Tag Archives: prayer

Praying for the dead, All Souls

My soul is deprived of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is; I tell myself my future is lost, all that I hoped for from the Lord. (Lamentations 3:17)
These words are put on our lips at the funeral liturgy. We understand these words at the depths of our being not only at the time of someone’s death, but for many, many days ahead in dealing with the loss of a loved one. Time without the decedent can seem ugly, deprived, and hopeless. The author of Lamentations has it right: life can be very bleak. This would indeed be desperate if these words were the only ones we heard and remembered.
This reading from Lamentations also says, My portion is the Lord, says my soul; therefore will I hope in him. Good is the Lord to one who waits for him, to the soul that seeks him; It is good to hope in silence for the saving help of the Lord.

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Prayer: raising one’s heart and mind to God

Moses vs Amalekites.jpgIt would be a pity to forget last Sunday’s first
reading where we read of Moses’ role as mediator of God’s saving plan.

In the
book of Exodus we were reminded that Moses had concern for the salvation of his
unbelieving countrymen, and therefore he asked that God show His compassion
towards sinful Israel (see Exodus 32-34). The raising of Moses’ hands in
prayer, while dramatic, is not a biblical example of a magical Wizard of Oz. It is, however, a posture that invites all of us to pray using our God-given body and as a group as it is more effective in
expanding our own heart for God’s grace and power.

The teaching of the Church
as it is given to us in the Catechism of the Catholic Church cites Saint John
Damascene’s definition of prayer as “…the raising of one’s mind and heart to
God or the requesting of good things from God.” The Catechism speaks of
biblical types of prayer, such as ‘the prayer of Moses [that] responds to the
living God’s initiative for the salvation of His people. It foreshadows the
prayer of intercession of the unique mediator, Christ Jesus’ (2593).

St Dominic in prayer.jpg

Do we
raise our hands in prayer? What posture of prayer do we use? Do we use our body in praying? Are you too stiff and scared in your manner of praying? 

Recall that one of
the “Nine Ways of Prayer” given to us by Saint Dominic de Guzman is the raising
of hands in prayer. The 6th and 7th Ways of Prayer are directly connected with the living of the Beatitudes and the spirituality of the Cross. Outstretched hands in the form of a cross became a familiar way of praying for Saint Dominic (and his followers) that he believed was inspired by God not only at Mass but also when he was praying for someone’s healing or being being raised from the dead.

Catholics of the Latin Church are often too reserved, perhaps even too rigid, in their posture of prayer versus what is seen in Eastern Christianity where the extension of hands in prayer is one of many postures used in the sacred Liturgy and in private. This particularly seen in praying the Lord’s Prayer and other prayers of penitence and before the reception of Holy Communion.

So, can we follow the example of Moses and Saint Dominic in speaking and listening to God? 

Lectio Divina will bring about a new spiritual springtime in the Church, Benedict recommends

On the occasion of the 40th anniversary Dei Verbum in 2005, Pope Benedict made what I think is a brilliant claim that lectio divina will be instrumental in bringing a new era in the Church. The Pope said:

In this context, I would like in particular way to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of “Lectio divina”: “the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart” (cf. Dei Verbum, 25). If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church — I am convinced of it — a new spiritual springtime. (16 September 2005)

Catholic Prayer: experiencing a deeper and authentic prayer life in the Blessed Trinity

Where and how do we seek communion in prayer with God? Catholics enter into communion with God through the Blessed Trinity. I purposely ask the question this way because so often I meet Catholics who have fallen into a quasi-Protestant manner of thinking and praying. They say, “My prayer is a relationship with Jesus.” They go no further. They also rarely give an indication that there are two other persons of the Blessed Trinity. Certainly, we all are to seek an intimacy with the Lord Jesus, but as Catholics our theology and its manifestation in the spiritual life through the sacred Liturgy and personal prayer is always in conversation with the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is an essential point in the spiritual life. You miss this point, you miss the point of Catholic prayer. In fact, all of our liturgical prayer, save for a few, is directed to the Father, through the Son under the power of the Holy Spirit.

Catholics ought not be functionally unitarian: prayer exclusively directed to one member of the Trinity but it ought to be trinitarian:  Father, Son AND Holy Spirit. In 1989, Cardinal Ratzinger, with his typical clarity, addressed this issue in a “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on some Aspects of Christian Meditation.” He said, in part:

St Ignatius of Loyola at Manresa.jpeg

“From the dogmatic point of view,” it is impossible to arrive at a perfect love of God if one ignores his giving of himself to us through his Incarnate Son, who was crucified and rose from the dead. In him, under the action of the Holy Spirit, we participate, through pure grace, in the interior life of God. When Jesus says, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9), he does not mean just the sight and exterior knowledge of his human figure (in the flesh is of no avail”–Jn 6:63). What he means is rather a vision made possible by the grace of faith: to see, through the manifestation of Jesus perceptible by the senses, just what he, as the Word of the Father, truly wants to reveal to us of God (“It is the Spirit that gives life […]; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life”–ibid.). This “seeing” is not a matter of a purely human abstraction (“abstractio”) from the figure in which God has revealed himself; it is rather the grasping of the divine reality in the human figure of Jesus, his eternal divine dimension in its temporal form. As St. Ignatius says in the Spiritual Exercises, we should try to capture “the infinite perfume and the infinite sweetness of the divinity” (n. 124), going forward from that finite revealed truth from which we have begun. While he raises us up, God is free to “empty” us of all that holds us back in this world, to draw us completely into the Trinitarian life of his eternal love. However, this gift can only be granted “in Christ through the Holy Spirit,” and not through our own efforts, withdrawing ourselves from his revelation (20).

I would recommend reading Cardinal Ratzinger’s full letter to the bishops; it is linked above.

Prayer is our nature

Prayer is more essential to us, more an integral part of
, than the rhythm of our breathing or the beating of our heart.
Without prayer there is no life. Prayer is our nature. As humans we are created
for prayer just as we are created to speak and to think. The human animal is
best described, not as a logical or tool-making animal or an animal that
laughs, but rather as an animal that prays, a eucharistic animal, capable of
offering the world back to God in thanksgiving and intercession. (Bishop Kallistos Ware)

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT, follows the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, and is an Oblate of Saint Benedict, works as a monastery farmer and a keeper of honey bees. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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