I asked my husband what my first “digging deeper” post should be on and he replied ‘on prayer’ without hesitation. He continued by stating that I should begin where we can all begin—no matter what season we are in spiritually, or even where we are physically. I will break it up into a few shorter parts and try to expand on why each has its place in your Catholic home. These may not be the liturgically correct terms for prayer, so bear with me.
Attending Baptist Church all through high school gave me a love of free-form prayer. That was never something I experienced as a Catholic during my elementary years and I was shocked and saddened by all the time I missed out on just chatting with the Lord. Even during my “reverting” to Catholicism, I still fully embraced prayer from my heart—always justifying to the priest why I refused to re-memorize the Act of Contrition in the Confessional. I knew what I wanted to say to the Lord and of course, since it was from my heart, I was the best judge on how to vocalize it. Now I would not recommend you going into the Confessional with that mindset, but I would totally recommend you adding some ‘hey what’s up hello” time with Jesus at the grocery store, while working out, or browsing social media (and we all need prayer while browsing social media…)
I certainly prayed during Mass, but I always went into the mindset of praising Jesus, through traditional words that did not necessarily mean much to me personally. While free form prayer definitely has a place in our lives as Catholics, it was Liam who gently led me back to understanding the importance and personal significance of pre-written prayer.
Standard Prayers of the Church
The Lord ’s Prayer transcends every sect of Christianity and for good reason—this most popular pre-written prayer was spoken by Christ Himself. He loves us so much that he lays the foundation for prayer throughout the Bible while giving us His own prayer as a starting point! Subsequent prayers that we say in Church such as the Creed or Hail Mary and other popular prayers said during the Rosary (Glory Be, Hail Holy Queen) were written by council members of early Popes dating back to the 300’s and of course, have Biblical roots.
Today, Catholics have a plethora of prayers to choose from blessing our home, meals, and even pets to prayers of discernment to vocations and careers. You may have a few prayer cards around your house of prayers to Saints, Guardian Angels, and various devotions to Mary. In my experience, the latter usually either perplexes or infuriates our Protestant friends and at one time, perplexed me, too. This deserves its own post, but I will quickly digress and remind you that Catholics venerate Mary and the Saints. This means we hold them in very high regard with respect and honor, and we believe that they hold the ability to intercede for us to Christ, the (one and only) God that we worship. The words venerate and worship do not mean the same thing. Look it up. Anyways, we sometimes get some slack while praying these prayers because it can easily turn into mere lip service. I say, lip service is better than no service. There will be times in every person’s spiritual journey where it feels like your mouth is just going through the motion of prayer. But those truths that you prayed or have been prayed over you are etched somewhere deep in your heart. The words will continue to positively impact how you interact with others and view the world. These words will also be there during difficult times of trial where things are so jumbled, you may not have the words to pray on your own.
We pray these prayers as a community during Mass not because they don’t hold any significant meaning to us, but because they hold great meaning to the Sacrifice of the Mass. We are the only Church to recognize and honor the transubstantiation of the bread and wine. The prayers written honored by the Church for centuries hold wisdom and truth that could not possibly be formed on the fly during the service. The words represent something bigger than ourselves and give us a common place in which we center ourselves before receiving the Eucharist. When I began to mediate on and research the importance of the Eucharist in my life, I quickly realized that every prayer we pray at Mass does hold personal importance to me—not because of where I am in life, but because of who God is to me, and that never changes.
I came across this type of prayer while discerning a lifestyle change for myself and my family. I always assumed that you meditated while practicing yoga, or that this was Buddhist prayer only. Then I received a penance to meditate on a certain decade of the Rosary.
Meditation, or as some Carmelites call it, Recollection, calls us to be intimately aware of Christ’s presence in and around us and calls us to focus 100% of our attention on His presence. During this time, you can reflect on a spiritual passage, or talk with the Lord as father, friend, or healer, or simply listen to what He may be whispering in your heart. St. Teresa of Avila states Recollection is special because, “the soul collects its faculties together and enters within itself to be with its God,” This is certainly more reverent than you praying a quick blessing upon the jerk that just cut you off in traffic!
During Recollection, you challenge yourself to be fully present with Him and be not on your own time, but on God’s time. A fellow Carmelite instructed me to not be discouraged when I have a fleeting thought, ie: “Brennan needs milk!!” during this special time, but to let it slip away and fall to the ground, like a leaf in autumn.
Beginning a daily recollection has been difficult for me—the devil loves to creep in lies, skewing my priorities or by simply calling me back to bed. I wake up about 90 minutes before Brennan (so between 5:30 and 6) so that I will have time to say my morning Liturgy and recollection. There are plenty of times when I have slept in instead, or got called away to attend the needs of a toddler but one thing is certain— I have the power to say no to Satan and change the course of my day (presumably during nap time).
I know I did not touch on the Rosary or Novena’s. That probably needs to be a separate post, though they do fall under pre-written prayer. What’s lacking in your prayer life? No matter where you are, the Lord will meet you right where you are.