Here, Fr. Bob Weighner introduces the fourth and final leg of the Catechism of the Catholic Church — How We Pray, which is actually titled, “Christian Prayer” in the CCC. Starting with section 2558 “Great is the mystery of the faith!” The Church professes this mystery in the Apostles’ Creed (Part One) and celebrates it in the sacramental liturgy (Part Two), so that the life of the faithful may be conformed to Christ in the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father (Part Three). This mystery, then, requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer.”
There are so many ways to approach the topic of prayer. At its essence, prayer is communication with God, speaking to him from the foundation of our experience; listening for his Word and opening our hearts to his Spirit. Depending on the circumstances of our lives, prayer can take on many forms, such as petition, praise, thanksgiving, intercession for others, adoration (CCC 2626-2643). We pray for light, to know the path God desires for us, and we pray for the strength to walk that path with perseverance and faithfulness.
The fourth part of the Catechism is a wonderful summary of prayer. This section is largely influenced by Eastern Rite Catholicism, with its emphasis on the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, Mary, and the perfect prayer of Christ, the Our Father. It speaks of the battle of prayer and the fight to overcome obstacles such as distraction or dryness. It speaks of the example of the saints, who have all persevered in prayer and give us an example for our lives.As we progress in prayer, we become familiar with its various expressions: vocal prayer, prayer of meditation, and contemplative prayer (CCC 2700-2719).
We are all familiar with vocal prayer – the prayers we ‘say’ or ‘speak’. When we meditate, we make use of some passage of Scripture or some holy work to enter into the presence of God, and into conversation with him. We discourse with him, open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, to come to a greater knowledge of God and his ways, and the path for our lives.
Contemplative prayer is the experience of God praying within us (CCC 2709). There is a union with God which makes prayer almost effortless, and which bears great fruit in the practice of virtue. Faith is the virtue that opens the possibility for prayer. I must believe that God created me out of love and desires life for me. When I allow the desire for God and life to grow in my heart, prayer results. I seek God, and reach out to him with the gifts he has given me – my mind and my heart. If I am to be a man or woman of prayer, then I must set time aside to be alone with God. I must be confident that he hears every word, even though I be distracted, and I have to be willing to fight the good fight of prayer, and not give up until I have allowed God to enter fully into my life.
Another work I would recommend is Pope John Paul II’s Rosarium Virginis Mariae, which describes prayer, through the rosary, in the depth of all its expressions – vocal, meditative, contemplative. It describes Mary as the woman of prayer par excellence, since from the moment that she gazed upon the face of Christ, she never let that image go from her heart. She was totally captivated by the face of Christ, which is another beautiful description of what our prayer can be.
In the CCC, the Church invites the faithful to regular prayer: daily prayers, the Liturgy of the Hours, Sunday Eucharist, the feasts of the liturgical year. At St. Anne, we have an abundance of prayer opportunities, i.e., daily Mass, monthly Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, the book of prayers, Mass intentions, to name a few. As we near the end of our Lenten season, I invite you to find time each day with our Lord in silent prayer — to talk with Him and to listen to what He may impart in your hearts.
God Bless You!