“You have made us for yourself, Lord,
and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
“One dark night, fired by love’s urgent longings…”
John of the Cross
What do we do with the restlessness, the fire that burns within us? How do we handle and nurture our relationship to God, others, and creation? What proper ways and disciplines can we find to integrate our lives in such a way as to reflect, share, and celebrate the presence of Christ in all? Spirituality is that search and yearning in the heart of each of us, which we explore along varied paths leading, hopefully, to the narrow tightrope that Jesus once called the path to eternal life.
The spiritual life … is not limited solely to participation in the liturgy. The Christian is indeed called to pray with his brothers and sisters, but he must also enter into his chamber to pray to the Father in secret; yet more, according to the teaching of the Apostle, he should pray without ceasing.” (CSL #12)
One of the paths that sets Catholics apart from many other Christians is the principle of sacramentality. Sacramentals are associated with the Church's official rituals. They include public and private devotions, religious signs, symbols, gestures, prayers, rituals, images, music, and natural or made objects.
While not always inherently religious (e.g., water, a color or a posture), they become sacramentals, or sacred, in their religious use. They are not part of the Church's official liturgy of sacraments and prayer, but are used to worship God, honor the saints, or seek divine favor. Sacramentals allow the invisible mystery of God to be touched in a physical way.
Paths of Prayer
Lectio Divina is the prayerful reading – and listening "with the ear of the heart" – of Scripture (or other sacred texts) in the quest for God, or for holiness. The process is described in four stages or pillars: Lectio – reading the text aloud; meditatio – pondering the words; oratio – praying the text; and finally contemplatio – resting in the presence of God.
OSB Lectio Divina: www.osb.org/lectio/about.html
"...But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door and pray to your Father in secret. And the Father, who sees in secret, will reward you." Mt 6:6.
Centering prayer is a method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God's presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than consciousness itself. It invites us to move into a receptive prayer of resting in God. It is based on the above wisdom saying of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, and inspired by the writings of John of the Cross, Therese de Lisieux, Francis de Sales, Teresa of Avila, and Thomas Merton.
For more information, see Contemplative Outreach, Ltd.
The Stations/Way of the Cross
"If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me ..." (Matthew 16:24)
During the Crusades (1095-1270), pilgrims traveled to the Holy Land to walk in the footsteps of Jesus to Calvary. When pilgrimages became too dangerous, pilgrims could walk the outdoor Stations of the Cross representing critical events from Scripture or tradition of Jesus' journey. In the mid 18th century, stations were allowed inside churches and fixed at 14. The Way of the Cross now appears in different forms, such as the Scripture-based stations of Pope John Paul II. They are meant to be walked as a true journey with Jesus.
For guidelines in worship spaces, see #132-134 Built of Living Stones: Bishops Document on Art, Architecture and Worship.
Going in circles becomes a way to pray and meditate. The labyrinth is the ancient circular construction, not a maze but a winding path that is a metaphor for centering oneself on an inward journey. This has been walked and prayed since ancient times, e.g. (A.D. 350) in the Basilica of Reparatus in Algeria and the most famous one (1220) at the Cathedral of Chartres, France.
For an excellent article on the prayerful journey of the labyrinth, see St. Anthony Messenger:www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/Aug2005/Feature1.asp
To locate a prayer labyrinth near you: wwll.veriditas.labyrinthsociety.org/
Contemplative prayer and music from the French ecumenical community of Taizé (tay-zay)
Taizé Page: www.taize.fr/en_rubrique12.html
To explore the rich and varied devotions to Mary, the Mother of God, go to the excellent resource site of the University of Dayton's International Marian Research Institute.
The Mary Page: campus.udayton.edu/mary//marypage21.html
Praying the Rosary
The rosary (from the Latin, rosarium, rose garden) evolved from the weekly praying of the 150 psalms by monks in the early Church. Too complicated for ordinary folk, these were gradually replaced in the 15th century by the praying of Our Fathers and Hail Marys, spaced with meditations on the mysteries related to Jesus and Mary. Tied and numbered beads have always been used as a way of counting the prayers. The mantra-like repetition of the prayers offers a way into a deeper relationship with God, by walking with Mary through the life, death and resurrection of her Son Jesus.
How to pray the Rosary: campus.udayton.edu/mary/questions/faq/faq07.html
How to teach children to pray the rosary: www.cptryon.org/prayer/child/rosary/how.html
How to pray the Rosary in many languages: www.pacifier.com/~rosarweb/howto.htm
Praying with Icons
Icons are physical objects that invite us to pray with our eyes wide open, going beyond words and focusing on images that point the way to God. They are doorways into stillness that lead us to an inner attitude of prayer. Two of the best books on the subject are Henri Nouwen's Behold the Beauty of the Lord (Ave Maria Press) and Praying with Icons by Jim Forest by Orbis Books.
Read more about the Rublev Icon, called the "Trinity Icon."
Visio Divina: Divine Seeing
This is the practice of meditating on visual images as a source of divine insight and inspiration. See and log in free to Envision Church:www3.georgetown.edu/centers/liturgy/envisionchurch/30211.html
Online Prayer Places
There are many and varied ways for busy people to pray at their computers. Here are a few:
Sacred Space: www.sacredspace.ie
Online Ministries of Creighton University offers multiple ways in their Daily Reflections from Creighton University: www.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/daily.html
Prayers & Blessings for Special Occasions
- Blessing for a Departing Pastor
- Blessing Prayer for a Parish Priest
- Prayer of Catherine of Sienna
- Prayer of Teresa of Avila
- Prayer of Thomas Merton
- Prayer of Love
- Meal Prayer for a Gathering
- Welcome & Blessing for Returning Catholics
- Blessing for a Columbarium
- Blessing AED Units & Other Medical Equipment