Last Sunday as we settled into our pew for some prayer before Mass, I was aware of how comfortable I felt and how good it was to be back at St Pascal's. Since the middle of July, I have made three trips out west to visit family, friends, attend a wedding, go hiking, and a week of backpacking in the wilderness. The amount of activity and driving reminded me that I am not young anymore and it was really was nice to be back home. During these weeks I was only able to attend mass three times at St Pascal's, with one being the weekend I preached for the Assumption of Mary. With either being in the wilderness or not being comfortable going to Mass at an unfamiliar parish during this time of increased covid infections I was left relying on my prayer life more heavily. To this end, I wanted to pass along a couple of new prayer resources that have been very beneficial for my prayer life this summer.
The first is the best book on prayer I have read. "The Breath of the Soul, Reflections on Prayer" by Sr Joan Chittister. I think this is Sr Joan's best book I have read so far. Given the quality of the previous books that is saying something. It is a series of 42 reflections on the nature of prayer. Each reflection is a short 4-5 pages of material, which is good as it takes some time to digest and internalize each reflection.
A big theme of the book is how prayer is a tool for the transformation of ourselves and our relationship with God. A quote from St Teresa of Avila in the reflection on change captures this theme nicely:
"Prayer is not just spending time with God …. If it ends there, it is fruitless. No, prayer is dynamic. Authentic prayer changes us - unmasks us."
The style is very direct and can be challenging at times:
"Does the effectiveness of our own prayers bring us to the fullness of ourselves? To unmask our own selfishness? To make us builders of the kingdom?"
"No one expects to know the same degree of information about life at sixty-five as they did at thirty-five. Why then would we expect our spiritual lives to fossilize, to be at their ultimate, at the age of eighteen?"
While being challenging at times the reflections continue to point us to the end goal of prayer, a mystical relationship with God that transcends time.
“We do live in two different kinds of worlds - the mystical and the material - the physical and the real - but we also know that the overlap between them is just as true, just as real. The purpose of prayer is to bring us deeper and deeper into the center of the intersection between the two of them”
I encourage you to check out this wonderful resource to help you as it has me in maturing my prayer life.
The other resource is a phone application entitled Universalis. It is mainly for praying the liturgy of the hours but does include daily mass readings and saint of the day resources. Liturgy of the hours is the official prayer of the Church and is a series of prayers; office of readings, morning prayer, midmorning prayer, midday prayer, afternoon prayers, vespers or evening prayer, and compline or night prayer. These seven prayers are usually prayed at monasteries around the world, by clergy, and others. Julie and I learned how to pray the liturgy of the hours during formation using a set of 4 books with each book being for a certain liturgical season during the year. It is a lot of work, and you have to flip around in the book based on the day and any feasts being celebrated. I switched to using online versions of the liturgy of the hours years ago. After bouncing around, I settled in on the Universalis website (http://www.universalis.com/). This summer I finally paid $13 for the phone app and have been very pleased with it and feel it has enhanced my experience of praying the liturgy of the hours and I like the added benefit of having the daily readings in the same app.
Here are the things I like about using the Universalis app for my prayer. Not having to lug around a book and spend time figuring out the prayers for each day it is a big one for me. Having the prayers available at any time makes me more prone to do them. The translation used for the scripture texts is from the New Jerusalem Bible and provides a nice contrast to the New American Bible we use here in the United States. I find the New Jerusalem translation to be easier to read and more poetic, especially for the Psalms. Having the daily Mass readings means I do not have to flip to another app to pray with the readings. There is information about all the saints for a particular day. A spiritual reading or readings from the tradition of the Church is available separately from the office of readings. Lastly, it has the opening and closing prayers, and the whole order of Mass, which I can cut and paste to use when doing a prayer service on a particular day.
These two prayer resources have been a nice enhancement to my prayer life and I wanted to let you know about them.
Peace, Love, and Blessings