Thank you once again for donating to help the Ukrainian refugees who are flooding into western Ukraine and the surrounding countries. At this time all donations have been sent and are being used right now to help refugees. Fr. Kolasa has been distributing the money to people and to fellow priests who are in direct contact with refugees. The Aquinas Institute paid for the credit card and transfer fees, so all of your money has gone to refugees.
The need keeps growing and so I’m here to ask once again for your help. But this time, I am not primarily asking for money. It’s typical for fundraising drives to open with, “We need your help, and first, we need your prayers . . . ” The request for money comes next, and the request for prayer seems to have been just a prelude.
But with the consecration of Russia and Ukraine to Our Lady today, it is clear that praying is the most important and effective thing to do right now. I was just reviewing the rich question of St. Thomas on prayer in Summa Theologiae II-II.83.
Prayer is effective
When talking about prayers of petition in article 2, Thomas asks whether prayers of petition are even effective. He begins by laying out three common false opinions about prayers of petition. Some people think that human actions are not ruled by Divine Providence, such that it would be useless to pray. Others think that since God is unchanging, praying has no effect on events. A third group thinks that the will of God is changeable, and that our prayers do move God to act differently. All of these opinions are false.
The truth of the matter is that although God is unchanging, our prayers are effective because he makes them effective. Thomas says that “we pray not that we may change the Divine disposition, but that we may ask for that which God has disposed to be fulfilled by our prayers.” (II-II.83.2.c)
There are some things in this world that God wants to happen precisely as “having been asked for.” We are really causes of these things, and if we don’t pray for them, they won’t be given as asked-for things.
We are supposed to pray for others
What are we supposed to ask for? After laying down the fact that prayer is effective, Thomas points out that there are certain things that we have been commanded to ask for. Things the Lord commands us to ask for are pretty clearly things he intends to fulfill through our asking.
“When we pray we ought to ask for what we ought to desire. Now we ought to desire good things not only for ourselves, but also for others: for this is essential to the love which we owe to our neighbor, as stated above. Therefore charity requires us to pray for others.” (II-II.83.7.c)
We have been commanded to ask for things, not just for ourselves, but also for other people. What precisely should we ask for?
“There are certain goods which man cannot ill use, because they cannot have an evil result. Such are those which are the object of beatitude and whereby we merit it: and these the saints seek absolutely when they pray, as in Ps. 79:4, Show us Thy face, and we shall be saved, and again in Ps. 118:35, Lead me into the path of Thy commandments.” (II-II.83.5.c)
Putting these two thoughts together: it seems fitting that we ask for our neighbor to be led in the way of God’s commandments.
Praying together is powerful
Thomas also details the way that praying to the saints, and praying with others, is effective. We ask the saints to ask on our behalf, so that there are more people asking—more people involved in causing. “We pray to the saints, whether angels or men, not that God may through them know our petitions, but that our prayers may be effective through their prayers and merits.” (II-II.83.4.c)
A confluence of wills seems to matter. As Aquinas quotes a Gloss: “…many lesser ones, if they be united together in one mind, become great, and it is impossible for the prayers of a multitude not to obtain that which is possible to be obtained by prayer.” (II-II.83.7 ad 3)
I have witnessed several instances of the effectiveness of a whole community praying. What began as one mother’s earnest prayer became the prayer of a whole community and resulted in a miracle. It seems that prayer is efficacious not just by its intensity, but also by its extensiveness.
Our Lady asked us to
Since Our Lady of Fatima told us to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart for the conversion of Russia, it seems pretty clear that we are supposed to ask for the conversion of Russia. The conversion of Russia will be granted by God as an asked-for thing.
And so here I am, once again asking you for prayers and money to help Ukrainian refugees. But primarily, I am asking for your prayers. Please pray with the whole Church for the conversion of Russia today. The conversion of Russia will result in so much more healing for Russia, Ukraine, and the world than money could provide. The Pope and bishops are praying the following prayer:
Act of Consecration
to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Basilica of Saint Peter
25 March 2022
O Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, in this time of trial we turn to you. As our Mother, you love us and know us: no concern of our hearts is hidden from you. Mother of mercy, how often we have experienced your watchful care and your peaceful presence! You never cease to guide us to Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
Yet we have strayed from that path of peace. We have forgotten the lesson learned from the tragedies of the last century, the sacrifice of the millions who fell in two world wars. We have disregarded the commitments we made as a community of nations. We have betrayed peoples’ dreams of peace and the hopes of the young. We grew sick with greed, we thought only of our own nations and their interests, we grew indifferent and caught up in our selfish needs and concerns. We chose to ignore God, to be satisfied with our illusions, to grow arrogant and aggressive, to suppress innocent lives and to stockpile weapons. We stopped being our neighbor’s keepers and stewards of our common home. We have ravaged the garden of the earth with war and by our sins we have broken the heart of our heavenly Father, who desires us to be brothers and sisters. We grew indifferent to everyone and everything except ourselves. Now with shame we cry out: Forgive us, Lord!
Holy Mother, amid the misery of our sinfulness, amid our struggles and weaknesses, amid the mystery of iniquity that is evil and war, you remind us that God never abandons us, but continues to look upon us with love, ever ready to forgive us and raise us up to new life. He has given you to us and made your Immaculate Heart a refuge for the Church and for all humanity. By God’s gracious will, you are ever with us; even in the most troubled moments of our history, you are there to guide us with tender love.
We now turn to you and knock at the door of your heart. We are your beloved children. In every age you make yourself known to us, calling us to conversion. At this dark hour, help us and grant us your comfort. Say to us once more: “Am I not here, I who am your Mother?” You are able to untie the knots of our hearts and of our times. In you we place our trust. We are confident that, especially in moments of trial, you will not be deaf to our supplication and will come to our aid.
That is what you did at Cana in Galilee, when you interceded with Jesus and he worked the first of his signs. To preserve the joy of the wedding feast, you said to him: “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3). Now, O Mother, repeat those words and that prayer, for in our own day we have run out of the wine of hope, joy has fled, fraternity has faded. We have forgotten our humanity and squandered the gift of peace. We opened our hearts to violence and destructiveness. How greatly we need your maternal help!
Therefore, O Mother, hear our prayer.
Star of the Sea, do not let us be shipwrecked in the tempest of war.
Ark of the New Covenant, inspire projects and paths of reconciliation.
Queen of Heaven, restore God’s peace to the world.
Eliminate hatred and the thirst for revenge, and teach us forgiveness.
Free us from war, protect our world from the menace of nuclear weapons.
Queen of the Rosary, make us realize our need to pray and to love.
Queen of the Human Family, show people the path of fraternity.
Queen of Peace, obtain peace for our world.
O Mother, may your sorrowful plea stir our hardened hearts. May the tears you shed for us make this valley parched by our hatred blossom anew. Amid the thunder of weapons, may your prayer turn our thoughts to peace. May your maternal touch soothe those who suffer and flee from the rain of bombs. May your motherly embrace comfort those forced to leave their homes and their native land. May your Sorrowful Heart move us to compassion and inspire us to open our doors and to care for our brothers and sisters who are injured and cast aside.
Holy Mother of God, as you stood beneath the cross, Jesus, seeing the disciple at your side, said: “Behold your son” (Jn 19:26). In this way he entrusted each of us to you. To the disciple, and to each of us, he said: “Behold, your Mother” (v. 27). Mother Mary, we now desire to welcome you into our lives and our history. At this hour, a weary and distraught humanity stands with you beneath the cross, needing to entrust itself to you and, through you, to consecrate itself to Christ. The people of Ukraine and Russia, who venerate you with great love, now turn to you, even as your heart beats with compassion for them and for all those peoples decimated by war, hunger, injustice and poverty.
Therefore, Mother of God and our Mother, to your Immaculate Heart we solemnly entrust and consecrate ourselves, the Church and all humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine. Accept this act that we carry out with confidence and love. Grant that war may end and peace spread throughout the world. The “Fiat” that arose from your heart opened the doors of history to the Prince of Peace. We trust that, through your heart, peace will dawn once more. To you we consecrate the future of the whole human family, the needs and expectations of every people, the anxieties and hopes of the world.
Through your intercession, may God’s mercy be poured out on the earth and the gentle rhythm of peace return to mark our days. Our Lady of the “Fiat”, on whom the Holy Spirit descended, restore among us the harmony that comes from God. May you, our “living fountain of hope”, water the dryness of our hearts. In your womb Jesus took flesh; help us to foster the growth of communion. You once trod the streets of our world; lead us now on the paths of peace. Amen.