The Year of Prayer-Reflection on the 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Rather than reflect on the Gospel for this weekend, I would like to consider the announcement that came this week from Rome to the Church in the entire world. Our Holy Father Pope Francis has named this year, 2024, the Year of Prayer in preparation for the Jubilee Year, 2025. Since 1475 the Catholic Church has celebrated a Year of Jubilee every 25 years. During a Jubilee Year there are special Graces offered to us by God, and many indulgences are given to us for certain prayers and visiting holy places, etc.

In preparing for the Jubilee of 2025, the Holy Father sees a need for a praying church that brings us, her People, closer to the Heart of God through a deeper prayer life that opens us to all the gifts God desires to pour out on us. The people of the Old Testament celebrated jubilees at certain times designated by God, during which all debts were forgiven, ancestral land was returned to rightful owners, certain areas of farmland were left fallow and more time was given to the worship of God and the renewing of family life. Not every Jubilee was preceded by a preparatory year, but we are blessed to be invited to this Year of Prayer prior to 2025, for several reasons. Most prominently, the Holy Father wishes that each of us will come to desire prayer as a way of life. For this he intends that parishes, schools and dioceses, for example, will make available to us through writings, conferences, retreats, etc., opportunities to ‘learn how to pray’ so that we may open ourselves to the working of the Holy Spirit in new ways that will draw us closer to God and to one another.

That sounds innocuous enough, but the thought is loaded with meaning.

There are many ways to pray. We are familiar with ‘prayer of petition,’ asking God for what we need. Most of us find that in times of grave crisis prayer of petition comes spontaneously: Oh, My God, help me…. ‘Prayer of contrition’ is part of our preparation before confession as well as within the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation itself: O my God, I am heartily sorry…. ‘Prayer of adoration’ is also familiar to us; My God and my All. All of the prayers we have grown up with or learned later in life and which have become part of our life with God are precious to the Lord. But of course, there is more. Much more.

The Vatican has published (though it doesn’t seem to be available in America just yet) the first of a series of formative and informative writings on prayer. These will be forthcoming throughout the year as they are translated from the Italian. Other sources will be making titles available to us in English in various formats so we can come to understand the historical journey of prayer within the church that forms a treasure trove of grace. We will read about liturgical prayer and vocal prayer; Carmelite prayer and Ignatian prayer. Contemplative prayer, mental prayer, prayer of the heart. And we will learn what is at the heart of each.

I’m not talking about a cafeteria assortment of prayers, though. These are all movements of the Holy Spirit that speak to us at one moment or another throughout our life, and we find ourselves slipping into a zone of comfort in one or another. Some we will find helpful when we are ill or tired, another when we are on retreat or sitting quietly for morning devotions. Some will fit like a glove; others won’t seem to match our makeup. Some will be learned, some we will have to work at to make our own, and others will simply find us by the mercy of God.

As one who has been in the school of prayer most of my life, thanks be to God, and still learning, I know it’s true that if you want to pray, you should pray. If we aren’t in the habit of doing so, this year would be a good time to start setting a time apart each day specifically for God, inviting the Holy Spirit into our inner room to pray in us and for us (see Romans 8:26). This would be a gift to ourselves. Begin with 10 minutes. Soon there will be a nudging to pray for 15 minutes. It will drift to 30 minutes, and then there will be a gradual discovery that prayer comes gently into our hearts many times a day.

Type into your browser Year of Prayer, and there will be any number of sites to help prayer develop within the soul. No matter how much we pray now, the desire for prayer will increase with each moment of prayer. We were made for God alone. He stands at the door of our heart, waiting for the invitation to enter in, and He comes with His Holy Spirit to fill the empty spaces with a longing that can only be identified as a thirst—a hunger. I suggest that if you haven’t read it; consider purchasing Prayer is a Hunger, by Rev. Edward J. Farrell (1972). (Try Bibliobookins.) We can talk about it, if you like. Better yet, we can pray about it. God will do the miracle of making prayer a part of us so vital that nothing will be able to convince us to give it up. The Year of Prayer. I’m sure we’ll come across each other in one way or another, always in the stream of prayer that carries us right to the inner life of God. God bless you.

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“With Mary, our lives continually proclaim the greatness of the Lord and the joy experienced in rendering service to Him.”

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