As we get nearer to Good Friday, I am reminded very much that this season of Lent calls us to offer our penances and prayers especially for others. Recently, at the campus ministry that I assist at, we have had some talked more focused on reaching out to unbelievers or on how to address them. Most recently, I’ve had a few discussions with folks who were atheists. That is why the following prayer by Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman is so moving – it comes from his meditations on the intercessions for Good Friday and is a prayer for the conversion of “scoffers and unbelievers.” I ask you to consider praying it and offering some concrete penance for all of those who either may have left the Church (or Christianity as a whole) or those who never believed. This is what this season is all about: salvation.
O Lord Jesus Christ, upon the Cross Thou didst say: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And this surely, O my God, is the condition of vast multitudes among us now; they know not what they might have known, or they have forgotten what once they knew. They deny that there is a God, but they know not what they are doing. They laugh at the joys of heaven and the pains of hell, but they know not what they are doing. They renounce all faith in Thee, the Saviour of man, they despise Thy Word and Sacraments, they revile and slander Thy Holy Church and her Priests, but they know not what they are doing. They mislead the wandering, they frighten the weak, they corrupt the young, but they know not what they do. Others, again, have a wish to be religious, but mistake error for truth—they go after fancies of their own, and they seduce others and keep them from Thee. They know not what they are doing, but Thou canst make them know. O Lord, we urge Thee by Thy own dear words, “Lord and Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Teach them now, open their eyes here, before the future comes; give them faith in what they must see hereafter, if they will not believe in it here. Give them full and saving faith here; destroy their dreadful delusions, and give them to drink of that living water, which whoso hath shall not thirst again.
Yours in Christ,
Br. James Dominic, OP