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Deacon-structing Catholic prayers

Deacon Pedro

Monday, March 22, 2021

Detail of The Angelus by Jean-François Millet (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
For the last couple of weeks we’ve been exploring some of those age-old Catholic must-knows, some of our classic spiritual authors and the precepts of the Church. Also, last year we looked at some of the basics of the faith in the areas of liturgy, catechism, history, and doctrine.
Today, I’d like to look at prayers.
Last week we looked at prayers and devotions to St. Joseph. I'm sure that most of those were new to many of you. They were to me!
Looking at the precepts of the Church and at some of those spiritual classics made me realize how little of the traditional prayers of the Church I know. Sure, I know how to pray the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross; I know the Divine Mercy Chaplet. But there are so many that (my mom would say) are such a part of our Tradition, that they should be common knowledge for all Catholics.
I think I am the classic product of the 60s and 70s – post Vatican II. I grew up with the new music that came out of the folk movement. I grew up with the Charismatic Renewal. I grew up in a Church that encouraged me to ask questions and to challenge authority. I learned that Jesus was my best friend and that it’s ok to call a priest by his first name.
This also meant that I learned that the best way to pray is to use my own words.
Four years ago, in Deacon-structing Prayer, I wrote that prayer is relationship and “for the same reason that you wouldn’t only get together with your husband and read prepared texts to each other for half an hour in the morning and then half an hour at bedtime, that may not be the best approach to Prayer.” In part 2  I wrote: “Imagine you had a friend whom you’ve hurt and need to apologize to. Do you ask someone else to write an apology and then you read it to them, or is it best to say it in your own words?”
I still agree with those sentiments.
At the same time, in my old age I’ve realized that there is a certain power when we all pray the same words together. This is why our liturgical responses are done out loud and in unison. This is why the Liturgy of the Hours is done out loud and in unison. In Deacon-structing Prayer Part 2, I also wrote  that “in a moment of crisis, when I can't think of anything to say, it's good to know that I can say a "Hail Mary" without really having to think about it much.”  And so, I now recognize the importance of these timeless, age-old, must-know prayers of our Tradition. It's good to have prayers we can use when we can't find our own words.
We must pray, always. It’s good if the prayer comes from your heart. It’s probably best if your prayer life is comprised of a good combination of your own words and the words the Church has given us.
How many of these do you know?
Act of Spiritual Communion – Many of you will have learned this one over the last year. It is attributed to St. Alphonsus Liguori.
My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
I love You above all things,
and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if you were already there,
and I unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.
Saint Michael the Archangel This is one everyone in the Archdiocese of Toronto should know.
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle,
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil;
may God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God,
cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl through the world
seeking the ruin of souls.
Eternal RestThis prayer is part of the prayers for the dead, the funeral liturgy, and the rite of burial; it is also used as a prayer for souls in purgatory.
V. Eternal rest grant unto him/her (them), O LORD,
R. And let perpetual light shine upon him/her (them).
V. May he/she (they) rest in peace.
R. Amen.
The AngelusTraditionally said three times every day: at 6am, 12pm, and 6pm. At these times, church bells would ring letting people know when to stop and briefly pray. It's a great tradition to do at home.
V. The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary:
R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, full of grace...
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord:
R. Be it done unto me according to Thy word.
Hail Mary...
V. And the Word was made Flesh:
R. And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary...
V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God,
R. that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray:
V. Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord.
Act of ContritionThis prayer is part of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and is said by the penitent before absolution. Traditionally, it was also said before sleep at night.
O my Saviour, I am truly sorry for having offended You, because You are infinitely good and sin displeases You. I detest all the sins of my life and I desire to atone for them. Through the merits of Your Precious Blood, wash from my soul all stain of sin, so that, cleansed in body and soul, I may worthily approach the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Amen.
Some of you may know this version:
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin.
Hail, Holy Queen (Salve Regina) – It is the final prayer of the Rosary, and it is also sung after Night Prayer (Compline) on Saturday nights, except during the Easter Season. The text dates from the 11th century.
Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To thee do we cry,
poor banished children of Eve.
To thee do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
thine eyes of mercy toward us,
and after this exile
show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving,
O sweet Virgin Mary.
(some add):
V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God,
R. that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray:
V. Almighty and everlasting God, by the cooperation of the Holy Spirit you prepared the body and soul of Mary, glorious Virgin and Mother, to become the worthy dwelling place of thy Son; grant that by her gracious intercession, in whose commemoration we rejoice, we may be delivered from present evils and from everlasting death. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Regina Caeli (Queen of Heaven) – This is the prayer sung after Night Prayer on Saturdays during the Easter Season. The author is unknown, but it also dates from the 11th century.
Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
The Son you merited to bear, alleluia,
Has risen as he said, alleluia.
Pray to God for us, alleluia.
[Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia;
Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia,
Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia:
Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.]
MemorareMeaning “remember”, this is a prayer for the intercession of the Virgin Mary.
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known
that anyone who fled to thy protection,
implored thy help,
or sought thy intercession,
was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence
I fly unto thee,
O Virgin of virgins, my Mother.
To thee do I come,
before thee I stand,
sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions,
but in thy mercy hear and answer me.
Anima Christi (Soul of Christ) – Authorship is unknown although sometimes it is ascribed to St. Ignatius of Loyola, who uses it in his Spiritual Exercises.
Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Within Thy wounds hide me
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee
From the malignant enemy defend me
In the hour of my death call me
And bid me come unto Thee
That with Thy Saints I may praise Thee
Forever and ever.
How did you do? How many of these do you know in Latin? Are there other prayers that you grew up with? Share them with us.  Perhaps you also know the Acts of Faith, Hope and Love. How about the Te Deum, the Benedictus, the Magnificat, or the Veni Creator Spiritus? We have such a vast treasury of prayers there's a prayer for every occasion and need. No matter whether it is with memorized prayer or your own prayers from the heart, I hope that as we approach Holy Week and Easter, you are able find the time to spend in prayer, together with the Church, in the arms of the One who loves you most.
Next week, let's look at the Way of the Cross. Do you know how to pray the Stations of the Cross?

pedroEvery week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: [email protected]. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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