Praying for the Conversion of Jews

Since the release of Summorum Pontificum, various talking heads have been apoplectic because the Tridentine mass includes a Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the Jews. Much ado is being made of nothing, though.

First of all, the offending prayer is found in missals prior to 1962 (the version now referred to as the extraordinary use of the Roman rite).

Let us pray also for the faithless Jews: that our God and Lord may remove the veil from their hearts; that they also may acknowledge Our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us pray. (‘Amen’ is not responded, nor is said ‘Let us pray’, or ‘Let us kneel’, or ‘Arise’, but immediately is said:) Almighty and Eternal God, Who dost not exclude from Thy mercy even the faithless Jews: hear our prayers, which we offer for the blindness of that people; that acknowledging the light of Thy Truth, which is Christ, they may be delivered from their darkness. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, through all endless ages. Amen.

According to Wikipedia (link above), the word “faithless” was removed prior to the publication of the 1962 missal.

In 1960, Pope John XXIII removed the word “faithless” (Latin “perfidis”) from the prayer for the conversion of the Jews. This word had caused much trouble in recent times because of misconceptions of the Latin “perfidis” as “perfidious”, giving birth to the view that the prayer accused the Jews of treachery, which was a complete misunderstanding of the prayer since it was not a litany of accusation, but a petition for conversion. In handmissals from the 1950’s and more recent ones, used by the laity to follow the Latin Mass, the word was always correctly translated as “faithless” or “unbelieving”.

The 1962 version reads as follows.

Let us pray also for the Jews that the Lord our God may take the veil from their hearts and that they also may acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us pray. Let us kneel. Arise. Almighty and everlasting God, you who do not turn away the Jews also from your mercy: hear the prayers which we offer for the blindness of that people so that, the light of your truth which is Christ being known, they might come out of their darkness. Through our Lord the same Jesus Christ, your son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Secondly, the prayer is quite different in the current missal, first published in 1970.

Let us pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the word of God, that they may continue to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant. (Silent prayer) Almighty and eternal God, long ago you gave your promise to Abraham and his posterity. Listen to your Church as we pray that the people you first made your own may arrive at the fullness of redemption. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

So, we’re still praying for the conversion of the Jews, but we refer to that conversion as arrival “at the fullness of redemption”. Faith in Christ is necessary for that fullness.

Lastly, what the heck is so wrong about praying for the conversion of Jews – or anyone for that matter?! Shouldn’t all Christians be spreading the good news of Jesus Christ and the salvation He offers? Shouldn’t we want everyone to experience Christ’s love? In particular, shouldn’t we desire for Jews to complete their Judaism, to see the fulfillment all of the old covenants and enter into the new and everlasting covenant instituted by Christ?

Antisemitism is bigotry, pure and simple; it is a sin. Praying for Jews to convert to Christianity is not de facto antisemitism. No Christian should ever have to apologize for praying for the conversion of anyone, so long as their prayers are offered in love.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6 (NAB)

Comments 9

  1. Advogado de Diabo wrote:

    This is a very interesting and touchy issue. I remember back to when I was 15 seeing a prayer in church with words to the effect of the eventual conversion of everyone to Catholicism. It actually was one of the first things I remember that ultimatly made me stop being religious.

    Now, to be honest, I mostly don’t like the idea of people praying for me but I figure it can’t hurt and if it makes someone else feel better I can tolerate it.

    I can’t decide if there has been an over reaction to this issue or not. Does it bug you to think there are people out there praying for your conversion away from Catholicism to something else?

    Posted 25 Jul 2007 at 5:12 pm
  2. Funky Dung wrote:

    Does it bug you to think there are people out there praying for your conversion away from Catholicism to something else?

    Nope. In fact, if they didn’t pray for my conversion, I’d doubt their faith. Besides, either they’re wrong about the deity hearing their prayers, in which case their prayers for conversion will be answered in the negative, or they’re right, in which case I’m living a lie (or at least a mistake) and should be thankful for divine assistance in finding the truth.

    Posted 26 Jul 2007 at 9:25 am
  3. Chad wrote:

    Eric,

    Your best column yet. In order for two dissenting sides to see eye to eye on something, its best if they both state honestly and truthfully how they feel about each other. This is a far better strategy than the 2 sides saying nice things about the other just to please people even though its not what they really believe. For far too long, the Catholic Church has been saying nice things about the protestant and jewish traditions for the sake of “ecumenism”. Hence, this is why the document about the Centrality of the Catholic Church released two weeks ago and this Jewish prayer are so important – its a straight forward and honest realization of what the Catholic Church believes.

    I have heard a-lot of protestants blast the Catholic Church for bigotry due to the statement, but the more sophisticated ones have actually praised it more than anything else, because they now know clearly where the Catholic church stands. The same is true with this prayer and Judaism.

    Personally, if Evangelists or Jews had prayers about the conversion of Catholicism, I would not take any offense to it at all because of your statement: “Besides, either they’re wrong about the deity hearing their prayers, in which case their prayers for conversion will be answered in the negative, or they’re right, in which case I’m living a lie (or at least a mistake) and should be thankful for divine assistance in finding the truth.” That wraps up all of ecumenism right there…

    Posted 27 Jul 2007 at 1:40 am
  4. Gretchen wrote:

    Looking at it from a Jewish point of view…which naturally includes gobs of anti-semitism from the historic Church, not to mention most everyone else in the world…one may understand that Jews would be upset. Also, the Jewish religion is not an evangelical faith, so the idea of praying for another’s conversion can seem strange and even invasive to them. And, most Jews probably haven’t read the latest version (which is sweet, kind, loving, and all that any Christian could hope for), but have the previous ones in mind.

    Posted 01 Aug 2007 at 1:55 pm
  5. Funky Dung wrote:

    I’ve always thought it odd that Judaism is not evangelical. IIRC, God instructed Israel to be a light to the nations. One would presume that He wanted everyone to be among His chosen people. Indeed, it seems to me that a lot of Jesus’ beef with the Jewish authorities had to do with their xenophobia and insistence that Judaism be insular.

    Posted 01 Aug 2007 at 2:05 pm
  6. Pistos wrote:

    Hi, Funky Dung. I’m trying to get in touch with you in private, but your Contact page doesn’t offer much help, and I see no other way to contact you (no e-mail, no feedback form, etc.) How can I send you a private message? :)

    Posted 02 Aug 2007 at 10:53 am
  7. Funky Dung wrote:

    My contact page should be working now.

    Posted 02 Aug 2007 at 11:34 am
  8. efi wrote:

    You can pray for my conversion all you want if it makes you happy. But just realize that the bible you believe in has God telling us that the laws of the Torah are eternal and that we should never abandon them under any circumstances. So if you pray for our conversion, you are in effect asking God to go against His stated will. How do you figure that?

    Posted 19 Aug 2007 at 11:24 am
  9. Micky wrote:

    About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 2004, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages . God LOVES me so much. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].
    PEACE BE WITH YOU
    MICKY

    Posted 25 Aug 2007 at 3:21 pm

Trackbacks & Pingbacks 1

  1. From just another day of Catholic pondering: Catholic Carnival 130: Fair Daze on 31 Jul 2007 at 8:51 pm

    […] “Praying for the Conversion of Jews” at Ales Rarus – Praying for the conversion of Jews…is this a big deal or not? Let’s all do it, right after we run on over to read this post and enjoy the commentary. […]

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