Sunday's readings can be found: [HERE]
The meaning of our readings today is clear. We’re called to pray continuously to God. In our first reading, we hear about Moses who remained in prayer until sunset. As long as his arms were raised in prayer, Israel fared well in a difficult battle against Amalek. When his arms faltered, Amalek gained the advantage. In our gospel passage, we hear the parable of the widow and the judge. The widow’s perseverance earned her a just decision from the judge.
Prayer is the language in which we’re in dialogue with God and with his holy ones, the saints. I know I’ve described prayer like that to you before. I think it can help for us to think of prayer in that way.
With language, it’s not enough to merely practice it occasionally. Full immersion is the best way. We become fluent in language by hearing it spoken constantly; ideally, in a country where it’s the norm. When we pray without ceasing, we gain fluency in prayer.
Prayer can take many forms, just as language can take many forms. When we speak, we can use language to express our thoughts and feelings. We can ask others what they’re thinking and feeling. We can say a kind word to others. We can ask others for a favor. We can offer others our own help.
Likewise, in the language of prayer, we have prayers of intercession, of lamentation, of petition, of praise and worship, of adoration, and so on. Just as language is learned through many of life’s situations, we are also called to learn to pray throughout our life’s situations, and no matter our station in life. Our prayer isn’t limited to how we converse in this Church.
I’d like to turn this conversation in that direction; of what our prayer might look like beyond this Church, in response to that summons to pray without ceasing. What might your day of prayer look like, regardless of what you do or don’t do for a living? What pattern of prayer can fit in anyone’s day?
Some people are able to go to Mass daily. For many people, that’s not possible. But the daily readings can still be part of everyone’s daily habit of prayer. Many Catholics might admit that they don’t read the Bible enough (or at all).
When we pray by readings the daily Mass readings, we are reading the Bible. We read through all four gospels over a three-year cycle each Sunday. And we read through much of the Bible over a two-year cycle through the daily Mass readings. When we read and pray the daily Mass readings, we’re praying our way through the Bible alongside the Church daily liturgy.
The daily Mass readings are available online. You can go to our parish website and find those there. For those who prefer something in print, I recommend a Daily Roman Missal [gesturing to the Daily Roman Missal]. A Daily Roman Missal is published by various publishers, which includes the daily Mass readings and all the prayers that the priest prays during the Mass throughout the entire year. It also includes all of the prayers a priest uses to celebrate the Mass. It’s a helpful companion for those who also want to include those prayers in their daily mediation.
There is also something called the Divine Office, also known as the Liturgy of the Hours that can be part of our daily prayer [gesturing to the breviary]. This is the official daily prayer of the Church. You may never have heard of it.
Priests and religious are required to pray this, but all Catholics are invited to pray what they can of this. It’s typically organized into a four-volume set—this my personal volume four containing weeks eighteen to thirty-four of Ordinary Time. There are prayers for the morning, mid-morning, mid-day, mid-afternoon, evening, night, and other discretionary moments of the day.
The heart of this prayer is the one-hundred-and-fifty Psalms which are found in any Bible. Historically, most people throughout history didn’t know how to read. And so, rather than praying the one-hundred-and-fifty Psalms, many people prayed one hundred and fifty Hail Mary’s as a substitute.
Does that remind you of anything? It ought to remind you of this [gesturing to the rosary]. A single rosary includes fifty Hail Mary’s plus three. The Joyful Mysteries contains fifty Hail Mary’s, as does the Sorrowful Mysteries and the Glorious Mysteries.
When we pray all three of these mysteries, that adds up to one hundred and fifty Hail Mary’s in lieu of the one hundred and fifty Psalms. Back around the year 2000, Pope Saint John Paul the Great instituted the Luminous Mysteries, and so we’re up to two hundred Hail Mary’s in a full Psalter, as we call it when we pray all four sets of mysteries.
I encourage us all here to cultivate a devotion to praying the rosary regularly. October is traditionally the month of the rosary. This is a perfect month to start. It takes perhaps fifteen to twenty minutes to pray a single rosary.
While the Rosary can be prayed at any time, there are certain times that are also traditionally reserved for prayer, and I encourage us all to try to integrate these moments in our day.
When we wake up in the morning, some kind of morning prayer should be made. This pamphlet called the Magnificat has a morning prayer listed for each day and other prayers [gesturing to the Magnificat]. This also has the daily Mass readings.
At noon, a prayer known as the Angelus is traditionally prayed. At 3 p.m., many Catholics pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet. Before and after meals, prayers ought to be prayed. Before going to sleep at night, an examination of conscience is very good.
When we do all of these things, then we are adhering to that call to pray without ceasing. I’ve put references to all of these in this weekend’s bulletin. I know I’ve simply mentioned them now and you may not remember them, so that bulletin is available to you near the doors and on our website.
Through the grace of the Mass, may God inspire all of us to recommit to a life of prayer. God bless you.
Christ in Gethsemane, by Heirich Hofmann, c. 1886. Oil Painting.