Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Prayer to Charlemagne by Dom Prosper Gueranger O.S.B.

The original French edition of The Liturgical Year by Don Geranger listed January 28 as the feast day for Saint Charlemagne, which the Church permitted to be celebrated in some German villages. Later editions of the same work left out that feast day.

We present here for the benefit of our readers the prayer composed by the renowned liturgist in honor of Charlemagne:

Hail, o Charles, beloved of God, Apostle of Christ, defender of His Church, protector of justice, guardian of good customs, terror of the enemies of the Christian name!

The tainted diadem of the Caesars, purified by the hands of Leo, sits on your august forehead; the globe of the Empire rests in your vigorous hand; the ever-victorious sword in your combats for Our Lord is sheathed at your waist, and on your forehead the imperial anointing was added to the royal unction by the hand of the Pontiff who consecrated you and confirmed your authority. As the representative of the figure of Christ in His temporal Royalty, you desired that He would reign in you and through you.

Now God rewards you for the love you had for Him, for the zeal you displayed for His glory, for the respect and confidence you showed toward His Spouse. In exchange for an earthly kingship, transitory and uncertain, you enjoy now an immortal kingdom where so many million of souls, who by your hands escaped idolatry, today honor you as the instrument of their salvation.

During the days of celebration of the birth of Our Lord by Our Lady, you offered to them the gracious temple you built in their honor (the Basilica of Aix-la-Chapelle), and which is still today the object of our admiration. It was in this place that your pious hands placed the newborn garment worn by her Divine Son. As retribution, the Son of God desired that your bones should gloriously rest in the same place to receive the testimony of the veneration of the peoples.

O glorious heir to the three Magi Kings of the East, present our souls before the One who wore such a humble garment. Ask Him to give us a part of the profound humility you had as you knelt before the Manger, a part of that great joy that filled your heart at Christmas, a part of that fiery zeal that made you realize so many works for the glory of the Infant Christ, and a part of that great strength that never abandoned you in your conquests for His Kingdom.

O mighty Emperor, you who of old was the arbiter of the whole European family assembled under your scepter, have mercy on this society that today is being destroyed in all its parts. After more than a thousand years, the Empire that the Church placed in your hands has collapsed as a chastisement for its infidelity to the Church that founded it. The nations still remain, troubled and afflicted. Only the Church can return life to them through the Faith; only she continues to be the depositary of public law; only she can govern the powerful and bless the obedient.

O Charles the Great, we beseech you to make that day arrive soon when society, re-established at its foundations, will cease asking liberty and order from the revolutions. Protect with a special love France, the most splendid flower of your magnificent crown. Show that you are always her king and father. Put an end to the false progress of the faithless empires of the North that have fallen into schism and heresy, and do not permit the peoples of the Holy Empire to fall prisoner to them.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Prayer and Distraction

I had a couple of random thoughts this morning:

• A few months back, my friend Kat asked me to pray for her brother, whose has chronic leg problems had gotten worse of late. He never gets out of the house, I never see him, and it occurred to me that I should probably call up Kat and ask how he is doing.

• When my daughter was only a-year-and-a-half-old, she was bitten by a dog. She promptly bit the dog right back, leading us to conclude that if anyone had Saint Hubert’s special protection against dog bites, it was our little Bean-Girl. Since then, I have taken it for granted that Hubert was her patron. But since she is going to be confirmed in the Spring, it occurred to me that Bean-Girl should probably begin studying the lives of the saints so that she can pick out her own patron.

Now, these are both two perfectly legitimate, useful thoughts, but there was a time when they would have bothered me. You see, they both came to me while I was praying for these people and, when I was younger, and new to prayer, I would have regarded these thoughts as interruptions. But I have come to understand that, if prayer really is conversation with God, then God is going to respond to you.

Think about it; far from being an interruption in my prayer for Kat’s brother, the thought that I should ask after him turned my prayer from a mere repetition into a living, breathing concern about her brother. This is the kind of reflection that ought to come with prayer.

A few months back I received the welcome news that my best friend, Moira, was going to have a child. That evening, when I was saying the Rosary, and I got to the Second Joyful Mystery, the Visitation, it occurred to me that I had just had a visitation from Moira. Immediately I was flooded with happiness, seized with a joy deeper even than when I had first heard the news. And I turned this right back to the Rosary, realizing the profound bliss that Elizabeth must have felt upon greeting the pregnant Mary. I then contemplated how Jesus had known these same human joys and sorrows that we all experience, since he had become man. How, when we come to him for forgiveness, because he lived a human life, he knows why we fail. Sure I stopped my Rosary and contemplated this for five or six minutes, but all of these thoughts made my Rosary a deeper, more personal, better devotion.

Of course, we must guard against distraction while at prayer. The banal concerns of everyday life must be put aside when we approach God. But we also need to be able to respond in a conversation with God. If we close ourselves off to all other thoughts, then our prayer lives will become a pointless repetition of half-felt phrases.