Plagues, Politics, Prayers

Brad Miner | March 9, 2020

In Sicily, where rainfall this year is 75 percent below normal, local communities are turning to ancient practices – prayer, penitence, processions – to ask God to save crops that would usually be harvested later this year, but stand in great peril.

It’s astonishing what myths and magical thinking still exist in our postmodern world. For example, a sociologist, consulted by Italian media, remarked that the processions were “an effective way to strengthen community” in times of crisis, such as drought or famine. Under cover of such pseudo-scientific myths, whole millennia of human belief and practice about prayer and our relationship to the Divinity simply disappear into the sociological mists.

It’s too bad for the faithful Sicilian farmers that Sicily is not in Amazonia. Otherwise, the sociological fraternity and – who knows – maybe even certain priests, bishops, and cardinals, might treat their ancestral practices, and the very notion of petitionary prayer, with more respect. Pachamama, according to the literature, is (among other things) the goddess of planting and harvesting. And who among our cultural or religious elites today would dare say that praying to Pachamama is really only community organizing?

We will have to let the academic world find its own way out of its crippling myths. But how about the rest of us? Do we, too, think that large-scale threats like drought or famine or our current plague, the COVID-19 virus, are just brute physical facts? That it’s useless, even foolish, to look at them as bearing some further dimensions that might call on us to do something as primitive as pray? Or even just think?

Click here to read the rest of Robert Royal’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .


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