“Lord, Teach Us to Pray!”(Part 2)

6/26/2011

There are many ways of Christian prayer. We could even say there are as many ways of praying as there are pray-ers (that is, those who pray). Different cultures and periods of history have given rise to many forms of piety and devotion among the Christian people. These ways of prayer touch the heart and engage the Christian imagination in pondering the mysteries of faith. This is especi-ally true regarding the Holy Rosary. Mary’s Rosary is a compendium of prayer which fosters meditation and contemplation of the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption.

Training in liturgical prayer is especially important. The life of every parish centers on the celebration of the Eucharist, particularly the Sunday Eucharist. Sunday Mass and the Lord’s Day ought to find pride of place in our homes and parishes. At a time when many parish communities are aging and declining because of shifting populations, it is more important than ever to recognize the Sunday Eucharist as the source of our unity. The same can be said regarding the challenge of maintaining our Catholic identity in an increasingly inhospitable secular environment. The precious gift of the Sunday Eucharist shines forth as one of the distinguishing elements of our identity and the true source of our life and strength as faithful Catholics. The gathering of the parish community and the family to worship together on the Lord’s Day strengthens both, and helps prevent the scattering of the flock. The Mass is the privileged place where our communion with the Lord and one another is both proclaimed and nourished.

Each of us individually and all of us together draw life from the heavenly banquet that Christ has prepared for us at Mass.

“Sunday, the Lord’s Day, is a favorable opportunity to draw strength from him, the Lord of life. The Sunday precept is not, therefore, an externally imposed duty, a burden on our shoulders. On the contrary, taking part in the Celebration, being nourished by the Eucharistic Bread and experiencing the communion of their brothers and sisters in Christ is a need for Christians, it is a joy; Christians can thus replenish the energy they need to continue on the journey we must make every week.” (Pope Benedict XVI).

We owe it to the Lord, to one another and to ourselves to participate fully and regularly in the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist. We ought to make every reasonable effort to rediscover and preserve the importance of the Lord’s Day as a day of worship, a day of rest, and a day for family.

The Eucharistic liturgy, the Mass, is enhanced and extended when the parish gathers to celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours, especially Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. A number of parishes, families and individuals have discovered the riches of the Liturgy of the Hours as a way of entering more deeply into the liturgical seasons and to give structure and rhythm to their prayer. The Liturgy of the Hours enables us to join our hearts and voices in praying with and for the entire Church through Christ our High Priest.

Eucharistic adoration is a treasure which is being rediscovered in our time. In its various forms, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament allows the faithful to prolong the act of adoration which the Church offers to the Father through Christ and in the Holy Spirit at every Mass. Adoration is the most basic and proper act of a creature toward the Creator. We have a need and a duty to adore.

Worship of the Eucharistic Lord outside of Mass, whether in perpetual adoration chapels, holy hours or simple visits to the Blessed Sacrament are authentic forms of Catholic piety which foster deeper appreciation for Christ’s gift of the Eucharist. These acts of Eucharistic devotion which flow from the Mass foster love for the Mass and a longing for sacramental communion with Christ and a share in his mission.

In our busy and noisy world, these moments of silent adoration provide the time and setting in which profound prayer may be born in our hearts. It is especially important to introduce children and young people to this spiritual treasure. I have found them to be especially receptive to the grace these moments of silence offer all of us.

Eucharistic adoration also provides those discerning their vocation a privileged opportunity to hear the gentle and insistent stirring of the Lord, who speaks with “a still, small voice.” (1 Kgs 19:12). For these and many other reasons, Eucharistic adoration ought to be an integral component of vocations programs, not only for those discerning, but also for the whole Church which must ask the Lord insistently to send laborers into the harvest. (Mt 9:38).