Prayer in the Square Needs You

Larry Smith

The world can seem such a mess that we may wonder what we can do. We need to pray. We need to pray as individuals and as a Catholic community, for the conversion of hearts and the salvation of souls. There are many opportunities to pray and I’d like to invite you to the upcoming Prayer in the Square gathering on every first Saturday of the month.

We need to let the world know our commitment to our faith, that it’s not OK to cut God out of public life. God is public life. We need to let people know that there aren’t many moralities; there’s one morality which is the morality of God, of Jesus Christ. We need to stand up and declare that in public and let people know. The greatest form of charity is to save people’s souls, to get them to engage in helping one another. This is the new civil rights movement. Priests and clergy can’t do it alone. Be a part of Prayer in the Square. There’s strength in numbers.

As St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Prayer in the Square is an opportunity to pray for the innocents. That could be children killed in the womb in America and around the world — or any person at risk of being denied true dignity and loving care due to aging or health issues. It’s also to pray for Christians around the world who are being persecuted and murdered for their faith.

All people of good will need to stand up and say, “Enough.” The opportunity to do that in a very public way will take place at Prayer in the Square on the west steps of the state Capitol in Denver at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 2, the day before Divine Mercy Sunday. Prayer in the Square is a lay movement in the Archdiocese of Denver with the blessing of Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, who will celebrate Mass at 9 a.m. April 2 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. He will then lead the rosary at the state Capitol at 10 a.m.

On March 5, Archbishop Aquila led a Procession of the Blessed Sacrament around Planned Parenthood with 1,800 people, circling the facility seven times. That echoed the march around the walls of Jericho described in the book of Joshua, Chapter 6.

Prayer in the Square is a part of the first Saturday devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. We gather at 10 a.m. on those mornings at any of five locations on the Front Range to pray a rosary together. And every three months, all the groups gather on the steps of the state Capitol to pray together.

So please join us Saturday, May 7, for Prayer in the Square at any one of the five locations. Two are in Denver: in front of Planned Parenthood at 3846 Pontiac St., and at Ruby Hill Park at 1200 W. Florida Ave. We also meet in Highlands Ranch at Civic Green Park at 9370 Ridgeline Blvd., and in Fort Collins, across from the Planned Parenthood at 825 S. Shields St. There is also a Prayer in the Square in Greeley at Centennial Park, 2315 W. Reservoir Road.

Go to prayerinthesquare.com for all the details.

Larry Smith is the president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver. Visit online at ccdenver.org or call 303-742-0828 to learn more, volunteer or make a donation.

COMING UP: 500 years later, who was Luther?

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

Hero, villain, heretic, saint, reformer, corrupter, man of integrity, bombastic glutton. Which image of Luther should we believe? Because Luther primarily sought not to reform abuses in the Church but to reform the Church’s beliefs, Catholics cannot recognize him as a true reformer or a holy man. Nonetheless, it is widely agreed that Luther played a major role in shaping the modern world. With the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant movement he initiated approaching on October 31st, we have been given a number of new books to assess his legacy.

Paul Hacker, Luther’s Faith: Martin Luther and the Origin of Anthropocentric Religion, preface by Pope Benedict XVI (Emmaus, 2017).

Hacker’s book provides an in-depth, theological analysis of the issue that stands at the heart of the Reformation: Luther’s teaching on salvation by faith alone. Pope Benedict’s preface tells us that the Reformation dispute fundamentally concerned Luther’s “turning away from the center of the Gospel” (xxii). Emmaus released a new edition of Hacker’s book for the anniversary this year. It was published originally in 1970 (in English translation), the fruit of Hacker’s own intense study of Luther’s teaching on faith that led him into the Catholic Church from German Lutheranism.

Catholics agree with Protestants that salvation comes only through faith. The key issue of dispute, which Hacker reveals, is Luther’s subjective emphasis of absolute, personal certainty, which cannot be undermined even by serious sin. Hacker describes Luther’s faith as reflexive, that is turned back on oneself, by emphasizing subjective experience and personal surety more than anything else. He describes how Luther differs from the Catholic position: “Faith is the way to, or the perquisite of, salvation, but Luther makes it coincide with salvation itself. This becomes possible because he has first identified salvation with the consciousness of being saved or the certitude of salvation, and then he equates this consciousness with faith” (71). Hacker shows us how this view of faith negated the Church’s authority, the sacraments, and even the need to love God.

Brad Gregory, Rebel in the Ranks: Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the Conflicts that Continue to Shape Our World (HarperOne, 2017).

For those looking for a more general and accessible book, Brad Gregory gives us a broader narrative of how Luther’s troubled conscience exploded into the crisis that tore Christendom in two. The first section looks at Luther’s own story, tracing step by step his conflict with Church authority. The second section explains how Luther’s teaching spawned a multitude of new sects and divisions, all interpreting the Bible in their own fashion. Greggory explains: “What the early Reformation shows so clearly is that scripture and the Spirt can be interpreted and applied in radically divergent ways. Once the papacy and the Catholic Church are thrown off, there are no shared authorities to adjudicate disagreements” (137). The final section looks at how the Reformation set the tone for the development of a secular culture. Though not intending these consequences, Gregory argues that the Protestant Reformers “led indirectly to a profound diminishing of Christianity’s public influence in Western societies. The religious disagreements and conflicts that followed the Reformation set the stage for religion’s eventual separation from the rest of life” (2).

Eric Metaxas, Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World (Viking, 2017).

Metaxas, who wrote a monumental biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, provides us with a different perspective on Luther. His book seems poised to capture the largest audience for the anniversary this year. While I can’t agree with his view of Luther as a hero of faith, I can appreciate his presentation of a more sympathetic and thorough look at a man who has inspired many Protestant Christians. It is helpful to recognize why Luther is such an important figure for so many people. This book definitely provides many more details on the life of Luther (with over 450 pages). However, I would exercise caution, because it unfortunately also contains many gross misrepresentations of the state of the Church at the time of the Reformation.

For instance, even though Metaxas shows us many ways that Luther encountered the Bible in his early life, he still claims that the Bible and Church had no connection in the early 1500s and that “the study of the Bible per se was simply unheard of” (52). Luther himself was a theology professor and throughout the Middle Ages the Bible was the primary text for teaching theology. Brad Gregory makes clear in his book on Luther that there were even “twenty-two editions of the complete vernacular Bible . . . published in German . . . by 1518” (29). Metaxas presents a false picture of Catholics as ignorant, afraid to pray to Christ, and thinking they must earn their salvation through works. Good historical research could easily dispel these myths, such as the books of Eamon Duffy, but we see Protestants continue to project Luther’s own scruples (hating God and spending six hours in Confession, 47) onto the Church of his time.

Jerome K. Williams, True Reformers: Saints of the Catholic Reformation (Augustine Institute, 2017).

What could have Luther been if he had chosen faithful reform? The answer is a saint. There is no doubt that the Church was in need of serious reform in the 1500s. We have a number of great saints who show us that fidelity to God does not contradict fidelity to His Church. They stood against corruption and initiated deep and abiding reform. The Augustine Institute has release both a book and video series on true reformers, who boldly spoke out against abuses and led to a deeper realization of the truth found in the Bible, read in harmony with the Church. These figures—Teresa of Avila, Thomas More, Ignatius of Loyola, and Charles Borromeo, for instance—continue to inspire us to take up the task of genuine reform today.