“Those forty days, then, and forty nights, I lay prostrate before the LORD, because he had threatened to destroy you.” (Deuteronomy 9:25)
Fr. Dominik Chmielewski SDB was one of several priests who had performed an exorcism on a girl. For many years the demon proved unyielding. Occasionally, a perfect storm of vituperation broke out against the gathered priests. They decided not to tolerate this situation any longer. The following is Father’s recollection of that momentous event:
“…And the following inspiration came: `Break the pride of this demon by your humility. `Lord, what should I do? Then an image of me lying prostrate before the Blessed Sacrament emerged. So I lay before the Blessed Sacrament repenting for my sins, the sins of the girl, and her family. Suddenly, a mighty roar could be heard: `You swine! Who commanded you to pray like this? How do you know that you should pray in this way? Get up right now, divine…!`” As the second exorcist observed what was going on, he said to the people present: “Everybody lay prostrate before God.”
Again, the penetrating voice cut through the silence: `You are crushing me! What are you doing? Who taught you this? How do you know this is right?`
Within a few minutes the girl arose, completely delivered from the power of the devil. Ever since, for all whose marriages are in a serious crisis, Fr. Dominik has been recommending 30 minutes of night adoration lying prostrate on the floor of a church, claiming that nocturnal prayer has a rare privilege before the Lord.
Another example is a Polish contemporary mystic and stigmatic, Alicja Lenczewska (†2012), who, on April 16, 1987, had a brief encounter with God. “[Alicja]: Do You expect me to make any sacrifice? [Jesus]: You will be praying prostrate tomorrow. You do not have to take up strict fasting.
Polls show that the number of American Catholics belonging to a parish dropped from 76% in 2000 to 58% in 2020. To our dismay, fervent Christians are becoming lukewarm, the lukewarm are becoming cold, while the Church’s enemies are rubbing their hands with glee.
Man, who was made to glorify his Creator in order to obtain the fullest happiness and blessings, despises the love of God by turning to false doctrines and philosophies, continually seeking to escape the idea of the judgment. As if this were not enough, the innumerable, innocent souls of our children and grandchildren are falling victim to the pervasive culture. “Woe to anyone who contends with their Maker; a potsherd among potsherds of the earth! – Shall the clay say to the potter, What are you doing?”(Isaiah 45:9)
Numerous Catholic bishops, priests, and deacons are trying to figure out how to reverse this painful process. So many things have gone awry that something must be done immediately in order to placate the justice of God. About six years ago during a Sunday sermon, Fr. Piotr Paweł Łapa, presently a missionary in Siberia, said: “Man insults God even with his breath.” It seems, then, the best way to destroy the stronghold of evil and hasten the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is to lay prostrate with childlike faith before the Blessed Sacrament, acknowledging our need for God’s mercy. Acknowledging our unworthiness, inadequacy, and inability to accomplish His will, we should ask for His mercy for our sins and for the sins of other people, saying for example: “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
The Sacred Scriptures reveal the presence of prostration in a number of relevant verses: Numbers 20:6; Revelation 7:11; Leviticus 9:24; Numbers 24:4; 1 Samuel 5:3; 1 Kings 18:39; Ezekiel 1:28; Matthew 2:11; Luke 5:12; Genesis 17:3; Mark 3:11; 1 Kings 1:31; 1 Samuel 25:41; Isaiah 51:23.
In 1920, thousands of Poles of various walks of life, facing the imminent threat of the Evil Empire, confessed their sins, received Holy Communion, and adored Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Over 100,000 of them took to the streets of Warsaw to beg for God’s Mercy. General Józef Haller lay prostrate before the image of the Black Madonna on the floor of Christ the Savior Church. Likewise, 30,000 gathered in Castle Square and prayed the Rosary throughout the night in front of the relics of the martyr and patron saint of Poland, Andrzej Bobola, and a patron saint of Warsaw, Władysław of Gielniów. Then God listened to their loud cries and intervened, about which I have written in the essay, The Miracle on the Vistula – Rediscovered.
Formal prostration also occurs occasionally in the Catholic liturgy. An act of prostration represents overwhelming humility, symbolizing death to oneself. During the last half of this year, I have found myself at times returning to that posture and have received much fruit from God. The great mystical tradition of the Church of both the East and the West, has much to say regarding prostration, pointing out that many of the outstanding men and women of God have cherished this formidable prayer.
Saint Catherine of Alexandria (†305) had a dream in which angels came to meet her and she fell prostrate before them.
Saint Rita of Cascia (†1457) — It was a memorable Good Friday 1441, when she prostrated herself before a crucifix, begging Christ for some small share of His suffering. All of a sudden, her forehead was pierced with a thorn from the crown that covered Jesus’ own head. Until her death, it caused her daily pain, as well as considerable embarrassment because of its putrid odor.
Saint Teresa of Avila (†1582), a “heroine of spiritual life,” was sometimes found in her oratory, bathed in tears, lying prostrate with her face on the floor. Once the reformer of Carmel was prostrated in a church and so immersed in prayer that, in order to pass by, some rough men had to give her several kicks to make her move.
Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque (†1690), on a Holy Thursday, spent fourteen hours without interruption, prostrated in adoration.
Saint Padre Pio (†1968) lay prostrated in loving adoration before the crucifix, as was his custom when giving God thanksgiving after celebrating Mass. In the same place and posture, on September 20, 1918, the Franciscan priest received the stigmata.
Saint Faustina Kowalska (†1938), before she joined an Order, already practiced this highly efficacious prayer of prostration. In St. Stanislaus Kostka Church she fell into prayer and heard these words in reply: “Go at once to Warsaw; you will enter a convent there.” Later in religious life, she did it not infrequently. “I recall that I have received most light during adoration, which I made lying prostrate before the Blessed Sacrament for half an hour every day throughout Lent.”
The Venerable Servant of God, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński (†1981), Primate of Poland, was the chaplain of the “Kampinos” group of the Home Army and of the hospital in Laski during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. At night he would stand perfectly still, watch the glow of the burning Capitol, and bless it. Then, in the chapel, Fr. Wyszyński would pray face down, for hours at a time, for people who were dying and for those who would survive.
Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta (†1997), a great servant of the poor, would cling with great tenacity to prayer, while prostrating herself in humility before the crucifix during her darkest hours.
Pope Saint John Paul II (†2005) would spend entire nights lying with his arms outstretched on the bare floor. Once, as the Pontiff was praying, he was disturbed by an archbishop who suggested, “Holy Father, you should be sitting in the chair where you would be more comfortable, not lying on the floor.” The Holy Father replied amiably, “No, you should be down here [prostrate] with me, praying for the people and for the Church.”
Addressing and commanding the evil spirit in the name of Jesus should never be used by anyone except an exorcist priest; otherwise, it will bare devastating consequences.
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.