If you ask a Catholic, “What do you know about the Precepts of the Church,” what response would you expect to receive? Not long ago, I asked a pastor when the last day was to make one’s Easter Duty. He had no idea of what I was talking about!
Do you believe that Catholics today, by and large, pray for their priests, let alone fast and do penance for them?
Regrettably, one of our greatest defenses against evil was officially suppressed by the bishops in this country almost 50 years ago in the wake of the Vatican’s relaxation of the observance of Ember Days.
Ember Days are four sets of days corresponding to the four seasons of the year which the church had formally set aside for the faithful to do penance, fast and pray for the priests.
Why? Because the priest must be holy. Why again? Because he must pray for the people.
In fact, the priest must be holier than the people. According to St. Augustine, the priest must have such merit before God that he may be able to obtain for the people what they on account of their demerits, cannot hope to receive.
And if you think about it (as St. John Chrysostom did) — without priests, we cannot be saved.
Now let us ask, where does the priest acquire strength lest he grow lukewarm or faint under the heat of battle? Answer: From the prayers of those whose prayers are pleasing to God.
According to St. Faustina, “We will bear in mind that a soldier on the front line cannot hold out long without support from the rear forces that do not actually take part in the fighting but provide for all his needs; and that such is the role of prayer, and that therefore each one of us is to be distinguished by an apostolic spirit” — “Diary,” (539).
So let us ask, who must, especially now pray, fast and do penance for the priests?
Ember Days have been in place at least from the fifth century A.D., and their observance continued until the revision of the liturgical calendar in 1969, when the Vatican made them optional; that is, up to the discretion of each national conference of bishops.
However, when the predecessors of the USCCB removed them from the church calendar in this country, they did so with the caveat that observance of them within a particular diocese or parish shall be dependent upon the local ordinary.
Oh, how active our enemies are in seeking the perdition of a priest!
We cannot expect the people to be holier than the priests. Therefore, I ask you if we are better off being conducted by holy priests, or by lukewarm or unholy ones?
The holy Cure d’Ars gave us the answer to that question: Those who look for easy-going priests are looking for a ticket to hell. And St. John Chrysostom pointed out that when we see a people immoral, we may justly conclude, without danger of rash judgment, that the priest is a man without virtue.
So, given that personal sanctity is still necessary to enter heaven, would you not posit that sinners will be aided by the faithful observance of Ember Days rather than to leave them in obscurity as they are now?
Certainly, it would be easier to leave things as they are now, but how can that be an option? In the words of St. Philip Neri, “Paradise was not made for poltroons.”
The church is undergoing a great persecution from within. St. Bernard tells us that incontinence in ecclesiastics is one of the greatest persecutions that the Church can suffer.
Therefore, I beg all bishops to formally and prayerfully reinstitute the observance of Ember Days in their archdiocese or diocese. And not at all in fear of being too greedy, I implore that they also reestablish the practice of reciting the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, three Hail Marys, the Hail Holy Queen and the Prayer for the Church after each Mass.
Finally, on behalf of all who those would benefit from these graces, I ask bishops as well for the restoration of Rogation Days in their archdiocese or diocese. The word rogation, as you may know, comes from the Latin rogare, meaning “to ask,” just as I am doing right now.
But if bishops see no need for this as the people can practice what they like on their own, then I ask, will they? Is uniting our prayers and practices no better than scattering them?
We need divine help! We ask the assistance of bishops. They have the power to restore these lights again.
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