… and I thought, okay, three interesting elements all together in one image: (a) a black cloud labelled with the words “super-typhoons”, (b) a pair of hands clasped together as if to pray, and (c) the words “oratio imperata” just above these hands; there has got to be a story in there.
I logged on to (where else?), Google.com to look up oratio imperata and found this succinct definition: mandated prayer. Bizarrely enough, aside from that page, I could not find any other Web page (well, within three pages of Google results for the search text “definition of oratio imperata”) that exists primarily for the purpose of defining oratio imperata. Even Wikipedia lacks a specific entry.
From what I glean from the Google results I skimmed, most “mandated prayers” aim to seek divine intervention (or at the very least graces) to strengthen the lot of “the faithful” as they face what are considered to be insurmountable earthly challenges such as war, disease, pestilence, and natural disasters. I specifically found calls for oratio imperata to beseech deliverance from the swine flu epidemic and for good weather.
Makes sense now (I think…). The Inquirer.net Editor today presumably echoes a call for us to oratio imperata our way out of the coming typhoons. I presume so, despite not finding any particularly specific official statement from the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) pre-empting the coming storm, though it is heartening to read that there is some preparation work being mobilised by both public and private sectors.
Interestingly enough, back in 2007, a different sort of mandatory prayer was being called:
MANILA, Philippines — Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales on Wednesday urged priests and the laity to storm the heavens with prayers and seek divine intervention for more rains to come.
Rosales said “the lack of rains in what is already the rainy season of the country calls for divine intervention.”
“Our relief will come from nature. And so we implore the Master of all creation, God, our Father, at whose command the winds and the seas obey, to send us rain,” the cardinal said in a statement.
Rosales issued an Oratio Imperata Ad Petendam Pluviam (Obligatory Prayer to Request for Rain) and Intercessory Prayers for Rain to be said in all Masses in the Archdiocese of Manila beginning Friday.
The Oratio Imperata was issued to all parish priests, shrine rectors, chaplains and school directors.
The prayer for rains will be said until the rains come, said archdiocese spokesperson Peachy Yamsuan.
[As a bonus, I also found in that article this definition of oratio imperata: “an ordered prayer for a special intention besides the ones prescribed by ritual that the Pope or the bishop of a diocese may require to be said at Mass.”]
Funny how the pendulum of strategic prayer can swing mightily from one end of the pole to another within less than three years — a timeframe considerably shorter than timeframes used in most strategic planning initiatives underpinned by a bit more thinking. Of course the Global Financial Crisis has taught us that even the most scientifically formulated forecasts developed by the best analytical minds fail to predict the proverbial Black Swan that often lies in wait just outside our respective lines of sight into our futures.
But then I wonder about the sense (not even the logic) behind doctrines such as oratio imperata. Why would God, on one hand, listen to one bunch of peoples’ prayer for deliverance while allowing his forces of nature to annihilate another bunch (most likely praying just as hard) on the other? Is it perhaps because the latter happened to be sitting on his left hand at that precise moment? Of course who am I to presume to begin to understand God’s prioritisation criteria? After all, whatever the outcome, his will be done.
All this reminds me of one of those “three-wish” jokes which reminds us of that simple tenet we ought to live by: Be careful what you wish for:
A company boss was driving with his manager and an employee to lunch at a fancy restaurant when the company car stopped. They all got out to see that the closest building was an antique store, so they went to ask for a some gasoline. They went to the door to find a lamp outside of it. They picked it up and wiped the dust off when a genie came out and he said,”You know the drill, three wishes.”
They new they would get one wish each, so the young employee said,” I want to be in a warm personal island surrounded by girls and my own maid.” and WHOOSH he was gone.
The manager went next,” I wish I was back in my hometown with my family.” and WHOOSH, he was gone.
Finally it was the boss’s turn,” I want a full tank and to see those two in my office immediately after lunch!”
But that’s all beside the point.
What I really wanted to highlight was how my search on Google for oratio imperata yielded results dominated by Web pages related to or originating from the Philippines. Here’s my quick-and-dirty accounting of the stats:
Number of pages found on Google related to the Philippines and Filipinos for search string = “oratio imperata”
– Page 1 (search results 01-10): 8 out of 10 found
– Page 2 (search results 11-20): 6 out of 10 found
– Page 3 (search results 21-30): 7 out of 10 found
So as far as this armchair analysis goes (one that uses a sample size of 30 to describe a population of more than 8,000 — take it with a grain of salt if you must), 70% of Web pages out there that mention “oratio imperata” are somehow linked to Filipinos.
Right. We not only are a “prayerful” people with a taste for “prayerful” leaders, we also seem to be a people who prefer to pray on command.