy cards like this:
It’s one variation (apparently courtesy of the Marian Catechist Apostolate) of a common prayer that many of us already pray daily, and Cardinal Burke encouraged us to pray it daily. What struck me in reading it was how distinctively Catholic it is, and how effortlessly controversial it is. So here’s the prayer, line-by-line, with an explanation of what makes it controversial amongst some Christians:
|O Jesus,||Not only Jehovah’s Witnesses, but even some Protestants reject the idea that we should pray to Jesus.|
|“through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,”||Obviously, Mary is a controversial figure in Catholic-Protestant dialogue, and the idea of coming to Jesus through Mary is particularly troubling for some Protestants.|
|“I offer You my prayers, works, joys, and suffering of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world.”||Most Protestants reject the Mass, and particularly the idea that the Mass is a sacrifice through which we join our offerings to Jesus’ perfect Sacrifice.|
|“I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sins, the reunion of all Christians.”||While Protestants overwhelmingly pray to Jesus (despite the outliers mentioned above), prayer to His Sacred Heart is almost exclusively a (beautiful) Catholic tradition.*|
|“I offer them for the intentions of Your Bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month. Amen.”||If references to Mary, the Mass, and the Sacred Heart weren’t enough, the prayer closes on asking for prayers for the Holy Father’s intentions. Of course, the papacy (and sometimes, the episcopacy) are controversial amongst non-Catholics.|
In pointing out all of these differences and areas of separation, I’m not making an argument here for the Catholic side (although I’ve done that for each of these issues elsewhere on this blog). Rather, I’m just pointing out that the wounds of the Reformation are still festering, and in a way that keeps us from being able to pray together as deeply and unitedly as we should. This is for two reasons.
One, because we need to be reminded. When a well-meaning Evangelical said that Catholics and Protestants were basically in agreement, someone (perhaps Mark Shea or Peter Kreeft? I can no longer remember) responded to the effect of, “Great, let’s pray the Rosary together in front of the Blessed Sacrament before Mass!” The point of the response was, yes we have huge areas of unity and that’s great (truly!), but if we can’t pray together without the Catholic leaving his spiritual traditions at the door, we’re not yet where we need to be. We shouldn’t overlook the great progress in Catholic-Protestant relations in the last century, but we also can’t whitewash the areas still needing work.
Second, because this Christian disunity is a scandal (cf. John 17:20-23) and a crisis that demands serious attention. More specifically, it needs a spiritual response, not just a theological one. For us Catholics, it strikes me as exactly why (well, one reason why) we should be making a morning offering of the sort that Cardinal Burke prescribes. Through Mary, united with the graces of the Sacrifice of the Mass, offer up your sufferings for your Protestant and Orthodox brothers and sisters for the cause of Christian unity.
*In doing so, in striving to live more fully in unity in the one Church, we’ll bring great comfort to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. When I say that devotion to the Sacred Heart is a beautiful Catholic tradition, I have in mind this insight from Pope Pius XI:
Now if, because of our sins also which were as yet in the future, but were foreseen, the soul of Christ became sorrowful unto death, it cannot be doubted that then, too, already He derived somewhat of solace from our reparation, which was likewise foreseen, when “there appeared to Him an angel from heaven” (Luke xxii, 43), in order that His Heart, oppressed with weariness and anguish, might find consolation. And so even now, in a wondrous yet true manner, we can and ought to console that Most Sacred Heart which is continually wounded by the sins of thankless men, since—as we also read in the sacred liturgy—Christ Himself, by the mouth of the Psalmist complains that He is forsaken by His friends: “My Heart hath expected reproach and misery, and I looked for one that would grieve together with me, but there was none: and for one that would comfort me, and I found none” (Psalm Ixviii, 21).