Wenceslao: ‘Prayer shield’ and prayer power

I FIND interesting an article that came out yesterday in GMA News Online (gmanetwork.com). It was about a Facebook post by a Maerrol Ormas Cañada that claimed that the power of prayer spared Iloilo and Bacolod in Western Visayas of the wrath of Yolanda last year. The article was titled, “A ‘prayer shield’? There’s no such thing.”

Cañada’s post came with an image from Pagasa’s doppler radar in Cebu that showed a map with pie-like object seemingly shielding Iloilo and Bacolod from Yolanda’s “eye.”

Netizens who shared the post described the pie-like object as a “prayer shield” for Iloilo and Bacolod.

But Irene Crisologo, a Project NOAH researcher, when asked by GMA News Online about it, stated:

"The pie slice with supposedly 'no rain' is actually a blind spot of the Cebu doppler radar. This blind spot is caused by the central mountains of Cebu, blocking the radar's sight. This does not necessarily mean that there are no rains experienced in the area affected by the radar blind spot."

So it wasn’t a “prayer shield.” Which brings me to the Cebu Archdiocese issuing the other day an Oratio Imperata (Obligatory Prayer) that was read and will be read during masses as typhoon Ruby makes a landfall in Eastern Visayas today.

The practice of issuing an Oratio Imperata to prepare the Catholic faithful in Cebu for a calamity was most observable when Ricardo Cardinal Vidal still headed the archdiocese. Archbishop Jose Palma is continuing to practice it, which I would say is good.

To be fair, the Oratio Imperata does not look like it is asking God to put up a “prayer shield” solely for Cebu. It asked God to have mercy on the “Filipino people” in general. On this, Palma noted: “If we are united, if we have faith, we can overcome everything.”

The Archdiocese of Manila also issued its own “Oratio Imperata for Deliverance from Calamities.” Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle issued a statement that asked the faithful to pray.

“Let our preparations include prayer,” he said. “Let us humble ourselves and seek the mercy and compassion of God at this time of impending peril and destruction.”

There are people, of course, who do not subscribe to it. I found this out when I stumbled into an article about the power of prayer posted on the website of a Manila newspaper. When I scrolled to the bottom portion where the readers’ comments were, I was amazed at how virulent the discussion on prayers in relation to disasters could become.

The argument of the naysayers is that prayers can’t shield us from the effects of calamities, although these induce calm and self-control, virtues that scientists say people must have when they face emergencies.

I am a Roman Catholic so I am partial for the Catholic Church’s belief. Indeed, prayers do calm our nerves in the face of a force greater than any one human being.

Prayers strengthen our resolve to survive. I would rather say my prayers than go panicky.

As for the “power” of prayers, only a thin line actually separates it from coincidence.

A friend, who does not know how to drive, bought a second-hand car, enrolled in a driving school, applied for a driver’s license and then started using the vehicle.

He promptly scraped one side of the car one day, the bumper another day and finally crashed into an iron road marker while making a turn.

He brought the car to the local church and had it blessed by the parish priest. After that, he didn’t encounter major traffic incidents. Either the prayers helped or he just started driving well after the blessing of his car. I say it was both.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

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