Friday, February 25, 2011

Prayer, Rules, a Saint, and Lent

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has an entire chapter about prayer: 2650-2660.

I ended yesterday's post with an excerpt from that chapter:
"Prayer cannot be reduced to the spontaneous outpouring of interior impulse: in order to pray, one must have the will to pray. Nor is it enough to know what the Scriptures reveal about prayer: one must also learn how to pray. Through a living transmission (Sacred Tradition) within 'the believing and praying Church,'1 the Holy Spirit teaches the children of God how to pray.

"The tradition of Christian prayer is one of the ways in which the tradition of faith takes shape and grows, especially through the contemplation and study of believers who treasure in their hearts the events and words of the economy of salvation, and through their profound grasp of the spiritual realities they experience.2"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2650-2651)
Wouldn't you know it: The Catholic Church says that prayer doesn't just 'come naturally.' It's something we learn to do. Makes sense to me.

Learning: Catholics have a Rule About That

Catholics have a reputation for having rules about everything. There's something to that.

For example, as a practicing Catholic I'm expected to learn about my Lord, Jesus. It's in the rules.
"The Church 'forcefully and specially exhorts all the Christian faithful . . . to learn "the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ" (Phil 3:8) by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. . . . Let them remember, however, that prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that a dialogue takes place between God and man. For "we speak to him when we pray; we listen to him when we read the divine oracles." '4

"The spiritual writers, paraphrasing Matthew 7:7, summarize in this way the dispositions of the heart nourished by the word of God in prayer: 'Seek in reading and you will find in meditating; knock in mental prayer and it will be opened to you by contemplation.'5"
(Catechism, 2653-2654)
There's more, about the liturgy of the Church and prayer (Catechism, 2655), theological virtues (Catechism, 2656-2658), even when to pray: "in the present." (Catechism, 2659-2660)

Ideally, I'd be praying constantly: one way or another. Which is sort of what Saint Thérèse of Lisieux meant by her "little way." I see I've posted about Saint Thérèse of Lisieux before. (July 7, 2010, October 1, 2009") But not about her "little way." Which is another topic. Topics.

Before moving on, I hope to learn from St. Thérèse, but I don't expect to be exactly like her. I've discussed unity, diversity, and a universal Church before.(August 26, 2010, April 19, 2010)

Prayer and the Liturgy

The connection between the liturgy and prayer isn't, quite, the prayers we say at Mass. "Liturgy," by the way, means "a Christian sacrament commemorating the Last Supper by consecrating bread and wine," or "a rite or body of rites prescribed for public worship." (Princeton's WordNet)

Back to the Catechism:
"In the sacramental liturgy of the Church, the mission of Christ and of the Holy Spirit proclaims, makes present, and communicates the mystery of salvation, which is continued in the heart that prays. The spiritual writers sometimes compare the heart to an altar. Prayer internalizes and assimilates the liturgy during and after its celebration. Even when it is lived out 'in secret,'6 prayer is always prayer of the Church; it is a communion with the Holy Trinity.7"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2655)

What's the Point of This Post?

Lent is coming up: fast, the way I reckon time. As usual, I'm wondering what I'll concentrate on during the Lenten season. Beefing up my prayer life is one possibility. So is bucking down and doing some serious reading of Scripture and documents of the Church.

Which is where this post comes in.

I've found that talking - or writing - about a topic helps me organize my thoughts. Or at least show me what I need to learn to have something worth organizing. More topics.

Writing this post helped me realize that I could concentrate more on my 'religious' reading. No big surprise there: but now I'm aware of that 'to do' item.

Somewhat-related posts:

2 comments:

Left-footer said...

Prayer, at least for me, is hard work, and usually degenerates into thread-following and aimless mental meandering.

Something I must work harder on. Thank you, and God bless.

Brian Gill said...

Left-footer,

Me, too. Also my pleasure - and may God bless you, too.

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