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Our Prayerful Pope Calls the Whole Church to Learn the Way of Prayer
By Deacon Keith Fournier
December 2nd, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Our prayerful Pope is calling the whole church to prayer. He is correct, of course, "Jesus reveals the mystery of prayer". He reminds us that "while prayer is a gift of God, it is also an art learned through constant practice. Jesus teaches us to pray constantly, but also to bear witness before others of the beauty of prayer, self-surrender and complete openness to God." Prayer is an ongoing dialogue of intimate communion with God. The Holy Spirit is calling for a generation of contemplatives in every state in life.
VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - During his Wednesday Catechesis on November 20, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI instructed the pilgrims gathered on Prayer. This is one of his most popular topics because he is a man of deep prayer.
When I read his messages and study his teachings I am reminded of one of my favorite sayings from a fourth century monk of the undivided Church, Evagrius of Pontus, who wrote "If you are a theologian you will pray truly; and of you pray truly, you are a theologian."
Our prayerful Pope spoke these words: "In our catechesis on prayer, we now turn to Jesus, who by his own example most fully reveals the mystery of Christian prayer. A significant moment in this regard is Jesus' prayer following his Baptism, which expresses his both his deepest identity as the Son of God and his solidarity with the sinful humanity whom he came to save.
"Jesus' prayer reflects his complete, filial obedience to the Father's will, an obedience which would lead him to death on the Cross for the redemption of our sins.
"With his human heart, Jesus learned to pray from his Mother and from the Jewish tradition, yet the source of his prayer is his eternal communion with the Father; as the incarnate Son, he shows us perfectly how to pray as children of the heavenly Father.
"Jesus' example of fidelity to prayer challenges us to examine the time and effort we devote to our own prayer. While prayer is a gift of God, it is also an art learned through constant practice. Jesus teaches us to pray constantly, but also to bear witness before others of the beauty of prayer, self-surrender and complete openness to God."
From the moment Pope Benedict XVI stepped onto the balcony of St Peters in April of 2005 our hearts were calmed by his deferential manner, his "littleness", his humility and his holiness. Those who knew him before his election to the Chair of Peter confirmed he was a towering intellect and a theologian of the highest order.
However, what soon became clear is that this Pope is a man of deep faith; the kind that gets into the marrow of the bones of a man who truly walks with God, making him strong, steady and unafraid of any adversary. This is precisely because he is a man of deep prayer, a contemplative.
Prayer is an ongoing dialogue of intimate communion with God. In an age of fast food, fast cars and fast internet, we seem to be running all the time. With our digital calendars, I-Pads, Androids and virtual connectivity we risk missing the most important meeting of all, our appointment with the Lord. What is clear from the ministry of this Pope is that he keeps that appointment. He invites us all to do the same.
Prayer is not about results or even our efforts, but about love. In fact, it is really not about us at all, but about the "One" who hungers to be known and loved, the "Other", who calls us into the intimacy of communion with Himself in His Son and lives His life within us and through us by His Spirit.
The Lord whom we seek is outside of time, having given time as a gift to those whom he now prepares for eternity. He dwells in the eternal now and invites us through prayer along a path to the fullness of life. That path passes through humility, by emptying ourselves in order to be filled with his very Divine Life.
Prayer enables us to silence the clamor of the age, stop the ever accelerating pace of the futile quests that so often occupy our hearts, and live in the eternal now by surrendering ourselves - and even our best aspirations- to the One who created us -and now re-creates us- in His Son Jesus Christ. It is there, in the emptied place, in the stillness of the eternal now, where we prepare a room for the King of all hearts. And, in that encounter, we soon find the longing of our heart fulfilled.
The Holy Spirit is calling for a generation of contemplatives in every state in life and vocation in Christ. We tend to believe that the contemplative life is reserved for those who, by special vocation, can "leave" the world, such as contemplative monks and nuns. They are a true treasure and a prophetic sign of the life to come. However, all who are baptized into Christ are called to the same encounter with a different response.
Isaac of Ninevah was an early eighth century monk, Bishop and theologian. For centuries he was mostly revered in the Eastern Christian Church for his writings on prayer. In the last century the beauty of his insights on prayer are being embraced once again by both lungs, East and West, of the Church. He wrote these words in one of his many treatises on Prayer:
"When the Spirit dwells in a person, from the moment in which that person has become prayer, he never leaves him. For the Spirit himself never ceases to pray in him. Whether the person is asleep or awake, prayer never from then on departs from his soul. Whether he is eating or drinking or sleeping or whatever else he is doing, even in deepest sleep, the fragrance of prayer rises without effort in his heart. Prayer never again deserts him.
"At every moment of his life, even when it appears to stop, it is secretly at work in him continuously, one of the Fathers, the bearers of Christ, says that prayer is the silence of the pure. For their thoughts are divine motions. The movements of the heart and the intellect that have been purified are the voices full of sweetness with which such people never cease to sing in secret to the hidden God."
In June, at another Wednesday Catechetical session, our prayerful Pope gave another instruction on prayer. He told the pilgrims "every prayer always expresses the truth of human creatures, who on the one hand experience a certain weakness and indigence and who, therefore, ask assistance from heaven and, on the other, who are endowed with an extraordinary dignity because able to prepare themselves to receive divine Revelation, discovering themselves capable of entering into communion with God.
"Persons of every age pray because they cannot stop asking themselves the meaning of their existence, which remains obscure and discouraging if they are unable to enter into relationship with the mystery of God and His plan for the world. Human life is a mixture of good and evil, of unwarranted suffering and of joy and beauty that, spontaneously and irresistibly, move us to ask God for the inner light and strength to sustain us on earth, revealing a hope that goes beyond the limits of death".
Our prayerful Pope is calling the whole church to prayer. He is correct, of course, "Jesus reveals the mystery of prayer". His Vicar named Benedict reminds us all that "while prayer is a gift of God, it is also an art learned through constant practice. Jesus teaches us to pray constantly, but also to bear witness before others of the beauty of prayer, self-surrender and complete openness to God."
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