WEEK FOUR: Prayer
DAY 4: Family Heirlooms (Forms of Prayer, Part III)
I’m one of those people who was born (1959) right before the Second Vatican Council so I remember (slightly) the Latin Mass and the beginnings of my religious formation with the Baltimore Catechism. Of course, the approach employed with the Baltimore Catechism included a fair amount of rote learning (memorization). Following the Second Vatican Council, the religious formation I received was very different in nature and involved very little rote learning. (While that resulted in a “deficiency” in my formation that I’m going to address, I am not one to “bash” the catechesis that took place after Vatican II…many wonderful things came out of that period with little or no direction from the bishops at the time.)
The result was that, like many of my generation and the generations that followed, I grew up without the ability to recall things from memory that my older siblings and certainly my parents were capable of recalling. Most of them could rattle off traditional prayers and doctrinal formulas (the Mysteries of the Rosary, the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, the Virtues, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, etc.) with no trouble. Not me.
This became quite evident in the late 1990s when, as a catechetical consultant for the Office for Catechesis of the Archdiocese of Chicago, I visited a parish where a group of 50 or 60 senior citizens was undertaking a study of the newly published Catechism of the Catholic Church. After I introduced myself and told them that I was there to support them and act as a resource, the facilitator thanked me and asked everyone to stand and begin by praying the Memorare.
I couldn’t get off the “stage” in time. I stood there, lip-synching a prayer I had never been taught to take to heart (memorize). I felt like less of a Catholic than the rest. I know many people my age and younger who feel the same way.
Traditional prayers are like family heirlooms passed on from one generation to the next. They permit us to join our voices together to pray communally which is a very distinctively Catholic notion. They also provide us with words when we sometimes cannot find words of our own to pray with.
Is catechesis all about simply memorizing? No. However, there is a place in catechesis for taking to heart certain prayers, scripture passages, and doctrinal formulas so that we can carry with us, in our hearts and minds, the words of our Catholic faith.
Reflection Questions: Choose one of the following questions and share your thoughts with your fellow retreatants by adding your comments in the comments box below this post.
- What is your favorite traditional Catholic prayer? Why?
- If you memorized prayers and doctrinal formulas as a child, who was responsible for that? parents? teachers? catechists?
- What traditional prayer do you NOT know by heart that you would like to learn?
- What traditional prayer(s) are you intent on passing on to the next generation?
- What role do you think memorization should play in catechesis?
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine 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.
- Prayers by St. Ignatius and Others
- Traditional Catholic Prayers
- A Selection of Traditional Prayers & Devotions of the Roman Catholic Church
- Praying as a Family
- Do You Know Your Faith?
- Memorize the Faith
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
I hope you’re enjoying our online summer retreat, Preparing for a Year of Faith! Take a few minutes each day at your convenience to “gather” here on my blog as we seek to add some flavor to our faith lives by deepening our understanding of the truths of our faith as given to us in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.