In the Memoriale of St. Pierre Favre, I recently came across the passage below. The great Jesuit saint (considered by St. Ignatius himself to be the best director for the Spiritual Exercises) was apparently writing about the people of Speyer, having just left that city for a new assignment. But he might have said the same things about people anywhere in Europe.
In this month of October, having business one day in a little fortified market town and lodging there in the house of a gentleman of Speyer, I arose in the middle of the night to pray and was led to converse with God, the Blessed Virgin, and the saints on behalf of these people both living and dead. I made that prayer with much fervor and with many tears. It was then granted me to recall in turn all the benefits I perceived these people to have received. On behalf of all I begged for forgiveness, I gave thanks, I sought various graces, I grieved at their shortcomings. I wished that whenever God by his own actions or through his saints had done and was still doing in that land might be acknowledged.
I prayed, therefore, “O Lord Jesus Christ, has anyone acknowledged that goodness of yours which has conferred such plenty and prosperity on this land, which has preserved here for such a long time the sacrament of the Eucharist and the other sacraments and the words and the rites of Christian traditions? Spare these people, Lord, for they are heedless of these things; they do not seek after them; they have no knowledge of them. Spare them, for they no longer remember, according to their needs, the souls who must undergo purification. Preserve for these people, Lord, all these benefits. Do not look upon their ignorance, their negligence, their ingratitude, but rather upon Christ the Redeemer, the holy angels, and all the holy souls who on our behalf acknowledge all these blessings.
I recalled the benefits conferred on this land and the sins committed in it up to now. I included the fruits of the earth, temporal peace, the Catholic faith, churches, images, the ministers of the sacraments, and the sacraments themselves, holy water, the relics of the saints, and cemeteries. I included too the peace and the prosperity secured for the inhabitants by a long succession of temporal rules, and the priests, bishops, and preachers they have had.
St. Pierre Favre offered his prayer nearly 500 years ago. At the time, unprecedented divisions among Christians were endangering the many benefits of the faith, to which the saint alludes. Now the same gifts are being heedlessly discarded, by a European society indifferent to the faith. Spare these people, Lord…