Sunday, April 21, 2013

Why I Love "Rote" Catholic Prayers

My friend Denise Fath posted this quote from Emeritus Pope Benedict on Facebook this morning, and it captured my sentiments perfectly: 
"Prayer should be 'wholly personal' but we also constantly need to make use of those prayers that express in words the encounter with God experienced both by the Church as a whole and by individual members of the Church. For without these aids to prayer, our own praying and our image of God becomes subjective and end up reflecting ourselves more than the living God."
Amen.  The prayers of the Church and of her saints, rather than stifle my ability to express myself to God, enlarged it.  I slowly came to see how the spontaneous - what seemed to me, the more “authentic” - prayers I offered at the beginning of my faith journey were those of a child.  They were heartfelt and sincere but, in retrospect, they seemed focused upon my life and the small circle of lives touching mine.  They were limited by my lack of knowledge regarding both the deepest needs and movements of the human heart and how prayer could be more than thought and words.   

The prayers of the Church are those of an adult with two thousand years of spiritual depth and know-how.  When I listened to her pray, especially at Mass, I was called out of myself, called to pray for and with the whole Body of Christ – on earth, in purgatory, and in heaven!  I was called to pray, fast, and do penance both for my sins and my brothers’ and sisters’.  Left to myself I don’t know how I ever could have arrived at the realization that all of our daily activities, even suffering, can be transformed into prayer! (My spontaneous prayers now take all of this into account.)

And studying the gospels and the religious life of Jewish people in first century Palestine convinces me that the Church did not arrive at the content or manner of her prayer lightly.  I found the same concerns and practices in the prayer of Jesus himself! The Church’s rich spiritual life is the work of the same Holy Spirit through whom Jesus poured himself out in prayer to the Father.

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