Loving God, look with favor on those who rule with authority over us. Through Your loving hands, may prosperity and progress be achieved, may peace and harmony be assured, may freedom and justice be preserved, and may this nation be protected from harm through Christ Your Son Who is Lord forever and ever. Amen.
— Oratio Imperata for Government Officials, prayed in the Archdiocese of Manila
MANY Filipino Catholics praying the Oratio Imperata may well roll their eyes at the ending prayer quoted above.
Progress and prosperity? Peace and harmony? Freedom and justice?
Those lofty ideals must sound like an “Oratio Impossibile,” especially for those hopeless over the centuries of destitution and decline, conflict and discord, oppression and injustice suffered by generations of Filipinos until today.
Well, the eye-rolling probably happened throughout the one-page prayer promulgated by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, at the urging of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, to be recited at daily mass for nine days till Thursday, June 30, when newly elected officials assume office all across the archipelago.
Praying for leaders and rolling our eyes
Get a load of these petitions in the Oratio:
“Bless our leaders with true love for the poor and godly humility.”
For sure, many politicians need God’s miraculous grace to find true love of the poor in their hearts. Tens of thousands of candidates pressed the poor’s flesh in the last election, then promptly forgot the hordes after getting the votes.
Or worse: In the months before the May 2013 mid-term polls, Metro Manila leaders of the ruling coalition pressured the Department of Public Works and Highways not to relocate thousands of families living along flood-prone waterways, so the endangered informal settlers could vote before being moved. So when the rains came soon after the elections, the creekside households still faced illness, injury and death by flooding.
As for humility, surely the episode that best shows how Fiipino leaders need heaven to temper their hubris is President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s nationwide address disputing the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision voiding his Disbursement Acceleration Program. Unschooled in the law, the man tasked with implementing it lectured the justices who spent their lives mastering and adjudicating it.
That is neither humble, nor godly.
“Bless our leaders with a passion for truth that liberates and integrity that inspires.”
When this Oratio passage is read, pardon the massgoer or two who just couldn’t keep the snickers from slipping out, what with many a morning paper and evening news clip peppered with untruths and disintegrity from men and women in office.
Among the unliberating and uninspiring items of late were midnight Justice Department resolutions exonerating a military officer arrested in a drug raid, the alleged narco-king caught with him, and airport security personnel charged with laglag-bala extortion.
“Bless our leaders with sincere generosity and courageous simplicity of lifestyle.”
Giving more and living on less are demanded of public servants not just in the Constitution, but also the Ten Commandments and the Eight Beatitudes. Sadly, many officials seem not to have read any of those dos and don’ts.
Some bishops lauded the unextravagant presidential inauguration on Thursday. We pray the simple style lasts beyond the State of the Nation Address three weeks later, when gems, gowns and glitter show every last Monday of July how generous politicians are to their couturiers.
“Bless our leaders with the spirit of heroic sacrifice and unrelenting fortitude.”
Many politicos apparently forget that the sacrifice and fortitude are supposed to be shown by them, not the opponents they crucify. So it was in 2012 when the late Chief Justice Renato Corona showed sacrifice and fortitude against the presidential-congressional-media conspiracy to make him pay for the Supreme Court’s 14-0 vote to distribute Hacienda Luisita to its longsuffering farmers.
“Bless our leaders with true reverence for human life and unyielding opposition to the culture of death.”
First the Reproductive Health Bill. Now the death penalty and alleged police and vigilante rubouts.
Yes, the moral winds have certainly changed since the Arroyo government executed no one, commuted death sentences, outlawed capital punishment, and kept contraception advocates in check at the Health Department and the halls of Congress.
Despite that, at the end of her term in 2010, population growth dipped below 2 percent a year for the first time ever, and crime was less than one-third of the unprecedented million-plus incidents a year reached under Aquino since 2013. All without death culture.
We pray because we sin
But hang on: let’s remember that the Oratio is prayed precisely because many leaders fall short of its lofty ideals. Ditto all the pleas and supplications to the Almighty of every human soul, in or outside government.
In fact, billions daily are too weak or willful to follow the Ten Commandments and the edicts of our Lord, especially His call to love our enemies and to love one another as He has loved us, all the way to Calvary.
And in our prayers as well as our sacraments, especially confession, we know that we will still fail and fall back into the sins we atone for and promise to avoid. Even the greatest saints were stained by sin.
But guess what: God has known that even before He brought humanity and the rest of creation into being. He said let there be everything, knowing that every creature is, by definition, not the Creator and, therefore, not perfect and flawless like Him.
Hence, His first act of mercy was to create the world even if He knew it would fall infinitely short of His absolute perfection. And His second act of mercy is to call all men to be His children, partaking of the fullness of His divinity, through His Son.
So when we recite the Oratio, we pray not just for but also with our leaders, for each one of us has faltered and will falter like them, and we all need divine mercy and grace to reach our heavenly destiny.