UPDATE: Read Saturday’s statement from the parish’s pastor here.
Fr. Z. posted about this and included the video below, in which the priest says Chicago’s Cardinal Blaise Cupich has ordered parishioners at the parish to stop saying the St. Michael Prayer publicly after Mass:
The parish is St. Joseph’s in Libertyville, IL. The priest appears to be the Associate Pastor, Father Emanuel Torres-Fuentes.
Since some have said the video isn’t working properly, here’s the transcript of the pertinent part of the video:
“I have one announcement. What I’m going to say, I’m going to say this with a lot of respect. Following the directive of Cardinal Cupich, we want to remind everyone that the Prayer of St. Michael is not to be said publicly following Mass. This devotional prayer may be recited privately while being respectful of others in the church. Also, you realize that I like to say the ‘Hail Mary’ at the end of the Eucharist. Now, I was told to sing, instead of the ‘Hail Mary.’ As a priest, I have to obey. And I obey this at peace. My heart is at peace. If Cardinal Cupich says this, I have to do it. But at peace.”
As of this writing, there’s no explanation for what prompted this move. Any speculation at this point is just that: speculation.
I have written about the St. Michael Prayer a couple times. As recently as 2018, I noted that a growing number of bishops, including Dolan in New York and Caggiano in Bridgeport, had asked the faithful to pray it after Mass. (Full disclosure: My wife and I pray it regularly at home as part of our daily morning prayers.)
The prayer is a fairly recent addition to the liturgy, and a little context might be helpful:
In 1886, Pope Leo XIII added a Prayer to Saint Michael to the Leonine Prayers, which he had directed to be prayed after Low Mass two years earlier.
The ‘Leonine Prayers‘ originated in 1884, when Pope Leo XIII ordered certain prayers to be said after Low Mass, in defense of the independence of the Holy See. God’s help was sought for a satisfactory solution to the loss of the Pope’s temporal sovereignty, which deprived him of the independence felt to be required for effective use of his spiritual authority. The prayer to St Michael described above was added to the Leonine Prayers in 1886.
The Pope’s status as a temporal leader was restored in 1929 by the creation of the State of Vatican City, and in the following year, Pope Pius XI ordered that the intention for which these prayers should from then on be offered was “to permit tranquility and freedom to profess the faith to be restored to the afflicted people of Russia”.
The practice of reciting this and the other Leonine prayers after Mass was officially suppressed by the 26 September 1964 Instruction Inter oecumenici which came into effect on 7 March 1965.
Removing the obligation to recite this prayer (along with the three Hail Marys, the Hail Holy Queen, and the prayer for the Church) after Low Mass did not mean forbidding its use either privately or publicly in other circumstances. Thirty years later, Pope John Paul II recommended its use, saying:
May prayer strengthen us for the spiritual battle that the Letter to the Ephesians speaks of: “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Ephesians 6:10). The Book of Revelation refers to this same battle, recalling before our eyes the image of St Michael the Archangel (cf. Revelation 12:7). Pope Leo XIII certainly had this picture in mind when, at the end of the last century, he brought in, throughout the Church, a special prayer to St Michael:
“Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.”
Although this prayer is no longer recited at the end of Mass, I ask everyone not to forget it and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against the forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.— Pope John Paul II, Regina Caeli, 24 April 1994
On 29 September 2018, Pope Francis asked Catholics everywhere to pray the Rosary each day during the following month of October and to conclude it with the ancient prayer “Sub tuum praesidium” and the Leonine prayer to Saint Michael. He asked them “to pray that the Holy Mother of God place the Church beneath her protective mantle: to preserve her from the attacks by the devil, the great accuser, and at the same time to make her more aware of the faults, the errors and the abuses committed in the present and in the past, and committed to combating without any hesitation, so that evil may not prevail”.
A month earlier, Pope Francis called more generically to “a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting” in view of scandals concerning Catholic Church sexual abuse cases.
America noted the prayer’s resurgent popularity a few months ago:
The return of the prayer has been met with some criticism, particularly its inclusion into the end of the Mass. Much of the reform of the liturgy inspired by Vatican II focused attention on the Eucharist and de-emphasized devotionals incorporated into the Mass. Others find the language of the prayer old-fashioned and jarringly aggressive.
But its supporters argue that a church besieged by sex abuse scandals and internal conflict needs the prayer more than ever.
Benedictine Sister Jeana Visel of St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana noted on the Pray Tell Blog, which is devoted to discussions of liturgy, that the prayer was endorsed by Pope John Paul II in a 1994 Angelus reflection referring to threats against unborn life.
The more recent effort to revive the prayer has included the support of more than a dozen American bishops, particularly following the news of the sex abuse crimes leveled against then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, as well as the dispute between Pope Francis and Archbishop Vigano.
Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford, Conn., in a letter to his priests, called for the recitation of the prayer at the end of Masses in his archdiocese in a Sept. 11, 2018, statement.
“In modern times, perhaps we have been lulled into complacency about the power of evil,” he wrote…
…Benedictine Father Anthony Ruff, professor of theology at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., wrote that devotionals like the one to St. Michael have their place, but should not become a part of the Mass.
“Let the liturgy be the liturgy and, in general, follow the wise prescriptions of the reformed rite. To be sure, liturgical law is not absolute. There will be cases where pastoral sensitivity suggests flexibility. It has always been so, throughout liturgical history. But don’t change the rite unless you have very good reasons,” he wrote on the Pray Tell Blog.
He said the St. Michael’s prayer does not reach that bar. Father Ruff noted that the Roman rite is “rigorously theocentric” and has relatively little invocation of Mary or the saints.
Will Cardinal Cupich have anything more to say about this? Stay tuned.
UPDATE: My friend Deacon Bill Ditewig offered the following insight on social media, which explains why the prayer was dropped after Vatican II. To wit:
Back in the early days of the post-conciliar reforms, the Leonine prayers were perceived — rightly or wrongly — as part of the Mass. They were removed simply to help people understand that they were not. What I would recommend is this: after Mass, change out of Mass vestments. and then go back out and pray whatever prayers you like, including to St Michael.That would certainly be ok and also in obedience to the Cardinal’s direction.