LL writes: “I have carried with me and read the Pieta Prayer Book for two decades. A lot of the prayers are some of my favorites. Somebody just told me that the Pieta book is bad, and shouldn’t be used. Is that true? Is it New Age, or is it a good Catholic Prayer book approved by the Church?”
It’s safe to say that the Pieta prayer book is NOT New Age, but it has endured some criticism over the years because of some of its content.
The book itself is not a Church publication. According to the Miraculous Lady of the Roses website, which is the publisher and owner of the copyright to the Pieta Prayer Book, it originated in the 1970s with a gentleman named Harry Faulhaber of southwest Michigan. He was looking for a spiritual gift to leave with people when making home visits on behalf of his parish. Together with his wife and a friend in San Damiano, Italy, they compiled the book of favorite prayers and had 1,000 copies made.
“Eventually all the books were given away and they made the decision to print more. They realized that they would have to charge a small fee for the book to offset the printing and shipping costs. To keep the cost as low as possible, they asked at the post office, ‘What’s the cheapest way to ship this?’ ‘Book rate (media mail),’ replied the postmaster, ‘but in order to be considered a book, it must have at least 72 pages.’ They opened the Pieta book and it had exactly 72 pages!” the site explains.
Since that time, more than nine million books have been printed.
The majority of complaints about the Pieta Prayer Book surround the inclusion of prayers that were composed by alleged seers who do not have Church approval.
One of these is Berthe Petit (1870 – 1943), a Franciscan Tertiary from Belgium who is known for her promotion of devotion to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary. However, her unapproved apparitions did not stop the Secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy from including her biography in their book entitled Eucharistic Adoration for the Sanctification of Priests and Spiritual Maternity which was published in 2007.
I was also unable to locate Church approval for the 14 promises Our Lord gave to another seer named Brother Estanislao (1903 – 1927) which are included in the Pieta book; but these same promises are quoted in a book by Joan Carroll-Cruz entitled Prayers and Heavenly Promises which has an imprimatur from Bishop Francis B. Schulte, the Archbishop of New Orleans.
Another criticism of the book is its presentation of the 15 Prayers of St. Bridget of Sweden and the alleged promises that are attached to the prayers.
A warning about these prayers and promises was issued by the Holy See Congregation of the Holy Office on Januar 28, 1954 which reads:
“In some places, a certain little work has been disseminated called the ‘Secret of Happiness: 15 Prayers Revealed by the Lord to St. Bridget in the Church of St. Paul at Rome’, published at Nice and various other places in several languages. Since it is asserted in this pamphlet that God made to St. Bridget certain promises, whose supernatural origin in no way stands up, let local ordinaries take care not to grant permission for publishing or reprinting pamphlets or other writings which contain these aforementioned promises.”
When someone brought this to the attention of the authors at EWTN’s Q&A Forum, they received the following response:
“The warning published by the Holy Office (Warning Concerning the “Promises of St. Bridget”) stated only that the promises were uncertain, as to their supernatural origin. It says nothing against the prayers, which have been in regular use since the Middle Ages. As to why the promises are still published along with the prayers, either Rome is being ignored, or Rome is thought to have changed its mind. . . . In short, the promises are questionable, but there is no reason why the prayers of St. Bridget shouldn’t be used, as they have been for many centuries.”
All of the above has caused some Catholic book stores, such as this one, to stop carrying the book.
Although the Pieta Prayer Book does lack an imprimatur, I was unable to find any official Church statement against the book and, as a result, see no reason why the faithful cannot safely use these prayers for private devotion.