December 1, 2020

Prayer During Ordinary Time

Pentecost has been and gone, the Spirit has descended upon us, and now we are in the season of Ordinary Time up until Advent, where the liturgical color is green (for hope) and we get on with our ordinary lives, living as Christians in the world.  We’re out of the upper room and down in the streets, and frankly we’ll be lucky if the neighbors just think we’ve been hitting the bottle a bit early in the day.

Part of all this getting on with what is happening in secular time while we’re waiting for the advent of the Kingdom is prayer.  Now this is going to be massive cheek on my part, since all you Protestants have flourishing prayer lives and have gone much deeper into the topic than I can ever hope to do.  But for the ordinary lazy idiot – the likes of me – Holy Mother Church once again comes to the rescue.  We don’t have to be original, we don’t have to be inspired, we certainly don’t have to be spontaneous – thanks be to God!  We just have to learn a few simple prayers off by heart and (here’s the hard part) maintain the discipline to say them.

This is not, by the way, to say that we ordinary Catholic slobs aren’t supposed to have a personal prayer life, or to deepen it, or to develop our spiritual resources.  We are, and we (the vast majority of us) don’t do as much as we should.  While you may not enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless you become as one of these little ones, unfortunately too many of us are happy to slip along with the same kind of basic prayers we learned when we were six and go no farther.  I’m hoping to drag us up to at least a twelve year old level.

The Pope has commended and urged the ancient practice of lectio divina, and that Catholics should read the Bible regularly and be familiar with it.  To which I say, good luck with that, Holy Father.

There’s the Litany of the Hours (or the Divine Office, or the Daily Office, other names by which it is known) which started off as monastic routines of prayers, were codified for the clergy in general (yes, priests are supposed to say their breviary every day) and was expanded to include the laity.  By the way, don’t let anyone ever tell you that we’re so much smarter than our forebears of yore, particularly if they’re doing any sneering about “the Middle Ages” or “such-and-such a thing is so mediaeval”.  Going by their prayer books, the people back then were way smarter than me (not hard, I hear you say).  The Litany of the Hours is complicated, but they were able to figure it out and know what to pray when, in between marrying, bearing children, running households, earning livings, burying spouses, re-marrrying, and carrying on normal lives until the day they were buried themselves.  Let me swerve off here to recommend Marking the Hours: English People and their Prayers, 1240-1570, which is a book about the Books of Hours that lay people owned and used.  Not just the fancy expensive ones such as the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry but the mass-market printing cheap versions, where people wrote in favourite prayers and glued in holy pictures and used the blank pages for scribbling all kinds of bits’n’pieces.

However, as I said, that’s complicated to figure out and may be too tricky to fit into a schedule.  There’s the second great prayer which is recommended to everyone: pray the Rosary.  Here I have to admit: I’m hopeless at doing this.  I’ve often tried to start a regular habit of doing so, and I’ve as often given it up.  I can manage to say a decade at a time, but the hardy souls who manage all five decades – not to mention the heroic ones who can say fifteen or even (with the new Luminous Mysteries) twenty decades – leave me gaping in awe.  I’m bad at Marian devotion in general.  Luckily, the Rosary while recommended is not compulsory.

So what do you do if you’re a hopeless case like me and can’t motivate yourself to avail of the rich tradition all around us?  I’m assuming, by the way, that most of you do say some kind of morning and night prayers, besides grace before and after meals.  Well, there’s one prayer that everyone knows (okay, I’m assuming all the Papists knows it, which given the state of catechesis over the past thirty years is probably a dangerous thing to do) and which I would like to recommend for the consideration of non-Catholics: the Angelus.

This article from the online 1913 edition of the “Catholic Encyclopedia” will give you more than you ever wanted to know about the history of the prayer, but the most basic explanation is that it’s a prayer in honor of the Incarnation.  (We pause here for any of you who may feel a necessity to blow off steam about vain repetition and Mariolatry.  Don’t worry, I understand the impulse.  Feeling better now?  Okay, let’s proceed).  Quick canter through the development of the devotion: started around about sometime between the 11th-13th centuries, originated with the custom in monasteries of saying three “Hail Marys” at the tolling of a bell in the evening and was developed by the Franciscans (who were great movers of Marian devotion) into a morning and evening salutation, which then incorporated a noonday prayer.

What we’ve ended up with is a thrice-daily recitation of a series of phrases and responses interspersed with the recitation of the “Angelical Salutation” (or “Hail Mary” as everyone calls it) and ending up with a short prayer.  The signal (in Catholic countries) for this recitation is the Angelus bell, rung at six in the morning, twelve noon, and six in the evening, in a pattern of three groups of three tolls of the bell (with a short pause in between each triad).  It is said standing (usually) and it is said all the year, except during Eastertide (from Holy Saturday until Trinity Sunday) when it is replaced by the “Regina Coeli” instead.  Confused yet?  Okay, here’s the prayer as I learned it (and we recited it in school every day from when I was seven till I was seventeen); one person says the Versicle (V) part and the rest say the Response (R), everyone says the “Hail Mary” together:

(Make the Sign of the Cross: move your hand from your forehead to the middle of your chest and then across from your left to your right shoulder while saying “In the name of the Father (forehead) and of the Son (chest) and of the Holy Spirit (shoulders) Amen”).

Versicle. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.

Response. And she conceived by the Holy Ghost.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.

R. Be it done unto me according to Thy word.

Hail Mary…

V. And the Word was made Flesh. (Here you strike your breast)

R. And dwelt amongst us.

Hail Mary…

V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.

R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an Angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection.  Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.

[Additional bit we learned and said in school, which comes from the end of the “Salve, Regina”:

V. May the Divine assistance remain always with us.

R. And may the souls of all of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.]

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen

(Make the Sign of the Cross)

I like this prayer, and (because the churches round here do still ring the bells at noon and six), I generally remember to say it, despite the fact that as I said, I’m useless at Marian devotion.  That’s because this doesn’t strike me as particularly Marian-centred, but rather it is a commemoration and reminder of the Incarnation.  I’ve always felt that the “handmaid of the Lord” part, besides being Mary’s “Yes” to God, also applied to me (and all of us Christians) as, well, the handmaidens of the Lord.  You don’t like saying the “Hail Mary”?  Say the first half – even Luther thought that since this was the verses from the Gospel of the Annunciation, it couldn’t do you any harm.  That’s still too Marian?  Then say the “Our Father” instead, or some other prayer that recommends itself to you.  You can even go spontaneous if you’ve got the gift.  You’re a man and feel weird about saying “Behold the handmaid of the Lord”?  Then replace it with “servant” – I don’t mind, and I bet God won’t mind, either.

And if you find that you can’t bring yourself to say the “Glory be to the Father” (Gloria Patri, Minor Doxology), I don’t know what I can do for you.  Everyone from the Anglicans to the Syrians says that prayer.  Have you considered Buddhism instead?



  1. Thanks for the tips!

    I usually just thank Jesus for protecting me, my family, and His people. Thank Him for all His gracious gifts and pray He would continue to protect us and lead us to those who need to hear of His mercy and love for sinners.

    Maybe a specific word or two about someone or something, and that’s about it. Not too elaborate, but heartfelt (most of the time :D)

  2. Oh you Papists and your trying to convert us all 😉
    But seriously, thanks for the recommendation!

    “And if you find that you can’t bring yourself to say the “Glory be to the Father” (Gloria Patri, Minor Doxology), I don’t know what I can do for you. Everyone from the Anglicans to the Syrians says that prayer. Have you considered Buddhism instead?”

    Did I ever mention how much I enjoy your humor?

    • Curses! You have unveiled my stealth-evangelisation! 😉

      Glad I make you laugh, Tim, and thanks for the compliment.

      • I tried Buddhism, but then they kept saying stuff like “Homage to the Perfection of Wisdom, Mother of the Buddhas!”

  3. Thanks once again to Jeff and his graciousness.

    A side-note (which of course only came to me after I’d sent the thing off into the ether): regarding the striking of the breast when saying “And the Word became flesh” – that (to me, anyway) has a number of elements attached:

    (1) It is an emphasis to what we’ve just said – the Word, the Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son begotten from all eternity, came down from Heaven and was with us, as one of us, living our common life. It’s the summation of the entire Angelus right there in one phrase and gesture.

    (2) It’s anti-Gnostic; when we strike our breast, we’re asserting that He had (and has! remember that the resurrected body of Jesus is still His human body, though glorified, and not some kind of spiritual emanation) no other flesh than this; the Incarnation was real, not a seeming or an illusion or a ‘possession’ of a mortal shell which was then discarded. God became incarnate, took flesh of our flesh, lived as a human lived. Therefore, as the great account in Genesis tells us repeatedly with the refrain “And God saw what He had made, and it was good”, matter is not intrinsically evil, creation is good, we are fallen but not beyond hope.

    (3) It is an echo of the (old) gestures associated with saying the “Confiteor” when we confess our faults and sins. We acknowledge the very necessity for the Incarnation – our personal sin and the Original Sin of our First Parents. We express contrition for our sins, accept responsibility (through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault, as the old Confiteor had it) and resolve to do better – like the Chumbawamba song: “I get knocked down, but I get up again”.

    (4) It ties in with what St. Paul has to say in his Epistles: we are not our own, we were bought with a price; our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and He is (or should be) indwelling; we died with Christ in baptism and will share in His resurrection.

    (5) It looks forward to the culminating prayer and the expectation of the Resurrection. This body which we now are all walking around in will be glorified and raised on the Last Day – either for eternal bliss or eternal exile.

    That sounds like a lot to get out of one short phrase and a quick gesture, but it’s like meditating on a Bible verse or a line of a prayer: you can unpack so much out of it all because there’s so much goodness crammed in, full measure, pressed down and overflowing.

    Basically, the Angelus is a very quick prayer (you can gallop through it in a minute) and it’s a reminder of the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection of Christ that breaks through into our ordinary routine and the distractions of the day three times and helps us with a quick reminder of what we’re about as we’re living in ordinary time. You can sum it all up in the final prayer: God, give us your grace so that we, for whose sakes Your Son became Man and died, can share in the fullness of life in His Resurrection.

    • Hey, Martha, I love the five points you make here about the striking of the breast.

      I grew up Catholic, attended CCD class every week and yet I never learned the Angelus! My family was not one that prayed together so I didn’t pray the Rosary much either. My grandma did. She had the rosary with her in bed each evening and said the prayers silently. As a kid, I remember feeling safer when I wore the scapular around my neck as I crossed bridges!

      • If it wasn’t for our grannies, none of us would have a screed of religion, Joanie. I always say I learned to read from a combination of “The Cat in the Hat” and the Epistles of St. Paul (well, at least the extracts in the Mass missal; I used to practice my reading with my granny by reading the bits of Scripture – the Gospel and Epistle readings – in her prayerbook). Maybe that explains my writing style on here? 🙂

        Yeah, my granny taught me to say my prayers, so she valiantly attempted to get me to say the Rosary. I would join in with her at her bedside, but it never stuck with me. I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon of blaming Vatican II, since there were good and necessary elements to it, and people had good intentions when they went about discarding the old devotions. But I’m hopeful for the “Reform of the Reform”, where we can reclaim the good of the old without discarding the good of the new. You don’t have to turn the clock back, but you can always reconsider hauling down the things you packed away in the attic, just to see if a new generation can get any use out of them.

        For those who are advanced in their prayer life, the Angelus – or any other rote prayer – is not necessary (which is not the same thing as saying it’s of no use). But for the likes of me, and for the frazzled who might want to snatch a quick moment during the day for prayer but are not in a headspace to be spontaneous and inspired, then it’s a fast way of doing simple but deep prayer and reminder that the point of our whole life as Christians is the Incarnation and Redemption.

        • “If it wasn’t for our grannies, none of us would have a screed of religion.” So true so true. I remember first hearing that Jesus loved me from my grandmother. She taught me my first I ever learned which was a hymn.

  4. MelissaTheRagamuffin says

    I went to Catholic School for 10 years in spite of being not Catholic. I still have my rosary beads, and although I don’t “pray the rosary” I do find that holding onto them and moving them back and forth in my hands helps to soothe me and helps me hold still so I can actually say my prayers.

  5. Martha,

    Thanks for the good post. I’ve been journeying toward Catholocism over the past year (and I think God is yanking me more that direction, because he just gave me a job at a Catholic high school with a very strong identity).

    Anyway, one of my wife’s biggest hangups with Catholics is the whole reciting prayers thing. I generally take your point of view, that it helps you when you don’t know what to say or are feeling to frazzled to spit out some spontaneous prayer. My wife tends to see it as lazy and unmeaningful. She tends to see the mass the same way.

    I don’t know what I’m going to do yet.

    • textjunkie says

      mmmm–my sister and I have the same argument about the Book of Common Prayer. “Canned prayers” she calls them. I find that every Sunday they say something slightly different to me, that different phrases have different connotations or implications depending on what’s going on in my life at the time. Some days it’s just going through the motions; but the Spirit can hit at any time. 🙂

      (And as one of my pastors said once, it saves us from the “Weejus” prayers–“Jesus, weejus want to thank you…”, “Jesus, weejus want to ask you to…” 😉

      • I’ve heard the weejus prayers called the Prayers of the Just.

        • Prayers of the Just? So we’re praying the same prayers as St. James the Just, brother of Our Lord and First Bishop of Jerusalem. Interesting- I thought it would’ve been more elegant. This completely revolutionizes the study of liturgical history and development…. 😉

      • I’m sick of saying weejus prayers. They are just as repetitive as “canned” prayers but lack any of the depth of the “canned” prayers.

      • Dan Crawford says

        The most widely known “canned prayer” is the Lord’s Prayer. As a member of an ecumenical minister’s prayer group several years ago, I asked why we didn’t say the Lord’s Prayer. The local Baptist minister said it was “written, and therefore not a spontaneous heart-felt prayer.” Which apparently made it a less desirable prayer, though Jesus taught it to us.

        Several months later, I invited him and his daughter, both very talented singers, to lead a hymn-sing prior to our celebration of the Eucharist on the feast day of the parish patron saint. They were wonderful – as we were preparing to start the service, the pastor asked if he might stay for at least part of it. He had to leave just before communion to prepare to lead his congregation. The next morning he called me and asked how he might get a copy of The Book of Common Prayer. I immediately delivered one to him, and I never heard another word from him about written prayers. (He has introduced prayers from the BCP into his worship service at a large Baptist Church in the south.)

        • A former SBC pastor of mine recently attempted to lead his congregation in the Lord’s Prayer, and found that the suggestion was met with utter silence! He had church members come to him afterwards and say things like, “Could you put the words on the screen the next time you do that…As Baptists, we never had to memorize the Lord’s Prayer…”, and “When you did a sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer, you said that Jesus didn’t intend for us to pray that prayer, but that it was just a model for how we should pray…” Woops!

          My wife and I did evening prayers for personal use from the BCP for a season, and did enjoy that. For private prayer, I generally center with the Jesus Prayer, then Lord’s Prayer, personal petitions, Apostles Creed, and generally close with a wonderful children’s song/blessing…”God, our Father, God, our Father; once again, once again; Thank you for our blessings, thank you for our blessings. Amen, amen.”

          I also love to pray the baptismal prayer from the BCP, reframed for a personal context, of course…

          “Open my heart to your grace and truth.

          Fill me with your holy and life-giving Spirit.

          Keep me in the faith and communion of your holy Church.

          Teach me to love others in the power of the Spirit.

          Send me into the world in witness to your love.

          Bring me to the fullness of your peace and glory.

          Lord, hear my prayer…


          Wonderful suggestions and writing, as always, Miss Martha. Thanks for blessing us monks, once again.

          • I also highly recommend one read Henri Nouwen’s “Behold the Beauty of the Lord”, and use icons as a tool in prayer. My Bulgarian Orthodox icon of Christ on the cross is antique, and the feet, hands, side, and crown of thorns are quite worn from generations of use in prayer. Rublev’s “Trinity” also provides a wonderful window into communion with God.

          • MelissaTheRagamuffin says

            As a survivor of Catholic school the thought of anybody calling themselves Christian not knowing the words to the Our Father just boggles my brains.

          • Lee, I lke very much the baptismal prayer from the BCP that you have placed here for us to read. Thanks!

        • Can anyone tell me the difference between memorizing scripture so that it can later be recalled and not memorizing the Lord’s prayer because its canned prayer – isn’t it scripture as well? Just trying to make sense of it all.

          • Sense? There is no sense.

          • Agreed, Milton. Many of us Protestants are told throughout life that any type of pre-written prayer is a “vain repetition”, and not sincere. We’re made to believe that only spontaneous prayer is “from the heart”.

            I find that line of thinking to be very, very unfortunate. Not only do we discount the Lord’s Prayer, the prayers of the Psalms, and many other beautiful prayers in Scripture, but also a wealth of beautiful prayers that the saints who preceded us left for us to enjoy…and to pray.

            I don’t find using these types of prayers to be “vain repetition”. How many times have we heard a well-meaning deacon pray in their deepest voice, “Most gracious heavenly father, please just be with us today…hear all the prayer requests…and just bless us with your presence…” and on and on. One church I attended briefly had an elder who prayed the exact same scripture from Malachi over the offering, every single week. An SBC elder I know gives praise for the success of whatever University of Georgia sports team is in season every time he prays during a worship service.

            I’ll take the prayers of St. John Chrysostom, St. Francis, Thomas Merton, etc…over those vain repetitions, any day of the week.

    • Milton, I sympathize. As an evangelical protestant before becoming Catholic, I used to think the same thing. But what I found was that the ancient prayers have a depth and a fullness that I can draw upon at any time, and in union with the Body of Christ.

      I’m sure your wife would agree that the Psalms are prayers that can – and should – be prayed over and over. The prayers of the Church also express so much of our theology and belief.

      Of course, I pray spontaneously also, but there’s a lot to be said for making use of what the Church has given us in her treasury of prayers.

      One small example: When my alarm goes off in the morning, my thinking is understandably fuzzy. But before I get out of bed, I know I’m at least starting the day properly by reciting the Actiones Nostras:

      Direct, we beg you, O Lord, our actions by your holy inspirations, and carry them on by your gracious assistance, that every prayer and work of ours may begin always with you, and through you be happily ended. Amen.

      That’s a prayer I guarantee I couldn’t muster up on my own at 4:30 a.m.!

      • I appreciate that. I, too, am unable to find the strength to kneel by my bed and say prayers in the morning. I ususally just fall asleep. I like the prayer you included in your post. I might just memorize that one for the mornings!

      • I’m the same way about morning prayers. Usually all I can muster up is a “Glory Be” and a few phrases that stuck with me from a prayer book: “Grant this day that we fall into no sin, nor run into any kind of danger, but that all our doings, being ordered by thy governance, may be righteous in thy sight.” Much better than anything I could come up with on my own at that hour . . .

    • Milton, if you like you can look back through the archives for an article I wrote for iMonk in February, entitled “Chapter Two: Prayer.” I talk a little bit about some of the issues you mention.

    • It can be lazy and unmeaningful. If you just mechanically rattle them off and don’t give any thought to them, of course it is. And you don’t just stop at reciting set prayers, you are to develop a prayer life (that’s where most of us fall down).

      On the other hand, ‘spontaneous’ prayer can be just as mechanical in a ‘gabble something random that floats to the top of my consciousness’ fashion.

      The act of saying set prayers works, in a way, like the recitation of a mantra; it occupies, calms and quietens the surface of the mind, the restless ‘ooh, what’s going on, did I remember to turn off the washing machine, should I defrost that chicken for dinner tonight or leave it for tomorrow, my nose itches’ stream of background distraction most of us have yakking away so that the deeper levels of the brain can engage in prayer.

      I’m not going to give marital advice here, on the grounds that if you come out with any lines I might feed you, there’s danger your missus will punch you in the nose, but think of it like this: do you (or she) get tired of singing “Happy Birthday to you”? Wishing someone “Merry Christmas”? Saying “I love you, hunny-bunny-sweetie-kins” on Valentine’s Day? We do a lot of repetition of meaningful phrases in our lives, and coming out with “Best wishes!” may be a cliché, but it’s not trite (unless it’s the “Our Human Resources Department has mandated that all customer services operatives should end client communciations with ‘I really wish you the best'” kind of tacking on an insincere wish).

      • Tokahfang says

        Agreed on all points! I post only to add that my orthodox service book specifically not only goes into how to make sure you’re meaningfully praying, but also labels simple repitition as not prayer at all!

      • I guess the key is that we can succeed or fail at both types of prayers. The attitude of our heart determines whether or not we’re praying right.

  6. textjunkie says

    Thanks for posting that, Martha!
    For those without the endurance of the Catholic rosary, the Anglicans have one that’s really a nice length–at a minimum if you’re really zipping you can do it in 10 minutes or less, but if you’re on a roll it is expandable as needed. 🙂 Those can be great experiences… (I used the ACTS method–1 section of adoration, one of confession, one of thanksgiving, and one of supplication, plus the Lord’s prayer and the 23rd Psalm for the big bumps at the beginning and end. 😉

    But yeah, prayer life waxes and wanes, at least for me. Picking up the rosary again is a nice way to get back into it.

  7. Radagast says

    I was first exposed to the Litany of the Hours in a weekly Men’s group where we recited it in front of the Tabernacle. For me it was awesome, first because the majority of it is the Psalms which really speak to me, and secondly that it is done in community. Now for those of you of the Protestant persuasion this is mostly like reading scripture out loud with friends – great stuff. But the real power (no-not the magical stuff) is that somewhere in the world you are definitely assured that others of the faith are saying this as well – and for me that is an awesome sense of community (the saints on earth praying with the saints in heaven). As for complicated – I once did a silent retreat for 4 days at a retreat center run by cloistered nuns (long habits – don’t talk kind of thing – the nuns that is) and I participated in the Litany all five times each day starting at 5:30 AM. The nuns chanted them in the Church – me, considering myself well versed, became hopelessly lost and the nuns – noticing my predicament directed a site worker to help me (Jamaican woman fully garbed in pre-Vatican II attire with long veil and all) and she, without talking, directed me through it. It was one of the best periods for interior growth I ever experienced (and I didn’t talk to anyone for four days – bonus!).

    The Rosary – I do this at times throughout the year. For me it is a great way to meditate on specific parts of the scripture and imagine those parts as if actually being there. For those who are more Marian inclined it is a way to see it through Mary’s eyes as a mother of a child (so my wife tells me). It can be very powerful – but I will admit to drifiting off and losing my place while saying them, or sometimes at night if I am saying them with my wife, falling off to sleep completely (in which I am usually awakened rather abrubtly by my wife’s elbow)…..

    Now contemplation… that’s another topic for another time….

  8. Pray to the God the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the Name of Jesus. It is truly that simple!

    Anything that involves more than this is heresy. Praying to one other than our One True God is an insult to our Father in heaven. Hundreds of years of “tradition” do not make it pleasing in the eyes of God.

    This is not to be taken lightly. It is akin to worshiping a false god!

    Matthew has this to say (6:7):

    “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.”

    • Really? You think these prayers are babbling?

    • Um… what?

      Maybe calm down a little bit dude.

    • MelissaTheRagamuffin says

      In Letters to Malcolm, C.S. Lewis talks about praying to saints/people in heaven. He said he wouldn’t hesitate to ask someone here on earth to pray for him, so what’s the big deal about asking someone in heaven?

      A couple of years ago when my sister was very pregnant with twins my brother-in-law insisted that they make a long trip to see his family in another state for a holiday. My sister started to bleed – and I mean really really bleed. She was absolutely sure she was losing the twins. My bro-in-law and his parents went off looking for someone who would see her on a holiday. She turned on the tv and there was a priest on tv who was saying the Hail Mary. Also a survivor of Catholic School, my sister kind of just prayed along. She said that in that moment she had absolute peace and knew the twins would be okay, and they were. They’re 16 months old now. My sister will be the first to tell you that she doesn’t know what to think about “the whole Mary thing,” but she is absolutely certain that on that day Mary Mother of God interceded on her behalf and on the behalf of my niece and nephew.

    • Headless Uncorn Guy says

      And so the Reformation Wars continue, four centuries after the Treaty of Westphalia.

      To The Death.

    • That’s fine, Paul. If rote prayer does not support your spiritual life, then don’t use it. But I would just submit that the Angelus is not praying to any other God than the one Lord and Father of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, because it is in honour of the Incarnation. We remember that through the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary conceived Him who was made man for our salvation. We ask the Father to send us His grace so that we can share in the promise of the Resurrection.

      Any elements that are distracting or repugnant to you – drop them. Don’t have to say the Angelus or any other prayer, but I hope that as a reminder of where we set our faith, derive our hope, and seek our charity, in the Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection of Christ, it is a help or a spur to further reflection and prayer.

  9. Tokahfang says

    For the busy or short of memory, one of the most beloved Orthodox prayers is simply: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Also one can dedicate each task by starting it with a mental “O Lord, bless” and upon completion “Glory to thee, O Lord.”

  10. David Cornwell says

    Martha of Ireland is an amazing writer.

  11. Can this fumbling Calvinist pray the Actiones Nostras when there is a partial indulgence attached to it?

    • Can you what now?

      • It appears that some of the these prayers when said are used as form of indulgence. Can a Protestant pray them or would a Catholic consider that disrespectful to their tradition?

        • Oh my goodness, Paul, pray away! Offended? I’m delighted that you might find these prayers to be meaningful to you.

          I know certain prayers come with indulgences, but I confess I seldom pay attention to that (although maybe I should).

          • Would appreciate if you could provide me with some further guidance. On occasion I’ve gone to a Catholic church to pray during lunch break at work. I’m drawn to the absolute silence of the sanctuary, as a highly visual person the light streaming through the stain glass captivates me. Though a little shy to use them I really appreciate the kneeling rail — it’s an unfamiliar piece of furniture and I find myself surprised at how focused prayer can be when done on one’s knees. At times I’ve even fumbled with the sign of the cross, but I’m not sure how the fingers should go.

            As a Protestant, is there etiquette that I should be mindful of during these lunch time visits at St. Basil’s?

          • Etiquette? Really, you’re fine if you just go in quietly and reverently. There ARE certain things that Catholics do when entering a Catholic church. We dip our fingers into the holy water and cross ourselves with it, to remind us of our baptism. And I believe anyone who’s been baptized (in any denomination) can do that. We also genuflect (respectfully and briefly drop to one knee) before scooching into the pew and sitting down, but that is in recognition of the Body of Christ in the tabernacle, so I suppose it doesn’t make a ton of sense for a Protestant (maybe one with a very sacramental view of Communion) to do it. But no one’s going to judge you if just quietly walk in and sit down. 🙂

            As for what to do with your fingers when you’re crossing yourself–if there’s anything you’re supposed to do, I’m not doing it. I don’t know that it matters at all, really.

          • Paul, if you are asking how Roman Catholics make the Sign of the Cross, we do it like this: use your right hand and touch the tips of your fingers (it doesn’t really matter if you use two, three, four or five fingers) to your forehead saying “In the name of the Father.” Then touch your fingers to the middle of your chest and say “…and of the Son” and then touch your fingers to your left shoulder area “…and of the Holy” and then touch the right shoulder area and say, “…Spirit. Amen” The Orthodox do it a bit different, moving from left side to right side and using three fingers. There is some use of it among Lutherans, Anglicans and others.

          • I suppose I was struggling because I was trying to match the contorted hand gestures of the saints as illustrated in Byzantine paintings.

        • Do what the most of us do – apply the indulgence to the souls in Purgatory.

          As for etiquette – as long as you don’t engage in free-form solo liturgical dance, I can’t see that you’re going to do anything worse than the rest of us in a church.

          • Oops, Paul, I meant to write that Orthodox go from the right side to the left side. Sorry about that!

    • LOL – you can partially get a partial indulgence, how’s that?

    • “I suppose I was struggling because I was trying to match the contorted hand gestures of the saints as illustrated in Byzantine paintings.”

      That can be quite confusing. If you’re looking for Byzantine practice, it is quite simple:

      1) Using your right hand, bring your thumb, forefinger, and middle finger together; this symbolizes the Trinity. The two remaining fingers (ring and pinky) are pressed to the palm; this symbolizes Christ’s Incarnation and His Dual Natures (Human and Divine).
      2) Taking your right hand in the aforementioned fashion, bring it up to your head
      3) Bring your hand down to your chest (or stomach) saying “and of the Son”
      4) From there move your hand to your right shoulder, and then your left.

      Common things to say while performing this blessing are the Invocation (In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit) or a Glory Be (Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit), and “Lord have mercy”. There are other such blessings I’m sure.

  12. Martha, thank you.

    I cheat with the Rosary; I pray a quickie version after lunch every day. Not the proper way, but it works for me. 🙂

    I’ve come to love the Angelus, too, and I try to remember to pray it each afternoon. I agree that it’s about the Incarnation, but ever since Michael died I’ve especially loved the ending.

    “We’re out of the upper room and down in the streets…” I love it! So true. And in the streets is where we really need prayer!

    • Denise, you need to be careful with those quickie Rosaries. The children at Fatima prayed what one site describes as “an abbreviated Rosary” (and which we learned in school that they decided to shorten the Rosary by just saying “Hail Mary, Holy Mary” on each bead) and the next thing you know –

      – apparitions! mystical revelations! sainthood! Third Secret shenanigans still roiling some of the more excitable of our co-religionists!

      Much better to be cautious and just pray one full decade 😉

  13. In my opinion, repetition of common prayers has the same effect as meditation upon Scripture. When these words are so ingrained in us and we don’t have to think so hard to remember them, they begin powerful transformation much deeper than in our intellects. I don’t think we should underestimate their value or power – even in our more lazy moments when we aren’t truly concentrating. Sometimes, when we are most at ease, we can hear the Counselor best.

    • Good words.

    • Lisa, good point. And, I might say, a great argument for liturgical worship also.

    • Lisa, so true. There are times when I don’t know what or how to pray.. so I pray the Lord’s Prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to pray for me. Lo and behold I find myself quoting portions of the Liturgy and praying prayers I never knew I knew. 🙂

    • My Episcopal friends tell me that when one of them comes to Christ, after growing up reciting from the Book of Common Prayer and the various liturgies, their conversion is all the more powerful because it all clicks into place. The recitations have laid the ground work.

  14. One more Mike says

    Thanks Martha, as always very informative, entertaining and ruckus raising!!

    Erin go Bragh.

  15. The last few weeks or maybe even months, I have not been doing Centering Prayer regularly as taught by Thomas Keating. I suffer when I don’t pray regularly. But this morning, I gave myself a little time to do that and metaphorically speaking, it is like ice melting; it is like rocks being crushed; it is like garbage being removed; and the end result is like surfing on over to the shore where Jesus waits. It is CRAZY that I go days without taking the time to just be in prayer.

  16. Another fantastic prayer resource is a collection of Puritan prayers called the Valley of Vision (should be easy to find on Amazon or elsewhere). I highly recommend it!

  17. I have learned to look at pre-written prayers this way. I can’t always think of what I want to pray. There are things I have never imagined saying, ways it has never occurred to me to think or feel. But am I willing to take suggestions? Sure! That is how I read pre-written prayers. If I find something in them that I am moved to pray, I pray it.

    I find that if I am following a collection of written prayers (or any other form of structured prayer) that if most of the time I do manage to actually pray from the heart, I don’t worry too much about the occasional day when everything goes thud and doesn’t get off the ground. But along with praying what I feel moved to pray, it’s important to me that I don’t close myself off and become unwilling to take suggestions from my fellow Christians.