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- PRAYER & DEVOTION
How obtuse and inattentive have been the custodians of the Faith these past two thousand years! We and our ancestors have apparently been permitted, even enjoined, to recite the Our Father in an inaccurate and misleading way. Resonating through the corridors of time, from the first century until our own, are the words, “lead us not into temptation.” (ne nos inducas in tentationem — in the Latin Vulgate)
At last, however, in this year of Our Lord 2017, we have a Pope who is prepared to lead us out of the traditional Lord’s Prayer and into a new and improved version that will save us from the misunderstanding we have presumably labored under through the millenia.
Just what is this misunderstanding that requires correction? It is, according to Pope Francis, the idea that God tempts us to sin. “A father doesn’t do that,” the Pope said in a recent television interview. “He helps you get up right away. What induces into temptation is Satan.”
Did we not know this already? Does it require the Pope’s critique of an ancient translation to enlighten us in the matter? All authorities agree that the traditional translation from the New Testament Greek is accurate, and it has never posed a problem — until now.
But does it really pose a problem at all?
We have all prayed the Our Father countless times and repeated the words “lead us not into temptation” with the clear knowledge that we are asking Our Lord to save us from falling into sin. We have prayed these words with the understanding that we are asking for the grace to help us resist the lies of satan, and the attractions of the world and the flesh that are laid before us and that tempt us to forget we have an immortal soul and an eternal destiny.
Have any of us actually thought that God wants us to sin? That Our Lord is trying to induce us to transgress His laws and harm our souls so that He may damn us? How absurd! Yet, Francis is admittedly worried that such may be the case. How ought we to respond to the Pope’s desire to change the words of the Our Father?
We are forced, by common sense, to doubt the genuine nature of Francis’ expressed concerns. It cannot be that a Vicar of Christ, a highly educated Jesuit, really believes that the words of the Our Father have been misinterpreted for two thousand years and that a corrective is needed at this particular time. To take the Pope’s words at face value we must impugn either his intelligence or our own. Francis is not a stupid man, and Catholics are not so doctrinally benighted as he seemingly fears.
So what is this new commotion regarding possible changes to the Our Father really about?
Many things were changed following Vatican II: liturgy, discipline, customs, catechesis, prayers. Many of these changes appeared to be gratuitous, others gravely troubling. But the overall import of the changes was to unsettle the Catholic mind and heart. Once we accepted that anything and everything was subject to change, we were more likely to accept with acquiescence whatever novelties authority proposed. We simply got used to having the ground shift beneath our feet with such frequency that we no longer minded the large and little earthquakes that shook the Church.
All of these changes were merely cosmetic, we were told: an updating of language and discipline to keep pace with the times. Nothing of substance was being lost, we were re-assured time and again. But imagine someone cut off from the Church, say from 1960 until the present. Would he recognize as Catholic anything that he might see going on today in his parish? Would he not be dumbfounded by the words of the post-conciliar popes? Would he not regard Pope Francis as incomprehensible and outrageous? Would he not, like Mary Magdalene at the tomb, say in pain and confusion, “What have they done with my Church?”
What would he make of the vernacular Mass, the changed words of the Consecration, lay men and women distributing the Blessed Sacrament, people receiving Holy Communion in their hands or drinking the Precious Blood from the Chalice? What would he make of the typical Novus Ordo funeral Mass, which is now a falsely jolly ceremony of canonization? What would he make of Amoris Laetitia? Of the pedophile scandals among the clergy? What would he think of a notorious homosexual prelate being placed in charge of the papal residence and serving as the papal representative to the corrupt Vatican bank? What would he make of Pope Benedict’s resignation? We could go on. But we all know how vast and deep have been the so-called reforms that followed the Second Vatican Council. The Church is hardly recognizable from what it was a half-century ago and from what it has been throughout the ages.
And there is no end in sight for the “updating” that is deemed so necessary to keep the Church relevant to the modern world. Now, we are told that the Our Father may need to be updated, too. France has taken the lead and its bishops have already changed the phrase the Pope finds theologically troubling. “Ne nous laisse pas entrer en tentation” (do not let us give in to temptation) has already been adopted. So, the Pope can rest easy that at least the Catholics of France, or the diminishing remains of them, will not be misled.
As for the rest of us, we are apparently still in need of further instruction and the habits of a lifetime may have to be broken, for our own good, presumably. But does any of this nonsense about the words of the Our Father have to do with genuine pastoral concern? Is the Holy Father really worried that spiritual harm will befall us unless he intervenes to change the custom that has persisted for two millennia? It may be doubted, to put it politely.
Even the most mild and conciliatory of Catholic commentators are clearing their collective throats about this latest of the Pope’s initiatives. “Pope Francis has made a habit of throwing things into confusion, and this is one of them. It just makes you wonder, where does it stop, what’s up for grabs. It’s cumulative unease.” So says Philip Lawler, editor of Catholic World News and a compliant apologist for any number of post-conciliar novelties. Perhaps, if Mr. Lawler and others had not allowed their unease to accumulate but had addressed it immediately, we would not be faced with the present absurdity, which even they feel compelled to address, albeit in their restrained and ineffectual way.
The Protestant world, however, is not so restrained. According to a report in the New York Times, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said he was “shocked and appalled” by the Pope’s remarks. “This is the Lord’s Prayer. It is not, and has never been, the Pope’s prayer…”
But Southern Baptists probably fall within the spectrum of those fundamentalists for whom the Pope has repeatedly expressed his disdain, so he is unlikely to be deterred by his otherwise keen ecumenical sensitivities. Still, Mohler’s remarks are refreshing in their frankness when set beside the timid reservations of Lawler’s “cumulative unease.”
During her final years, Sister Lucy said that we must take the initiative in prayer and penance and not look to those in authority to lead us in these things. Those who have seen the full Third Secret, such as Cardinal Ciappi, have told us that apostasy in the Church will begin “at the top.” Has it not begun? All we can do is follow Sister Lucy’s advice. And when we pray, let us pray the words of Our Lord, “lead us not into temptation.”