Say "Catholic prayer," and some folks may think of a group of Catholics droning their way through the Rosary: or parroting something they don't understand in a reasonable facsimile of Latin.
(From USCCB, used w/o permission.)
The Rosary is a very "Catholic" prayer, although I've heard of folks who aren't Catholic who pray the Rosary more often and more regularly than I do. There are a few "Catholic" prayers that we all say, starting with the Lord's Prayer. (Luke 11:1-4; Matthew 6:9-13; Catechism, 2759-2760, 2761-2776, 2777-2802, 2803-2854)
I had a soft spot in my heat for Mary long before I became a Catholic, and still do. Marian devotions are important in the lives of many Catholics, which doesn't meant that we worship Mary. That would be idolatry, which is a very bad idea and strictly against the rules. (Catechism, 2097, 2112-2114)
The Rosary is an important part of some, but not all, Marian devotions, and I'm getting off-topic. (Catechism, 971)
Latin is a beautiful language, and using it as the 'official' language of the Church made sense when the Roman Empire was still in operation. Later, when monks in Ireland and a few other outposts were keeping civilization alive in Europe, Latin still made sense, since it was the only language all educated Catholics would understand.
Most folks who lived where Rome's Imperial influence had been strong didn't speak Latin, but that language influenced their native tongues. That's why Spanish, Italian, and French are called romance languages, and that's another topic. My ancestral languages didn't. still more topics.
A traveler who spoke Latin was in the position of someone who speaks English today. Anywhere in Europe, the odds were pretty good that the traveler would eventually find at least one person who would understand what he or she said. It helped to be within a day's walk of a monastery, of course.
Today, Latin is still the language used by the Catholic Church for official documents and communications. I don't think that will change, particularly since we've accumulated quite a few documents over the last two millennia. Translating from one language to another is a tricky affair, as anyone who uses online tools like Google Translate should realize.
There's a joke that's so old, maybe you haven't heard it.
A man traveling in the Orient uses his phrasebook to ask for some service. The attendant obviously understands, but seems distressed. He replies, "alas, exalted thimble! I would carry you there on my back, but the cat is already late for the wedding." The attendant had probably memorized his phrasebook, without benefit of recordings to give some idea of what English is supposed to sound like.
Then there's the Monty Python 'phrasebook' sketch. As I recall, the author was charged with publishing a foreign phrase book with intent to cause riot.
(From Monty Python's Flying Circus, via YouTube, used w/o permission.)
Some American priests, and even bishops, were delighted. I suspect that many of them read about the Vatican II documents in Time, Newsweek, and maybe even The New York Times. Judging from the results, some of them never bothered to read the Vatican II documents themselves: in the original Latin or official translations into our native language.
We're still cleaning up the mess left by screwball 'reforms.'
Many Catholics living in America gritted their teeth as altar rails and statues were hauled out, and kept the faith. In my parish, some folks recovered all the pieces from the altar rail and put them in storage. The stone altar rails are still around, waiting for an economy that's more conducive to major remodeling projects.
Some folks were appalled by 'in the spirit of Vatican II' antics, and set up their own little churches. Some of these 'roll your own faith' outfits are still around, apparently convinced that they're the only 'real' Catholics in the whole wide world.
Being upset makes sense. Assuming that the Holy Spirit was AWOL and no longer guided the Magisterium: not so much.
Happily, many documents of the Church have been translated into my native language, English, like the Catechism. yet again more topics.
Before I get back to prayer, writing about prayer that is, a few words about the Magisterium, Papal authority, and getting a grip.
Papal authority doesn't mean that Catholics have to believe that Popes never make mistakes. They're human, and some have been remarkably poor role models. Even the worst of them didn't make any official statements that permanently damaged the Church. After two millennia, that's a remarkable track record.
The Magisterium is the Church's central authority, with the task of maintaining what Jesus gave us.
That's a massive oversimplification. I've posted about this sort of thing before:
- "Catholics Don't Believe the Bible: Who Knew?"
(September 26, 2008)
- "The Bible-Believing Catholic Church"
(October 2, 2008)
- "The Pope, the Antichrist, and Fu Manchu"
(October 2, 2008)
- "The Catholic Church: Authoritarian, Which Isn't Necessarily a Bad Thing"
(October 2, 2008)
I learned that the sort of prayer I usually do is called "Franciscan:" informal 'conversation' with God. Quite a few folks are discussing four types of prayer, online anyway. They're called Franciscan, Ignatian, Augustinian, and Thomistic. The forms of prayer, not the people, of course.
I think formal prayers like the Lord's Prayer are important. I should probably make an effort to do more of them, more often. There's meditating, too, studying Holy Scripture, and 1 Corinthians 12, and those are — you guessed it — even more topics.
- "Sometimes the Answer is 'No' "
(October 20, 2013)
- "Rain, Prayer, and Bread"
(September 15, 2013)
- "An Unusually Quick Response to 'Defend Us In Battle' "
(July 17, 2013)
- "Prayer! Meditation! Science!"
(May 3, 2013)
- "A Billion Ways to be Catholic, and the Spider-Man Principle"
(December 9, 2012)