In the preparation of the book, Prayer in the Catholic Tradition: A Handbook of Practical Approaches, I wanted to surprise the readers but, in the process of editing the 45 contributions, something unforeseen also happened to me. I experienced deeply for myself the richness, breadth, and relevance of Catholic prayer as never before.Quite candidly, my hope in gathering 45 experts to write on different aspects of Catholic prayer for both adult Christians and those who minister to them was to surprise even those most seasoned Catholic as to how encompassing and amazing prayer in the Catholic tradition actually is. Yet, when I read the chapters as they were submitted for the book, I became the first one to be surprised. The depth, breadth, and truth of the material caused me to stop in wonder and awe myself.
The chapter on Marian Prayer, for instance, made me realize even more how allowing Mary to become an even greater part of my life today was essential. Moreover, what was written on Mary not only reminded me of what I had forgotten from my youth about the spirit of Marian Prayer but the extensive information provided by the author also brought to the fore how important such a connection with Mary was essential for me as an adult.
In reading the chapters on Praying with the Gospels, I also was in awe about the depth of the knowledge Catholic Scripture scholars possess. What they had to teach me about how each Gospel had specific lessons in increasing my relationship with Jesus and was, in a word, amazing!
Reading the words of the authors of the 45 chapters in this book also reaffirmed one of my major goals in editing Prayer in the Catholic Tradition: to preserve the “voices” of spiritual wisdom figures all in one place. In this way, when their books eventually went out of print and they were no longer with us to lead conferences or present homilies, we would still be able to “hear” their lessons though the unique approaches they took on the themes covered within their chapters. I could put this book beside my bible at home and dip into it whenever I felt moved or the need to read and pray over a particular topic. Prayer in the Catholic Tradition turned out to be a true handbook and resource for me—not simply for those for whom I had assembled this book.
I could be surprised again and again by the Spirit through the words the authors in this edited volume when they wrote on praying through transitions, walking alongside such figures as Teresa of Avila, Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, Thomas Merton, or my friend Henri Nouwen. I could have my knowledge expanded as to what it means to pray in a sacramental world and reflect on the insights of such leading authors as Ron Rolheiser, Richard Rohr, James Martin, and Joyce Rupp.
If I felt I was struggling in my prayer life or being overwhelmed with distractions during periods of silence and solitude, I could feel the support of chapters on these topics. When I felt I was walking in darkness in prayer, I was not alone but instead I had this handbook of practical approaches by my side.In reading the different authors’ words it was like sitting with wise friends who knew just what to say and had deeper knowledge than I did on the many different topics I wanted to embrace.
English Benedictine, Bede Griffiths, was asked once why he left England to go to India. In response he said that he wanted to establish a Christian setting for meditation. However, he candidly added that he also went forth on such an adventure because he wanted to “experience the other side of my soul.” Prayer in the Catholic Tradition, as I have experienced it, encourages just that spirit as well.
For instance, the chapter on Contemplation by Mary Frohlich is brilliant. The wisdom and knowledge that underpins it becomes quite evident as you read her comments and find yourself saying, “I didn’t know that” or “I never looked at it this way.” Yet, in reading her words, it was not only knowledge that she offers but also how to take what she is saying about sitting with God in silence, solitude, and gratitude, so that you could open yourself to walking with God for the rest of your day with a sense of prayerfulness.
The information presented was not material that simply was enough to tuck within your mind.It was obvious that it was also a calling to embrace the knowledge you were being given so you could change both your prayer . . . and your life.
Will you be surprised when you read the entries in Prayer in the Catholic Tradition.I truly believe so. The goal to bring together a breadth of topics and wonderful voices of persons who not only knew their topics, but modeled the spirit of them in their life as well, was achieved. I know I was surprised by what was written in the words and contained “between the words” in the Spirit underlying the message. I hope you experience this wonderful collection in a similar way, as well.