09 February 2010

No Matter What

“I urge you to hold up to your priests his example of dedication to prayer.”

These words were spoken by Pope Benedict XVI on 1 February 2010 to the Bishops of England and Wales during the ad limina visit. “His example,” which the Holy Father spoke of, was that of Cardinal Newman. Urging his bishops to be examples “of dedication to prayer,” however, is not for reasons of being in the spotlight. It is intended to be an irresistible act which sweetly infects all the faithful – flowing from the bishops, to the priests, to the religious, to the deacons, to the laity. This would require all of us to have an unwavering openness to the Holy Spirit.

Other words that could synonymously be used in place of “dedication” are words like – commitment, allegiance, loyalty. Prayer needs to have a “no matter what” ingredient. Humanity has lists of things that fall under “no matter what” – some are necessary and some we create for our own circumstances and enjoyment. Some examples under the necessary category are: No matter what, I have to eat. No matter what, I have to drink. No matter what, I have to sleep. No matter what, I have to take care of my family. And then a there is a slew of self-created occurrences that become “no matter what.” No matter what, I have to watch my favorite shows on television. No matter what, I have to check my emails. No matter what, I have to vacuum the floor today. No matter what, I have to get these ringtones for my cell phone – and the examples could go on for a very long stretch.

Today, scarcely, in our highly secularized culture, prayer seemingly doesn’t fall under the “no matter what” category; and in reality, prayer needs to be considered necessary. Padre Pio said, “Prayer is the key which opens God’s heart.” Saint Alphonsus said: “Pray, pray, pray, and you will surely be saved.” And really, try and find anyone whose name is preceded by the word “Saint” or “Blessed” who didn’t think prayer was necessary. Saint Francis de Sales actually used the word “necessary” when he said: “It [prayer] is so useful and necessary that without it we could not come to any good.”

The Church lovingly mandates prayer upon her ordained in the form of the Divine Office/Liturgy of the Hours. John Henry Cardinal Newman lived during the Victorian age. He was an avid reader, writer, committed to personal prayer and he loved to preach. No matter what, these were mainstays in his life. This is very impressive when considering the length of the Divine Office or mandated prayer in his day. The priests of that time prayed the version of the breviary that existed before the changes in 1911. If you’re unfamiliar with that Psalter Schema, you can find it here. Many priests of that era did not pray the breviary at set times as we are encouraged to do today. In the book, “The Divine Office” by Rev. E. J. Quigley are these words: “The time fixed for the recitation of the entire office of the day is from midnight to the midnight following, and anyone bound to recite the Divine Office does not sin gravely if he has recited carefully the entire office of the day between these limits of time. It should be borne in mind that the substance of the law of recitation is fulfilled if the whole office of the day be recited before midnight, and that the obligation for entire and complete recitation is grave; while the recitation of the hours at set hours of the day is a light obligation.” Thus, most priests usually prayed the entire day’s Office in one or two sittings. The point of all this for this particular post is that the length of the pre-1911 Divine Office, plus other interests which were also in service to God and His will, like those of Cardinal Newman, leave us a marvelous example of loyalty to God and prayer – no matter what.

Hopefully we have men and/or women in our lives who give us good examples, who pray no matter what, and find prayer necessary. If not, certainly we can find such examples in the lives of the saints. God calls each of us to an intimate relationship with Him. This requires a commitment to prayer – no matter what. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself gave us that example.