March 2012 Print


Fr. Peter Scott, SSPX

Can one retroactively offer for an additional intention a rosary that has already been completed?

It is certainly true that for all of our prayers, as with the Masses at which we assist, we can have multiple intentions, and that each additional intention does not take away from the others. However, common sense indicates that the intention must precede the act, for if it did not do so, it could not give the purpose or morality to the act, nor could it be the final cause for which the act is performed. If we perform an act of kindness, it is the end for which it is performed (finis operantis) which is the principal circumstance that determines its value and its merit. The same can be said of our prayers and rosaries. The intentions are the reason why we perform such acts and consequently, if they are to have any influence on our prayers, the intentions must be formulated, preferably at the beginning, but at the very least before the end of those prayers or rosaries. Otherwise they can in no way be considered to be the intentions of such prayers.

This principle is confirmed by the teaching of the moral theologians concerning the intentions of a priest who is offering up the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This intention for which the Mass is to be applied must be formulated before the Mass. It does not have to be formulated immediately beforehand, but can be formulated long in advance. However, at the very latest it must be formulated by the time the essence of the sacrifice of the Mass is accomplished, that is, during the canon of the Mass, before the second consecration. Otherwise, it can in no wise be considered as the intention for which the Mass is applied (Prummer, Man. Th. Mor. III. p. 183).

In like manner, the faithful ought to formulate the intentions for their rosaries, prayers and Masses ahead of time, or at least as they begin these exercises. It is good to have a general intention, in addition to the particular intentions, as for example, for such and such a sick person. Such a general intention could be for all those who recommend themselves to our prayers, or for the Church and for souls in need. Another such general intention that can be recommended is that given by St. Louis Grignon de Montfort in the practice of the True Devotion, namely doing all our actions and prayers for Mary as for our proximate end, that is for her intentions, since we give to her the value of all our good actions, and leave to her the entire and full right of disposing of them. If such be our general intention, we need no longer be concerned about having missed out on a particular intention, either because we forgot to apply it, or because we did not know about it. Since Mary, glorious in heaven, knows all such intentions, she can apply our prayers for these intentions, and we would never have a retroactive intention to apply.


Is the ceremony of the “Holy Fire” a real and legitimate miracle?

The ceremony of the “Holy Fire” or Holy Light takes place at 12:00 noon on Holy Saturday (in the Orthodox calendar) every year in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It has been recorded since the fourth century and the Eastern Orthodox claim that this miracle has taken place every year since at least 1106. The Orthodox patriarch enters alone into the Holy Sepulchre, whilst the Armenian bishops wait outside. He recites a series of traditional prayers and then awaits for a miraculous lighting of the 33 candles that he is holding in his hands. He then comes out and lights the candles of the other bishops and of all the people present. It is claimed that this “fire” is not like regular fire and does not burn or harm, at least for the first 33 minutes after it has been lit. The miracle is revered throughout the Orthodox world, and the “fire” is taken from Jerusalem.

Descriptions are precise, and the event is very public. The Israeli authorities always inspect the Patriarch to ensure that he has nothing on him with which he could light the candles, precisely to exclude a fraud. Before them, the Ottoman Turk authorities did the same thing. It is difficult to accept the rationalists’ claim that it is a “pious fraud” and that the candles are covered with phosphorous so that they will spontaneously ignite. However, there are many who claim this, and who quote Edward Gibbons in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Pope Gregory IX in 1238 as condemning it as a pious fraud (

All in all, it seems unreasonable to claim that all the bishops of the Orthodox, Armenian and Coptic Churches, who are not in agreement on liturgical or theological questions, nor in communion with one another, would all be involved in a deliberate deception. Why would they be united in such bad will? Consequently, it seems most reasonable to accept the pious belief in the miracle, which takes place in virtue of the power of the Resurrection of our Divine Savior, and is symbolic of the light of faith and the fire of love, which we also in the Latin rite venerate on Holy Saturday, under the title of Lumen Christi, after the blessing of the Paschal fire. It does not seem necessary to claim that since the Eastern Orthodox are separated from the one true Church, that they would necessarily be deprived of this traditional miracle, which is really a part of their unchanging and traditional liturgy. From the same perspective, it is perfectly possible to admit the miracle, given on account of the good faith of many of the simple faithful and the integrity of their liturgy, without for as much considering it as some kind of legitimization of their schism.