Law of Praying Is the Law of Believing

In the old Raccolta there were many indulgenced prayers for the conversion of non-Catholics to the Church. Within these prayers there was usually included the dogma that outside the Church there is no salvation. Today, the only indulgenced prayer I could find for the conversion of anyone outside the Church is the following. It is from the 1968 Enchiridion of Indulgenced Prayers:

Almighty and merciful God, you willed that the different nations should become one people through your Son. Grant in your kindness that those, who glory in being known as Christians, may put aside their differences and become one in truth and charity, and that all men, enlightened by the true faith, may be united in fraternal communion in the one Church. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Raccolta is a collection of prayers, novenas, and pious exercises to which the popes have attached indulgences. It was first published in Rome in 1807. Numerous editions followed for over a century and a half.

The first toning down, or purgation, of the traditional prayers for the conversion of non-Catholics was in the 1950 Raccolta. The Office of the Penitentiary, headed by Cardinal Nicholas Canali, issued a decree at the time stating that his “Office deemed it advisable to review the entire work carefully, to delete certain portions which appeared to be somewhat unsatisfactory . . .” This qualification is found in the Introduction to the 1950 edition. The previous publication of the Raccolta was in 1928. In that edition there were prayers for the conversion of just about every type of religious group outside the Church, for certain nations and continents, and even for Freemasons.

What changes were made in the 1950 edition? Just about all of these specific prayers for the conversion of individual nations, heretical sects, pagans, infidels, and Freemasons were deleted along with the admonition that outside the Church there is no salvation.

Lex orandi est lex credendi. (The law of praying is the law of believing.) If those in charge of safeguarding the definitions of the Church and the deposit of Faith no longer believe that one must enter the Church in order to be saved, then the prayers that contradict their indifference must be discarded or changed.

The Prayer to Our Lady of Africa for the Conversion of the Moslems and other Infidels had to go. Why? Because it read:

Do not allow, O Mother of Mercy, that these unhappy people, who are, like us, thy children, should continue to fall into hell, despite the merits of Jesus Christ and the most cruel death he suffered for their salvation.

In the same prayer the request is made that Our Lady send missionaries “to rescue them from death and Satan.”

A Prayer for Reunion of the Schismatics was deleted. It read that “it is impossible to obtain salvation except in union with the successor of Saint Peter.”

A Prayer for the Conversion of Freemasons is gone. It had a warning about those who were “most miserably deceived by the treacherous snares of Freemasons, and going more and more astray in the way of perdition.”

The salvation doctrine did not totally disappear however. A 1936 prayer, indulgenced by Pope Pius XI for 500 days, remained in the 1950 edition. We have adopted it here at Saint Benedict Center and use it as a prayer for the conversion of America. It reads:

O Mary, Mother of mercy and Refuge of sinners, we beseech thee, be pleased to look with pitiful eyes upon poor heretics and schismatics. Thou who art the Seat of Wisdom, enlighten the minds that are miserably enfolded in the darkness of ignorance and sin, that they may clearly know that the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church is the one true Church of Jesus Christ, outside of which neither holiness nor salvation can be found. Finish the work of their conversion by obtaining for them the grace to accept all the truths of our Holy Faith, and to submit themselves to the supreme Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth; that so, being united with us in the sweet chains of divine charity, there may soon be only one fold under the same one shepherd; and may we all, O glorious Virgin, sing forever with exultation: Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, thou only hast destroyed all heresies in the whole world. Amen.

Among traditional Catholics, perhaps the most widely known suppression of a popular prayer was the Novena Prayer of Saint Francis Xavier for the conversion of unbelievers. I do not know when it first disappeared, but I would guess it was in the early 1950s or late 1940s. That prayer read:

Eternal God, Creator of all things — remember that the souls of and unbelievers — have been created by Thee — and formed to Thy own image and likeness. Behold, O Lord, how to Thy dishonor — hell is being filled with these very souls. Remember that Jesus Christ, Thy Son — for their salvation suffered a most cruel death. Do not permit, O Lord, I beseech Thee — that Thy divine Son be any longer despised by unbelievers, but rather, being appeased by the prayers of Thy saints — and the Church — the most holy spouse of Thy Son — deign to be mindful of Thy mercy — and forgetting their idolatry and their unbelief — bring them to know Him Whom Thou didst send — Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Our Lord — Who is our health, life, and resurrection — through Whom we have been redeemed and saved — to Whom be all glory forever. Amen.

Even the Saint Francis of Assisi Peace Prayer has been clipped of a verse that, hardly controversial, might make some enthusiasts of syncretic ecumenism uncomfortable: “Where there is error, let me sow truth.”

There you have it.