Just over a year ago, I wrote about the British government’s approach to the challenge posed by the existence of ISIS. Since then, very little has changed. ISIS is still in business. Oh, one thing has changed: since then ISIS has carried a series of terrorist atrocities on European soil, including the murder of a priest saying Mass. So, it is not quite accurate to say nothing has changed, for things have got a great deal worse.
Certain courses of action, such as military action, can only be carried out by governments. And governments like ours are slow to act. So, as we wait for decisive action against ISIS, what is there that ordinary people can do? What actions are possible on the level of the private citizen and the Catholic in the pew?
First of all, we can and should each offer a daily rosary for the defeat of ISIS. The rosary is a powerful prayer, and it has been the refuge of Catholics in times of trouble before now. The rosary ends with the Salve Regina, in which we, who live in this vale of tears, ask Our Blessed Lady to turn her compassionate eyes towards us: there is no better intercession to be made for the suffering people of Aleppo than that.
Secondly, why not start saying this prayer, which was once recited at the end of every Mass?
Holy Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do you, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
Indeed, why not ask your parish priest if you can start to say it at Mass once more? It sums up the present predicament of the God’s people, and it enlists on our side the powerful help of the angels, to whom, perhaps, we have not been devoted enough.
Thirdly, why not get your parish to initiate some Muslim-Catholic dialogue? These dialogues do go on, but what is needed is dialogue at local level, in which ordinary Catholics and Muslims can get together and talk about what it is they believe about God, and the way people are called by God to co-exist. Only so called “moderate” Muslims will be interested in doing this, of course, but that they would be willing to do so would be a severe challenge to Islamist radicals, and serve to isolate the latter from their Muslim hinterland.
Finally, ask your parish priest to celebrate the Mass ‘For Persecuted Christians’ (it is found in the Roman Missal on page 1346) during the week when there is no other feast day. You could facilitate this by making a Mass offering for that intention. This intention could also be offered on a Sunday, when more people are present, and where the announcing of the intention will perhaps raise greater awareness. One could also ask for this intention to be included in the prayers of the faithful on a regular basis.