Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Praying with the Church

Catholic prayer can be a little on the complex side. My single volume version of the Liturgy of the Hours (the full version is four volumes) and my daily missal add up to over 3,500 pages of liturgical prayer between the two of them. And then there are other versions of the Office, and there is the Graduale, which holds the official chants of the Church which go with each mass and so on. Over the last 2,000 years, we've put together a lot of pages worth of prayer.

Some of my more Evangelical friends find this very odd about the Catholic idea of liturgy. Why have so many pages and intricate systems just to pray? Why not just open your bible or lift your heart up to God in your own words? Why should the mass be so "scripted"?

The answer is that as Catholics we do not just pray individually, as persons or as congregations, when it comes to liturgical prayer. We pray as the one Body of Christ. And all those thousands of pages serve to keep Catholics throughout the world on the same page, as it were.

Never has this been so immediately illustrated to me as today, when I had the chance to watch via the USCCB's web streaming as Pope Benedict XVI prayed Vespers with out nation's bishops at the National Shrine.

I pulled my copy of Christian Prayer out of my briefcase and began following along.

There I was, a thousand miles away, holding and praying the same text as the Holy Father and all our bishops. And rippling backwards and forward through the time zones of the world, priests, religious and laity across the globe were doing the same, praying the same psalms and antiphons and readings. The Body of Christ praying as one.


Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

You stole my post! I was just going to write about this exact thing. I was going to do Vespers later but when I saw it on EWTN I decided to do it with the Pope.

I had this neat feeling of, "Wow, I'm praying with the Pope." And then a neater feeling of, "Wow, I pray with the Pope every single day."

It was also nice to have confirmation that I was doing it right. Since I've never been to a formal prayer service I kind of worried in the back of my mind that I was doing LOTH all wrong.

Anonymous said...

Another thing, as my priest pointed out to me one time, when we pray the Psalms in the Office we know that our Lord would have prayed those very same words throughout His life on earth.

I think about that unity with our Lord and with His Church often when I'm praying. It's quite a stupendous thought when I really comprehend what I'm doing.

As an ex-Pentecostal this is something I think about when evangelical folks accuse Catholics of not reading the Bible. Between the LOTH and the Mass readings (not to mention the liturgy itself) I'm digesting more Scripture in a day than I would have in a week in my former life.

Tausign said...

Yes indeed, we pray with the Pope and each other every day. But it's so nice to have that experience of doing it together as opposed to 'private recitation (which in a sense is a contradiction in'public liturgy' done privately).

I have the pleasure of praying with my brothers and sisters in my Franciscan Fraternity monthly. The 'back and forth' (left and right side) of group recitation is calming and unifying.

Melanie Bettinelli said...

I'm sorry I missed the broadcast, that would have been really neat. I've been dropping the ball on evening prayer too much recently.

What's interesting is seeing Protestants attempt to recreate this kind of praying together. A few years ago I caught an episode of the reality show Colonial House on PBS. A protestant minister (at least I think he was a minister) separated from his family with no communication for the duration of the show had arranged with them a schedule of bible readings so they could all be reading the same texts on the same day. I remember thinking at the time that we Catholics already have that common set of readings we pray with our entire family every day.

Kyle Cupp said...

The prayer-life of us Catholics is rooted in time and place; it is, in a word, incarnational.

Ginkgo100 said...

Another, rather humbling reason why we have all these pre-written prayers is that the saints and liturgists who wrote them had insights we might never think of by ourselves. I know without pre-written prayers, my own prayer can tend to become a one-note song as I focus on one particular petition or devotion.

That's one of the things I love about this faith. Not only is there a reason for everything, there are multiple reasons. There are layers and layers the further one goes. This, also, is quite humbling.

liturgy said...

The concept of liturgy as common prayer - really hits the spot.
I am trying to encourage the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours ecumenically at "Liturgy"
and hope you will visit
and link.