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.
4 hours ago