Taking Prayers to Heart

people praying in church

I was born in 1959, which means that my first few years of faith formation in the early to mid-60s involved the Baltimore Catechism and its emphasis on memorizing. After the Second Vatican Council, my remaining years of formal faith formation (mid-60s and 70s) moved in new directions inspired by the Council but with a definite shift in one specific area. Memorization was deemed an old-fashioned, lifeless way of learning. The result, of course, is that as I grew older and my faith grew (yes, faith formation after Vatican II did nurture my faith!), I lacked the ability to recall formulas of our faith and a number of traditional prayers that my older siblings had taken to heart (memorized).

This caught up with me years later when, as a consultant for the Office for Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Chicago, I visited a parish where the senior citizen’s group was conducting a study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I introduced myself and offered my assistance as a resource, but before I could leave the podium, the woman in charge invited everyone to stand and pray. “Let’s recite the Memorare,” she said. Immediately, every person in the room began praying the words of that beautiful prayer except for you-know-who. I had to lip sync!

That experience left me feeling incomplete as a Catholic: everyone else knew something that I did not. While it’s true that we don’t want to simply memorize words that we can rattle off without thinking, it is also true that these words enable us to join hearts and voices together and to pray in words that have been passed down to us like family heirlooms. The Catechism teaches us that, “The memorization of basic prayers offers an essential support to the life of prayer, but it is important to help learners savor their meaning.” (#2688)

Having said all that, here’s a suggestion for your entire faith community (children and adults alike): A Prayer of the Month. Identify one prayer per month that the entire parish is encouraged to memorize/take to heart (for example: the Memorare, Act of Contrition, or Hail Holy Queen). The prayer could be recited each week after Communion at Sunday Mass as a way to encourage parishioners to join in. The prayer can be included in the parish bulletin, on the parish website, and on social media, along with an accompanying article providing some background and understanding of the prayer. Encourage reading a book like The Words We Pray, which explores the richness of traditional Catholic prayers.

In addition to the “obvious” (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be), which traditional prayers would you recommend be taken to heart by Catholics?

About Joe Paprocki 2742 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 www.catechistsjourney.com.


  1. a great idea,Joe. I would include a few lists, too, like the commandments, beatitudes, corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Having to that stuff in our heads, ready to use and live out, is such a gift.

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