Year of Faith Retreat – Week 4, Day 4: Family Heirlooms (Forms of Prayer, Part III)

Year-of-Faith-Sidebar-150wWEEK 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.


Additional Reading

CCC References: Appendix of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

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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.

Learn more about the Year of Faith. Watch a brief video explaining what this online retreat is all about.

About Joe Paprocki 2770 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at

8 Comments on Year of Faith Retreat – Week 4, Day 4: Family Heirlooms (Forms of Prayer, Part III)

  1. Growing up I learned prayers with my parents – In my house we had to know our Hail Mary before we went to see Sister and register for 1st Grade – I remember practicing with my parents to get it right and being so proud after reciting it to Sister and being told I could go to 1st grade with her. I also remember praying for vocations – each child got to bring home the Blessed Mother Statue for a week and pray together – I thought my family was so lucky because we got to take it home twice as I had a twin brother in the class with me. When my own children were young, our grammar school was still having the children bring the statue home and pray as a family. It is a wonderful tradition.

  2. I am a product of the Baltimore Catechism. My mother was the one who sat with me and made sure I knew the answers perfectly. When I was called on by the nun in class I had to know the answer without hesitation. I could rattle off answers. But I think that we tend to just say the words and not realize the meaning and importance of prayer in our lives. The prayers at Mass have once again changed. We are all learning the new Roman Missal. This is a Blessing because now you think about the meaning of the words. You are not just repeating what you memorized.

  3. My favorite tradition prayer is the Our Father because I feel this prayer encompasses all that we need; we praise, we ask God to enable us to live His kingdom here on earth, we ask for his guidance, protection and thank Him for all He provides us with, and we ask for strenght in not doing anything wrong and not judge those who do wrong.

    In my home my mother was always praying but she did a lot of spontaneous prayer and this is what I’m used to the most. Now I wish to learn the revamped Nicene Creed, I know it in spanish and just as I was getting used to it in english, it changes making it difficult to now learn it again.

    Memorization is a big part of catechesis but on top of this we should teach our students the meaning behind the words so they signify something to them and they aren’t just reciting by rote but internalizing its concept.

  4. In my role as catechist apart from the our father, hail Mary and glory Be I teach the children the act of contrition and the guardian angel prayer off by heart. Other prayers we say together but I try to encourage them to make up their own prayers in our lessons. In my family role together with my husband we taught our children the Rosary, prayer to the Holy Spirit, Hail Holy Queen all prayers we say together at some time during the day. Usually first thing in the morning when they were young we used to say them in the car on the way to school. It’s a great way to get their attention and they now know them all for the rest of their lives and I hope they will one day pass them on to their children.

  5. What role do you think memorization should play in catechesis?

    When my husband and I taught catechesis to 1st and 2nd graders we would recite the Sign of the Cross, Glory Be, Our Father, and Hail Mary before we started our lessons. You could see the children just moving their lips in the beginning as some were just learning their prayers. By the end of the school year their voices were strong and loud. I fondly recall singing the Our Father as a child, so I found some CD’s containing the Our Father and Hail Mary in song, and used those as well.

    I still struggle in Mass with the changes made to the prayers and responsorials and look forward to committing those to memory.

  6. So I’m behind and everyone is done, but I’m determined to finish what I started! I work with some older catechists who were raised on the Baltimore Catechism and it always amazes me at what they can “spit” out! I wonder how on earth I missed it since I’ve been a faithful Catholic all my life, went to Church every Sunday, went through CCD and all. I think we went from one end of the pendulum to the other. I absolutely think it is important to teach children to have a personal relationship with God so that they can just go find a quiet space and talk to God like they would anyone else they wanted to share something with. On the flip side, I believe our traditional prayers are important! Who’s to say which one is more important that the other? Which ones should we require? Clearly the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary and the Glory Be. Well then you can’t leave out Hail Holy Queen if you are to learn the rosary. And in our church, they always add on the Prayer to St. Michael. And,and, and…so perhaps it’s just important to teach children to PRAY. As they get older, they will gravitate towards the prayers that have most meaning to them. It’s important to expose them to all kinds and ways of praying. As I mature, I am always looking for new prayer forms. I just want to keep learning so that I don’t get too comfortable and take things for granted. It seems the public schools all have in their mission statements something about being lifelong learners…we should too.

  7. I always went to public school and although i went to religious instructions every week I have only memorized 5-6 prayers. Now that the prayers have been updated i seem to pay more attention dring the mass because i don’t know the words by heart. Although i miss being able to recite everything from memory i have become more connected to God during the mass and i am grateful for that.

  8. My favorite traditional Catholic prayer is the “Hail Mary.” I learned many prayers by memory in my Catholic grade school. The Dominican sisters and my grandparents were very influential on my learning prayers. As a Catechist I include many of the traditional prayers during our prayer time at class including Litanies to Mary and the Saints. Teaching prayers in class has become a classroom requirement since many of the students do not have parents that know the traditional prayers.

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