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A Beacon Of Light… Prayer Rooted In The Person Of Jesus Christ

August 2, 2022 Frontpage No Comments

By FR. RICHARD D. BRETON JR.

(Editor’s Note: Fr. Richard D. Breton Jr. is a priest of the Diocese of Norwich, Conn. He received his BA in religious studies and his MA in dogmatic theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Conn.)

  • + + Throughout the history of salvation, people and civilizations have adopted ways of communication with the Divine. We call this communication, prayer. For Catholics, prayer is an essential part of the relationship that has been established between God and man. For centuries, from ancient times to the present, there have existed varying types of prayer. Each of these types of prayer has sought to fulfill the needs and desires of those engaged in supplications.
    The living tradition of prayer is proposed to the faithful through a historical, social, and cultural context. This is further understood through language where words, melodies, gestures, and iconography help to divinize the life of prayer.
    In all of this, how do we know whether what is being taught, or encouraged, is correct? Assisting in this responsibility is the Church. Here the Church, in her role as Magisterium, exercises her authority in maintaining that the faithful are not led astray in the way of prayer. For us as Catholics, a proper understanding and implementation of the way of prayer, must be rooted in the Person of Jesus Christ.
    Whenever we pray, our prayers find their substance in the Blessed Trinity. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are always fully participating in our prayers. So, whether our prayer is personal, communal, vocal, or interior it finds its way to fulfillment in the Three Persons of the Trinity.
    In ancient times, when God’s plan of salvation was put in motion, there always existed the Divine Plan of redemption through Christ Jesus. Thus, the way of prayer, must pass through Christ. The sacred humanity of Christ is the way the Holy Spirit teaches us to pray to God our Father. In the New Testament, and as prefigured in the Old Testament by prayers to the Father, every prayer to the Father was fulfilled in the Person of Christ.
    If we were to examine the prayer of the Church, that is the Word of God and the celebration of the liturgy, it teaches us to pray to our Lord Jesus. Even though there exist aspects of the Church’s prayer that are addressed to the Father, all of them are centered on Christ. The prayer of the Church places “in our minds, on our lips, and engraved in our hearts” familiar invocation through Christ to the Father. Some of these include: Son of God, Word of God, Lord, Savior, Lamb of God, King, Beloved Son, Son of the Virgin, Good Shepherd, our Life, our Light, our Hope, our Resurrection, Friend of mankind.
    The one name, however, that contains everything is Jesus. The name Jesus contains all, God and man and the whole economy of salvation (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 2665-2666).
    One of the simplest ways of prayer is through invocations. Invoking the name of Jesus is the simplest way of prayer. Recitation of the Holy Name of Jesus by the faithful, with a humble heart, bears much fruit. This way of praying is not one among others, but the pre-eminent prayer that shows our love for God, thus animating and transforming all our actions in Christ Jesus.
    Similarly, the way of prayer holds dear the veneration and reverence of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, along with that of the Holy Name of Jesus. Through adoration of the Heart and Name of Jesus, we show reverence to God the Father for the love expressed through the piercing of the heart of Jesus. The way of prayer always follows in the footsteps of Christ. From the beginning in Bethlehem, through the Stations of the Cross, prayer is always rooted in the redemption of the cross of Christ.
    No one can say, Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. So often we hear this passage in Scripture. It is St. Paul who reminds us of this in his Letter to the Corinthians. Every time we pray, it is the Holy Spirit who draws us along the way of praying through grace. The Holy Spirit guides us by keeping us focused on Christ. The Holy Spirit is our companion in prayer. He assists us in making sure our prayer is pure and acceptable to Christ.

Full Of Grace

How is this accomplished? How does the Holy Spirit assist us in our prayer? Traditionally, praying through the Holy Spirit involves a petition. This petition incorporates the unity of the Father, with the Son, in union with the Holy Spirit. For us, the Holy Spirit anoints and “permeates our whole being” making Himself the Master of our prayer. There are as many paths to prayer as there are people praying. But it is, however, the same Holy Spirit acting in both. The way of prayer is made complete in the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
Is there an example to whom we can look to understand this way of prayer? Certainly, we can look to the Blessed Mother who experienced the fullness of prayer. Mary’s “way of prayer” begins at the Annunciation and continues without hesitation to the foot of the cross. In each encounter with her Son, the Blessed Mother was at prayer. If the way of prayer is an encounter with the Lord, then Mary was always praying.
Every time we pray the Hail Mary, or Ave Maria, we are expressing the importance of prayer as found in Jesus Christ. At the Annunciation, the Angel Gabriel’s greeting was both the example of prayer and the mode through which prayer would be fulfilled. You see, the greeting of the Angel Gabriel opens for us the way to the Father. It is God Himself who greets Mary through the angel. Then the next words of the angel, “full of grace, the Lord is with you,” shed light on each other and shed light on the way of prayer. Mary was full of grace because the Lord was with her, in the same way that the grace through which she is filled is the presence of Him who bestows all grace.
For us, Mary is the perfect example of prayer. When we follow her example of prayer, we are adhering to the plan of the Father who sent His Son united with the Holy Spirit to save all men, women, and children.
Knowing, or understanding the way of prayer, cannot be enough. This knowledge of prayer must guide us in how we pray. The Church, in her love for us, constantly guides us in the life of prayer. For us, our prayer is guided also by the example of the holy men and women who have gone before us. These we call witnesses. Among these are the venerable saints whom the Church has recognized as “intercessors of prayer.” These witnesses, through their lives, contemplated God and now intercede for us as they carry and place our prayers before the throne of the Most High God.
The custom of offering Masses for our deceased loved ones helps to recognize the witnesses before God. In addition to the witnesses in Heaven pleading our cause, we often forget those closest to us. The Christian faithful, our own brothers, and sisters in Christ, guide us in the way of prayer.
First, we are reminded of the ordained ministers who work tirelessly to guide us in our lives of prayer. As shepherds of the flock, the ordained are called to lead us to the living springs of prayer found in the Word of God, the liturgy, the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love, and how God is present in our lives today.
Second, we find another guide to prayer in the example of our many men and woman religious. These dedicated religious, especially those who have retained some resemblance through proper dress, are responsible for being an example of the spiritual life. Many cloistered or monastic religious pray all day for the Church and her members.
Third, the family, especially parents, are obliged to educate their children in how to pray. Sadly, however, this responsibility has gone by the wayside and our young people are losing the education needed to pray.

A Prayer Space

Lastly, any kind of prayer must find a favorable place where its benefits can be experienced by the faithful. Among these are the church buildings. Consecrated and set aside as holy, these are the first place of prayer. It is here that the faithful gather to celebrate the Sacred Liturgies and adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
The home can also be a place of prayer. In this situation, it is advised that the faithful set aside a corner of their home as a “prayer space.” It can be adorned with a small altar where statues and holy pictures remind us of its importance.
And pilgrimages, or visiting of shrines for worship, can be special places of prayer. In the United States there are many.
Next week we will focus on the life of prayer as an expression of the individual, the battle of prayer and prayer at the hour of Jesus.

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