Thursday, September 12, 2013

Pope Francis Prays for Peace

Cornelius Sullivan

Holy Mary Protectress of the Roman People, Santa Maria Salus Populi Romani

Naples, September 11, 2013

Pope Francis last weekend called for a world wide weekend of prayer and fasting for peace, peace in Syria, in the Middle East, and in the world. Since then suddenly war has been put on hold, at least for a while.  Unexpectedly the plans for the United States to punitively bomb Assad have halted.
It appears that no one has noted that the Pope's call for world wide fasting and prayer for peace has done anything. He was heeded, listened to, people did pray. The United States, even though leading from behind, has said that the threat of attack has caused Assad to blink. Can the idea proposed by Russia to control chemical weapons be feasible during a civil war? These are some of the issues being debated now.
No one has connected the sudden change in circumstances, the bombing pause, with the prayers of Pope Francis and the world. Allow me to point out how the actions of  Popes in other times, with the prayers of the people, have brought about improbable changes.
In 590 AD Pope Gregory the Great with hundreds of pilgrims carried an icon of the Virgin Mary processing from the Basilica of Saint Mary Major through the streets of Rome praying for the end of the plague. The icon is called Santa Maria Salus Populi Romani, Holy Mary Protectress of the Roman People. Almost at Saint Peter's Basilica they all saw a vision of Saint Michael the Archangel above Hadrian's Tomb sheathing his sword signifying that the plague would end. After the same vision occurred later at the same place, at the time of the Black Death in 1348, that mausoleum received its new name, Castel Sant'Angelo. The castle is at the end of the wide boulevard leading to Saint Peter's Square, Via della Conciliazione.
The first full day of his papacy, at 8:05 in the morning, Pope Francis  went to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major to pray before the same icon, Santa Maria Solus Populi Romani. He returned there again a short time later to pray at the beginning of May, the Marian month.
A Time article by Elizabeth Dias chronicles last Sunday's events at Saint Peter's:
The prayer service began when four Swiss guards processed        through the square with the icon Salus Populi Romani, Mary, the Queen of Peace and the Protectress of the Roman people. (the same icon that the Pope has visited twice) The Pope led the Rosary recitation, a meditation, and a Eucharist ceremony. Bible readings from the Gospel of Luke focused on Mary, and thousands of people in the square followed along with a 51-page booklet the Vatican produced for the service. Priests heard confessions under the St. Peters colonnade.
When not being carried in a procession, the icon is displayed in Saint Mary Major in great artistic splendor in the Pauline Chapel, named after the Borghese Pope, Pope Paul V. Tradition attributes the icon to Saint Luke and says that Saint Helena, Emporer Constantine's mother, brought it to Rome from the east.
After his election Pope Francis was seen as a refreshing revolutionary, but we can now see an aspect of him that is like Pope  Gregory, who with the people, connects with the world employing time honored popular devotions; a Marian procession, the Rosary, confessions, a Eucharistic celebration, and then a piazza filled with prayers for peace.   

Vision of Saint Michael The Archangel, 2011, oil, 30x40", by the author.

Cornelius Sullivan at home

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