2001-10-07 In these critical days I often ask Our Lady of Victory...
October 7, 2001
In these critical days I often ask Our Lady of Victory in the intercessory prayers of the Mass to guide and protect our President, our armed forces, and our allies. I served for three years in the Church of Our Lady of Victory downtown, but I invoke her for more than nostalgic reasons. Mary was given a feast day under the title of our Lady of Victory after Pope St. Pius V was convinced that her miraculous intercession had saved Christian Europe from the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1572. Had the Muslims defeated the allied Catholic fleet, civilization would be unrecognizable today.
Some may ask, "Shouldn't we pray for peace instead of victory?" Peace is the desire of every prayer, bearing in mind that without victory in a just war there can be no peace. St. Augustine explained what makes a war just and St. Thomas reminds us that it would be sinful not to fight for justice. The Church, which is the world's most cogent means of peace, rejects pacifism. The pacifist denies the justice of any war and the good of self-defense. In the encyclical Centesimus Annus, the Holy Father recalls how much suffering was caused by the political compromises of the Yalta Conference. Every strategy must try to avoid violence to innocent civilians who are the most tragic victims of wars. Justice seeks only to vindicate the just and punish the guilty. Clumsy minds do not distinguish between retribution and revenge, between victory and vengeance. The Christian knows that just wars are not exercises in vengeance. They are regrettable but necessary occasions to prove that "Greater love has no man than that he lay down his life for his friends."
If the need arises, parishioners may politely explain to our non-Catholic friends, whom we warmly welcome, that Catholic custom is against applause in church. Since worship is not entertainment, it is inappropriate to applaud anyone involved in the liturgy, be they priests, or honored guests, or musicians. This is more than a question of good taste. It is a matter of theology.
Mass should be followed by silence conducive to private prayer. Bad habits have been seeping into many Catholic churches. The ordination liturgy permits a ritual acclamation. The one other traditional exception is for the Sovereign Pontiff who is the Vicar of Christ. Until some happy day when a Pope visits our church, let us avoid applause and offer praise only to God.
Fr. George W. Rutler