Father Z.’s Prayer for a Miracle to End the Pandemic

Here is a link to the full prayer, “Posted on 6 April 2020 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf “

I have to be very cautious in criticizing any sincere prayer, as God is pleased by all sincere prayer, even those that contain some errors. But I wish the faithful to understand the types of errors found in a few places within this overall good prayer to holy God. I won’t be quoting the whole prayer, so read it on Fr. Z.’s website.

“A prayer for a miracle: the sudden, complete and lasting obliteration of COVID-19.”

It is good to pray for God’s help in the pandemic. I think the end of the disease might come from the Miracle of Garabandal (possibly in May of 2022). But it is also possible that God will end the pandemic by a myriad of acts of His providence and grace, by the efforts of millions of persons to help their neighbor, and then also by research, medicine, vaccines, etc.

“Forgive the countless sacrilegious Communions of the last decades. Forgive Your priests and bishops who in great numbers have abandoned their proper place between Your people and Your altars. Some have committed unspeakable offences, not excluding even manifest idolatry.”

God can only forgive sins when we are repentant. We should repent explicitly innumerable times in our lives. But we can also repent implicitly, as when we repent from venial sin by acts of prayer, love of God or neighbor, acts of faith and hope, works of mercy in cooperation with grace, etc. However, God does not forgive grave sin without some type of repentance, fitting to the sin from which one is repenting. Do not say to God “forgive these grave sins of persons who are unrepentant.” Say instead, “merciful Lord, bring to repentance all of us who have sinned gravely, for we trust in your mercy and forgiveness.”

Then there is the line that assumes the traditionalist claim on how very important it is for the priest to stand facing the altar, with his back to the people. It is wrong to say in a prayer this type of assertion designed to tell people that you are right and your theological opponents are wrong. Do not pretend to pray to God when you are really just telling your neighbor that they are wrong and you are right.

Who are the “some” who have committed unspeakable offenses, even manifest idolatry? Again, he seems to be speaking to his audience about the sins of his neighbors, not praying to God. Don’t do that. Speak to God. Don’t be like the Pharisee whose prayer to God is just him pointing out to God how right he is and how wrong his neighbor is.

“Forgive all of us every neglect and unworthy deed and thought as well as any lingering attachment to sins. Forgive all the sins that have cried to heaven. Forgive and then give us graces for our fuller sorrow out of love for You, more than our dread of punishment, and also for our firm purpose of amendment.”

God does not forgive until we are repentant. Pray for the graces of sorrow for sin, and for repentance and conversion. Forgiveness is certain after perfect contrition, or repentance with confession, so don’t speak to God as if He is refusing to forgive. And saying “Forgive, and then give us graces” for sorrow is backwards.

The prayer then asks for the complete end to the Covid-19 virus. It is a good request. It might actually happen the way that Fr. Z. describes it: “We ask that You do this, almighty and merciful God, suddenly, completely, and in a lasting way so that the peoples of the whole world will recognize Your almighty hand and fall upon their faces in wonder, faith and gratitude.” That sounds to me like the Miracle of Garabandal, which is a set of worldwide healing miracles. It will have that effect on people, just as he describes.

“even though we do not merit the least of Your favors.”

That’s a theological error. We can merit grace, which is certainly among the favors of God.

Council of Trent “CANON XXXII — If anyone says that the good works of a justified person are the gifts of God such that they are not also the good merits of him who is justified; or that the justified one, by the good works which he does through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit an increase of grace, eternal life, and his own attainment of eternal life (if only he departs in grace), and even an increase of glory: let him be anathema.”

Salvation is a free undeserved gift, merited for us by Christ on the Cross. Many graces are unmerited, but some graces are merited. We certainly can merit grace and other favors of God by cooperation with unmerited graces.

The prayer ends well. It is overall a good prayer. I just wanted to point out a few problems with it.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

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