Hundreds of Catholics braved storm warnings to attend a holy hour July 25 in hopes that a “black mass” to be held Sept. 21 in Oklahoma City might be cancelled.
They knelt inside a nearly full Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral to pray the rosary, sing hymns, adore the Eucharist and listen to a fiery homily from Fr. John Lankeit, rector of the cathedral.
Referring to the multiple storm warnings issued shortly before the holy hour was set to begin, Fr. Lankeit told the crowd Satan would stop at nothing to try and thwart God’s people from gathering to pray for a cancelation of the black mass.
A black mass is a sacrilegious ceremony that invokes Satan and desecrates a Eucharist stolen from a Catholic church. The host is then used in a profane, sexual ritual.
“Satan — and those he uses to carry out his plans — is counting on Christians to cower, to give in to fear, to hunker down rather than stand up,” Fr. Lankeit said. “He’ll try every trick in the book, playing on our sense of fairness, appealing to political correctness, manipulating our desire for human respect, kicking up a dust storm, to keep us from standing firmly in the truth — the truth that evil must be opposed vigorously.”
From infants to the elderly, young families and widows, the faithful prayed inside the cathedral for an hour, then stood in long lines in the courtyard to sign a letter of support for Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, where the black mass is scheduled to occur.
Jane Rivard, who is new to the Phoenix area, said the need for the holy hour was apparent to her. She felt the rosary the congregation prayed was powerful and found Fr. Lankeit’s homily to be an accurate portrayal of the reality of spiritual warfare.
“The evil that exists in the world is something we can’t see but it’s very prevalent. That is why we are having this holy hour,” Rivard said. “During the rosary, I felt this great strength and oneness of the faith.”
Adam Celaya made the effort to attend even after a long day at work.
“You have to,” Celaya said. “When our backs are against the wall and we can come through like this I think it’s awesome.”
Celaya said he was saddened by the prospect of a black mass, but he was steadfast in his resolve to oppose it, along with many other Catholics.
“What’s going on out there in Oklahoma is really disheartening,” Celaya said, “but I just I guess it’s a bigger reason for everybody to get together and fight for the Lord. It’s time to stand up.”
There’s been a firestorm of criticism surrounding the news that Oklahoma City has agreed to allow its civic center to be used for a black mass. In Massachusetts, outrage over a black mass planned by a student group at Harvard University led to the event being cancelled.
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, didn’t mince words when describing his take on plans for a black mass to be held in a taxpayer-supported facility.
“Oklahoma City had better think twice about this. The Civic Center is funded by the taxpayers, many of whom are Catholic, and they are not obliged to pay for attacks on their religion,” Donohue said.
By allowing a black mass to take place at the civic center, Donohue said, the city was violating community standards and opening itself up to a lawsuit. He cited Lynch v. Donnelly, a 1984 U.S. Supreme Court decision.
In the decision, “Justice Warren Burger explicitly said that the Constitution ‘affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any.’ If a ‘black mass,’ whose sole purpose is to show hostility toward Catholicism, does not meet Burger’s dictum, then it has no meaning,” Donohue said.
Archbishop Coakley told Catholic News Agency that the black mass was “truly offensive” not only to Catholics, but to many others as well.
“There are common standards of decency that civic-minded people uphold that are necessary for constructive public discourse, and this violates all of those standards,” Archbishop Coakley said July 16. “This is a mockery of one faith, a hostile act toward a significant faith community, the Catholic community.”
The power of prayer
Laura Jezek attended the July 25 holy hour at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral with her 4-month-old baby in tow as well as her husband and 10 other children. The older Jezek kids were helping get signatures for the letter of support for Archbishop Coakley.
“I came here tonight because when I heard about this black mass, it just broke my heart because I love Jesus,” Jezek said. “The thought of somebody desecrating my Lord is unbearable.”
Jezek, who along with her family became joined the Catholic Church two years ago, said she was sure that the holy hour made a difference.
“There’s not a lot I can do in this world, but I think prayer is the most powerful thing. I know if we are all here together in unity praying for this, the Lord is going to hear our prayers,” Jezek said.
Martin Pueyo agreed.
“I think prayer is something that you can’t see but it makes a difference,” Pueyo said.
Angel Cotello said he and his wife and two children attended the holy hour to pray for everyone in need. “We’re the Church militant — we have to stand strong and stand united,” Celaya said.