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Prayers in Times of War, Famine and Pestilence — According to the Roman Ritual

Saint Gregory the Great Procession

The world rejected God …and God is showing us a world without Him…

“It is fitting, beloved brethren, that the punishment of God, the coming of which we should have been feared, as we fear now, when we bear this punishment. May this suffering, as a means of supplication, open the door to God, and the very suffering that we endure, would crush the stiffness of our hearts … So, let each of us seek protection in repentant lament, while there is time to cry. ” ~ Saint Gregory the Great.

War, Famine and Pestilence (Pandemics) have always been considered as divine chastisements in history, and the sole remedy the Church took against them was prayer and penance.

In 590 the newly elected Pope Gregory I called on the entire populace to process from their seven regions to Santa Maria Maggiore in solemn prayer for pardon and an end to the plagues that had beset the city for almost fifty years. A legend has it that St. Michael the Archangel ended the plague, stood atop the mausoleum of Hadrian, and sheathed his sword to show that the people’s prayers had been answered.

The Pope exhorted [everyone] to raise their eyes to God, Who permits such tremendous punishments in order to correct His children. To placate the Divine wrath, the Pope ordered a “seven-form litany”, that is, a procession of the entire Roman population, divided into seven corteges, according to sex, age and condition. The procession moved from the various Roman churches towards the Vatican Basilica, singing litanies along the way. This is the origin of what are known as the greatest Litanies of the Church, or rogations, which we pray to God that He may defend us from adversities. The seven corteges moved through the buildings of ancient Rome, barefoot, at a slow pace, heads covered in ashes. While the multitude traversed the city, in sepulchral silence, the pestilence reached such a point of fury, that in the brief space of an hour, eighty people fell dead to the ground. However, Gregory didn’t cease for a second in exhorting the people to continue praying and insisted that the picture of the Virgin painted by St. Luke and kept in Santa Maria Maggiore, be brought to the front of the procession. (Gregorio di Tours, Historiae Francorumliber X, 1, in Opera omnia, a cura di J.P. Migne, Parigi 1849 p. 528)

PRAYER (extract from the Roman Ritual, Titulus IX, Cap. X)

It should be prayed in Latin

℣. Dómine, non secúdum peccáta nostre facias nobis. ℣. Deal not with us, Lord, according to our sins.
℟. Neque secúndum iniquittátes nostras retribuas nobis. ℟. And take not vengeance on us because of our misdeeds.
℣. Adjuva nos, Deus, salutáris noster. ℣. Help us, O God, our Deliverer.
℟. Et propter glóriam nóminis tui, Dómine, libera nos. ℟. And for Thy name’s sake, O Lord, free us.
℣. Dómine, ne memineris iniquitatum nostrarum antiquárum. ℣. Remember not, O Lord, our sins of old.
℟. Cito anticipent nos misericórdiæ tuæ, quia páuperes facti sumus nimis. ℟. Hasten to us with Thy compassion, for we are become exceeding poor.
℣. Ora pro nobis, sancte Sebastiáne. ℣ St. Sebastian, pray for us.
℟. Ut digni efficiátmur promissiónibus Christi. ℟. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
℣. Dómine, exaudi oratiónem meam. ℣. O Lord, hear my prayer.
℟. Et clamor meus ad te véniat. ℟. And let my cry come unto thee.
℣. Dominus vobiscum. ℣. The Lord be with you.
℟. Et cum spiritu tuo. ℟. And with Thy spirit.
Orémus Let us pray
Exáudi nos, Deus salutáris noster: et intercedénte beáta et gloriósa Dei genitrice Maria semper vergine, et beáto Sebastiáno mártyre tuo, et omnibus Sanctis, pópulum tuum ab iracundiæ tuæ terróribus libera, et misericórdiæ tuæ fac largitáte securum. Vouchsafe to hear us, O God, our only salvation! And through the intercession of the glorious and blessed Mary, Mother of God and ever Virgin, of Thy blessed martyr, Sebastian and of all the saints, deliver Thy people from the terrors of Thy wrath, and restore their confidence by the outpouring of Thy compassion.
Propitiáre, Dónine, supplicatiónibus nostris: et animárum et córporum medére languóribus: ut remissióne percépta, in tua semper benedictióne lætémur. Be moved to pity, O Lord, at our earnest entreaties, and heal the illnesses of body and soul; so that experiencing Thy forgiveness we may ever rejoice in Thy blessing.
Da nobis, quæsumus, Dómine, piæ petitiónis efféctum: et pestiléntiam mortalitatérmque propitiátus avérte; ut mortálium corda cognóscant, et te indignánte tália flagélla prodire, et te miserante cessáre. Per Dóminum. We beseech thee, O Lord, grant us a hearing as we devoutly raise our petitions to Thee, and graciously turn away the epidemic of plague which afflicts us; so that mortal hearts may recognize that these scourges proceed from Thine indignation and cease only when Thou art moved to mercy. Through our Lord.
Amen. Amen.
Ultimo benedicit cum Refiquia S. Crucis, dicens: The priest then blesses people with a relic of the True Cross, saying:
Benedictio Dei omnipoténtis, Patris, et Filii, ✞ et Spiritus Sancti, descéndat super vos, máneat semper. And may the blessing of Almighty God, Father, ✞ Son and Holy Ghost descend upon you and remain forever.
℟. Amen ℟. Amen
Psalter in Latin and English

“And my people, upon whom my name is called, being converted, shall make supplication to me, and seek out my face, and do penance for their most wicked ways: then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins and will heal their land.” ~ 2 Chronicles 7:14

“And I heard another voice from heaven, saying: Go out from her, my people; that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues.” ~ Revelation 18:4


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