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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Deacon Lincoln’s Log 1-5-14

I know that I have used this reflection from Joyce Rupp before in this log, but I think it is such a helpful guide this time of year.

As you look back on the year just completed:

  1. What name would you give to your journey the past year? How would you describe it to one of your friends? What image or metaphor would you use to talk about it?

  1. What were some of your “epiphanies” of the past year (your discoveries of the Holy One in your midst)? How did you grow because of them?

  1. Who were your wise persons? What did they reveal to you? How did this influence your life?

  1. Did any of your hopes and dreams become a reality?

  1. What was most satisfying about the year? What was least satisfying?

  1. How did your experience of the past year affect the world in which you live?

As you look to the year before you:

  1. What name would you like your new year’s journey to have? What gifts do you bring with you into the year before you?

  1. Do you find resistance within you? Of what are you most afraid as you enter a new year?

  1. What is your greatest need for the coming year?

  1. Who do you bring with you for your support and strength as you begin to journey through the year?

  1. How is your relationship with the Holy One as you pause on the threshold of the new year’s vast landscape? What is at the heart of your new year’s prayer?

  1. What do you hope to contribute to society in this coming year?

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood

Living Water

Christ shows us the way to life, and those who embark on this way are like a fountain of living water bubbling forth from the earth, which steadily moves in all directions in spite of the obstacles blocking it.  One who follows Christ’s way can just as little ask what he must positively do as the spring of water flowing from the earth can ask such a question.  It flows, refreshing the soil, the earth, the trees, the birds, the animals, and people.  The same is true for the one who genuinely believes in Christ.

Leo Tolstoy

Cloud of Unknowing

“The Cloud of Unknowing teaches that we can achieve communion with God only through the Grace of divine Love. To prepare ourselves to receive this gift, we must enter a state of quiet stillness, suspended between heaven and earth. Above – between us and God – lies a mysterious “cloud of unknowing”, which our understanding can never penetrate. Between us and the world, we must create a “cloud of forgetting”, leaving conscious thought and desire below. In this timeless place of forgetting and unknowing, we may begin to hear that for which we are listening.
John Luther Adams

St. Bonaventure on Contemplation

“If you wish to know how such things [contemplation] come about, consult grace, not doctrine; desire, not understanding; prayerful groaning, not studious reading; the spouse, not the teacher; God, not man; darkness, not clarity. Consult not light but the fire that completely inflames the mind and carries it over to God and transports a fervor and blaze of love. This fire is God…. Christ starts the flame with the fire and heat of his intense suffering…. Whoever loves this death may see God, for this is beyond doubt true: ‘No man sees me and still lives’ [Ex. 33:20]. Let us die, then, and pass over into the darkness.”

St. Bonaventure