Prayer in the Catholic Tradition

 Chapter 1 Prayerfulness by Robert Wicks

The first chapter, written by the editor Robert Wicks, is a helpful introduction to the idea of prayerfulness. While the chapter doesn’t explicitly state it, the term “prayerfulness” is a play on the term “mindfulness” derived from Buddhism and used in meditation circles.
Simply put, prayerfulness is

prayerfulness — that is, being in the present with our eyes wide open to the presence and reflection of God in all things, including ourselves. (p. 6)

or

prayerfulness is being in the now with our eyes open to the presence of God. (p. 11)

Wicks begins by describing Jesus call to a new way of life:

  1. in place of power, the call is to friendship and service
  2. in place of success, the call is to faithfulness
  3. in place of certainty, the call is to face their doubts and
  4. in place of retribution, the call is to forgive and love (p. 5)

Following this is a brief discussion (and a table) exploring the fruits of prayerfulness.  Examples from the chart include:

Prayerfulness can

  • lift us out of stagnant, obsessive thought patterns
  • help us to forgo the comfort of denial and avoidance for the peace that allows us to fear nothing but instead welcome all of our emotions, cognitions (ways of thinking, perceiving, and understanding), and impulses with compassion and clarity
  • open up true space for others by opening it up in ourselves
  • encourage us to wonder more about what thoughts, emotions, and events help us create peace rather than suffering
  • make us more in tune with the voice of God that is continually being drowned out by society and our own habitual voices

Wicks goes on to discuss ways to strengthen our prayerfulness, outlining key elements of a rule of life

  • Liturgy
  • Faith sharing
  • Formal prayer
  • Reflection during the day
  • Spiritual reading
  • Sacred Scripture
  • Journaling and theological reflection
  • Prayer in silence and possibly solitude
  • Hospitality

The chapter concludes with common questions about prayerfulness structured in terms of our presence to God (prayer), others (compassion), and self (fullness).

Wicks draws heavily on the thought of Merton and Nouwen in this chapter. His structure is more pastoral and psychological than theological. The influence of the mindfulness movement on the chapter is apparent.

All that being said, the chapter is a helpful reference and framework for those beginning along the spiritual path. It lays out the path of discipleship and the fruits of the spiritual life. In particular, the rule of life is helpful to share with anyone actively engaged in the spiritual life. As an opening chapter to a book on prayer in the Catholic Tradition the chapter does its job well.

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