Our sacred task will only be accomplished when accompanied by prayer

The season of Lent is a time for reflection, for prayer and for preparation to experience the joy that comes with Easter, confident that Christ has already conquered the world. I always appreciate Lent as a time to slow down and reflect on what is happening in my life, identifying ways in which I may have wandered off from my journey toward holiness, and then commit to make a midcourse correction.

Each year I seek a personal theme or focus to guide me during these 40 days in the spiritual desert of my soul. The need for prayer in the midst of our chaotic world is evident. My theme this year is to pray in a deeper way to fight off the work of the Evil One who lurks in the attacks on religious liberty.

There are some incredibly troublesome trends in our culture which undercut the dignity and freedom of us all and which we ignore to the peril of souls and society.

I recently attended a Workshop for Bishops sponsored by the National Catholic Bioethics Center. While the speakers were extraordinary, the topics discussed were sobering.

Over two days we were informed about gender ideology which Pope Francis has declared as a “global war against the family”. Its sudden widespread acceptance without considering its long term implications in our culture creates special challenges in Catholic schools, health care institutions and parishes. The real tragedy is its harmful impact on individuals especially children.
Another topic was the destructive pervasiveness of pornography which touches all ages, all genders, and all economic states and is especially harmful to spousal and family relationships.

Even more worrisome, if that is possible, was the discussion of medical personnel manipulating embryos to produce designer babies with multiple parents known and unknown. The long term consequences of such “engineering” are scary for both the children resulting and for the safety and stability of society.

Also discussed was the aggressive political movement to legalize euthanasia. It is reflected in the growing movement in the states to authorize physician assisted suicide.

There is currently an effort in South Dakota to place legalizing this immoral practice on the state ballot next year. We must begin to prepare for that possibility and the other attacks on religious liberty here at home.

Four years ago, in preparation for the 2012 elections, the statement, Stay the Course for Truth, Civilly, was issued in which I noted that

These seem like dark days given
the attacks on life and freedom by our own government and the seeming indifference of so many. Winston Churchill proclaimed in the dark days of World War II: “Never, never, never give up”. We will not. We will never give up in standing up for truth and justice as Christ proclaimed. That is what the crucifix teaches in symbol and that is what we proclaim as disciples of Christ. That is our calling and our mission this election season and every day that follows.

The dynamics of 2016 elections and its aftermath reinforce the importance of our standing strong for truth and justice, always with charity. In this land of the free and home of the brave, our call as Catholics and faithful citizens must resound more loudly than ever and our mission impels us more urgently than ever to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6.12) in the public and private square while keeping our eyes fixed on Christ and the coming of His Kingdom where we have our true citizenship (Phil. 3.20).

The sad fact is that there is a growing number of men and women, even among identifying Catholics, who no longer believe in traditional values and Catholic doctrine on faith and morals. What is more, in the context of what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called a “dictatorship of relativism”, adversity to the Church and her teachings in the broader culture is growing in strength and influence. This has resulted in active efforts to marginalize the Church and her leaders and, what is worse, in open attacks against the free exercise of religion which is as citizens of the United States of America our “most cherished freedom”.

Our sacred task will only be accomplished when accompanied by prayer. In the late 1880s, “in order to obtain help from God needful in times of such difficulty and trial” Pope Leo XIII, who erected the Diocese of Sioux Falls, directed that among other prayers regular recitation of the Prayer to Saint Michael, the Archangel be offered around the world.

Given the nature of our times, that seems a worthy Lenten practice that might be extended into the Easter season and Ordinary Time. Therefore, I strongly urge all of us to daily offer the Saint Michael prayer, and where appropriate as communities of faith it be prayed at Masses of course at the discretion of the pastor. Some parishes already pray in this way with great effect.

Together in prayer, and with the help of Almighty God and the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we will stay the course for truth and work for the full restoration of religious liberty in our land and in our world.

May this Lenten season be one of reflection, of prayer and of conversion. May it also be one of joy.


Prayer to Saint 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 the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Bishop Swain's Column, March 2017