ATLANTA (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Catholic priest is pushing a heretical prayer on the faithful at a Georgia parish, confusing — and alarming — the parishioners.
On Sept. 4, Msgr. Peter J. Rau, pastor of St. Peter Chanel Church in Roswell, Georgia emailed the prayer in question to the entire parish, members of the church told Church Militant. The prayer, titled "A Prayer as I Put on My Mask," was composed by Rev. Dr. Richard Bott, the moderator of The United Church of Canada — though Msgr. Rau's signature does appear after the prayer.
The prayer compares wearing a mask to a sacrament. "Help me to see the sacrament in wearing this cloth," it reads. "Let it be 'an outward sign of an inward grace.'"
A priest wishing to remain anonymous told Church Militant that "comparing the wearing of a mask to a sacrament is insulting to the seven real sacraments." He argued that the prayer is theologically errant. "In the seven real sacraments of the Church," the cleric continued, "God in a real way shares His very self with us, in a dynamic, transformative way."
The priest went further in explaining his objection. "Putting on a mask, however, is a black sacrament for the Illuminati, " he noted. "The prayer reminded me of a particular diversion of the Illuminati — always hiding behind their masks, and never revealing who they truly are."
"God help us from these evil people, in this evil time," he prayed.
The prayer also conflates Jesus' mandate to "Love your neighbor as yourself" with the wearing of the mask "as a tangible and visible way of having love for my neighbors as I love myself."
It implores the "Holy Spirit" — while "the elastic touches my ears" — to "remind me to listen carefully ... to all those I meet." "May this simple piece of cloth be shield and banner, and each breath that it holds, be filled with your love," it continues.
Preceding the prayer is a note of motivation to obey the mask mandate: "None of us like to wear a mask, but maybe this prayer will help."
Parishioners at St. Peter Chanel have noted the tendency towards "excessive COVID restrictions and edicts." The litany of public Mass reservations and attendance guidelines are available online here and here. Masks are required for everyone age 10 and older — not only inside the church but also anywhere on campus grounds.
The Georgia churchgoers are not the only Catholics encouraged to say the prayer: St. Therese Catholic Church in Mooresville (in the diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina) posted it as a video, accompanied by music, on its Facebook page. Many Protestant churches throughout North America are promoting it.
According to Catholic theology and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the seven sacraments were instituted by Jesus Christ and entrusted to the Church. They are
Elizabeth M. Kelly, author of Reasons I Love Being Catholic (2007), underscores the critical importance of the sacraments. Her appreciation of the sacraments, she says, was reawakened in her as her brother prepared for the priesthood:
It is critically important that we remember the sacraments are not traditions. They are not little rituals we play out like the make-believe games of childhood. They have the power to bring Heaven to earth, rip the veil between all things seen and unseen and allow humanity and eternity to commingle in mysterious, yet palpable ways. Through the sacraments, Heaven comes, not just to visit, but to live with us and in us. In the sacraments, we are graced.
Kelly adds that during the ordinations she has attended, one simple thought consumes her: "This is a really big deal."
"All the sacraments are ... a really big deal," she adds. "For each of us."
The pandemic has interrupted, delayed, even halted outright the administration and reception of the sacraments for Catholics, shaking the foundations of their faith. In light of this reality, while the St. Peter Chanel parishioners believe reasonable precautions taken against the coronavirus must be taken, they find comparing the secular mandate of wearing a mask to sacred gifts received from God a vexing — and perhaps blasphemous — matter.
Church Militant reached out to Msgr. Rau for comment but received no reply as of press time.