ROME – In a move suggesting Pope Francis believes the Church is in a moment of “spiritual turbulence,” the pontiff is asking Catholics around the world to pray the rosary every day during the month of October for protection of the Church from the devil.
The daily praying of the rosary during the “Marian month of October,” a Vatican statement Saturday said, will unite the faithful “in communion and penance, as a people of God, in asking the Holy Mother of God and St. Michael the Archangel to protect the Church from the devil, who always aims to divide us from God and among us.”
The statement also says that, as the pope noted during his daily homily on Sept. 11, prayer is the weapon against “the Great accuser who ‘travels around the world looking for accusations’.”
Beyond daily praying of the rosary, the pope is also requesting that the faithful add two prayers: An ancient invocation Sub Tuum Praesidium and a prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel “who protects and helps fight against evil,” according to the Book of Revelations.
The Vatican statement also said that the pope has tasked Jesuit Father Fréderic Fornos, who heads the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, to spread this appeal. The Spanish priest heads the network once known as the Apostleship of Prayer, responsible for the pope’s monthly prayer videos. October’s intention, planned a year in advance, is supposed to be “The Mission of Religious.”
“Only prayer can defeat [the devil],” said the statement. “The Russian mystics and the great saints of all traditions advised, in moments of spiritual turbulence, to protect themselves under the mantle of the Holy Mother of God by pronouncing the invocation Sub Tuum Praesidium.”
The Marian prayer also known in English as “Beneath Thy Protection” is the oldest hymn dedicated to the Virgin and is well known among many Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox countries, and is often a favorite song used along with Salve Regina.
With the request announced on Saturday, the pope is “asking the faithful of the whole world to pray so that the Mother of God puts the Church under her protective mantle to preserve her from the attacks of the evil one, the great accuser, and to make [the Church] all the more conscious of the faults, the mistakes, the abuses made in the present and in the past, and more committed to fighting without any hesitation for evil not to prevail.”
The prayer to St. Michael the Archangel was written by Pope Leon XIII and incorporated into the rubrics of the Low Mass of the Church from 1886 to its suppression in 1964, which became effective a year later, after the Second Vatican Council. It was originally destined as a prayer for the independence of the Holy See and the pope’s temporal sovereignty.
After the signing of the Lateran Treaties in 1929 that led to the creation of the Vatican City State, the prayer remained in the Missal but was instead offered “to permit tranquility and freedom to profess the faith to be restored to the afflicted people of Russia.”
Pope Francis is not the first pope to ask the faithful to recite this prayer since 1964. John Paul II did so in 1994, saying that “although this prayer is no longer recited at the end of Mass, I ask everyone not to forget it and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against the forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.”