Mixed Message: Pope Prays


  • Pope Prays for Sewol Ferry Victims at Open-Air Mass in Daejeon
    (Bloomberg Business Week)
  • Pope prays for Korea ferry disaster victims

Three hundred Koreans tragically died when the MV Sewol sank in April this year. And yesterday, the head of the Catholic church, Pope Francis, prayed in front of a large crow saying:

“We especially entrust to the holy mother all those who lost their lives and those who’re still suffering from this national disaster.”

Even as a child, I realized that when the pastor prayed in front of the congregation, he was usually just lecturing us on something and not really talking to God.  I even thought it was rude that he pretended such things and wondered why God did not punish him. But back then, I didn’t really understand how religion worked.

So which of these things did Korean believers think yesterday when the Pope prayed:

  • He is waking up Mary in heaven to take special care of our dead loved ones?
  • He is asking Yahweh (God the Father) to wake up the Virgin Mary to help our dead?
  • If our dear Father didn’t pray, our dead people would never had been cared for by the “Holy Mother”.  They would never gotten special help.
  • He loves us. It is so good to be Catholic.
  • Someone is sharing our sorrows using religious symbols. We feel better now.

My thought: they probably had a confused mix of all these thoughts or feelings. That is how this sort of religion works.  Mind you, I don’t think the Pope did anything wrong in all this.  I am sure it was very helpful in many ways. And I am also sure his prayer reinforced some silly notions that had negative implications too.  We are complex creatures, eh?



Filed under Philosophy & Religion

7 responses to “Mixed Message: Pope Prays

  1. I wonder if there were any non-christian passengers and if so, I wonder how their families felt about the prayers.

  2. @ God-free Cranium,
    Right ! Why don’t you propose to us what they may think when hearing this on their TV.

  3. Earnest

    Burials at sea require some ceremony to feel proper, my personal opinion. Mary is an interesting figure to invoke here, and is generally who catholics send their dead to in their rituals. She intercedes with Yaweh to make that figure less of a badass, at least in theory. Mary is the merciful goddess of the passage into death. The rosary (prayer to Mary) is to be spoken by the dying or those caring for them. This was historically accurate in the Titanic movie. Sort of an uneasy polytheism there. Mary is also the goddess of marital harmony, as the couple in a catholic marriage ceremony goes to the Mary chapel (a small side area inside a catholic church) to pray for the attributes of Mary to be present in the marriage. Not sure what the origin of that is.

    So in the minds of believers, Mary was aware of the deaths, and this was the official request for her special assistance from the terrestrial office.

    I have to say that as a catholic I am into this imagry. It feels proper to me to compartmentalize the male and female attributes of the deity.

  4. Earnest

    Sabio there is an interesting image, that the Pope prayed “in front of a large crow”. A giant animist symbol of the afterlife? Maybe the Pope is going to Tibet to hang out with the funeral monks who feed bodies to the birds?😉

  5. @ Earnest,
    If the Mary & Crow symbols work for you, great.
    So I guess, of my choices, you’d choose: “He loves us. It is so good to be Catholic.”

  6. CRL

    I lean towards option 5, the sharing of sorrows through use of religious imagery, though perhaps not as a conscious thought. My thought process in choosing this involved analogy to a situation I recently experienced.

    A Christian, formerly Catholic summer camp I’ve worked at for the past few years was threatened by a wildfire a few weeks ago. (Now 70% contained!) When emailing my director during that time about some mail I needed to send to my campers, I was somewhat lost in search of a closing sentence: I wanted to acknowledge the fire in some way, to acknowledge our shared fear of a place we love burning down, but I was stuck on whether to “hope” or to “pray” for camp’s safety. “Praying for safety” almost perfectly captures my desire to do something to improve the situation even while being trapped by work and school on the other side of the state, but also implies that I think I am actually helping by causing God to intervene. While I eventually went with “hope”, there was a strong case for “prayer”: use of religious imagery can convey strong support, and the desire to give physical support when it is not feasible.

  7. @ CRL,
    Yeah, I’ve wrestled with “pray for you” and “thinking about you” and the like too — in a culture so steeped in religious history and language. It doesn’t bother me too much to compromise for my listeners sake depending on the situation.

    Thanx for your example and how it fits here.

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