A Priest’s Prayer life.
Since my post on how I say the office, some people have asked me if that is the sum total of my prayers. The answer is, of course, No.
I look upon the Daily Office (in whatever language) as a sort of spiritual platform on which to build my prayers. The daily Mass is also a great help to concentrate my prayer of thanksgiving, though I know that many cannot attend Mass daily, and indeed there is no obligation for either lay people or priests to do this. But everyone can say some form of a daily Office, however short.
My next staple is the Holy Rosary. I know some people think of the Rosary as a mindless recitation of Our Fathers and Hail Marys, but I find on the contrary, that the constant repetition of the same well known prayers actually frees the mind and spirit to contemplate the mysteries of the Christian Faith. And the joy of the Rosary is that it does not depend on having a book in your hand: it can be said anywhere, in the street, in your car, on a bus. (By the way, it is safer in your car to use your God-given rosary of ten fingers rather than a set of beads!). Pope John Paul II made the Rosary even more precious by adding the five Luminous Mysteries to fill the gap between Our Lord’s childhood and his Passion. The immense value of our contemplating the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist; the Marriage in Cana of Galilee; the Preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom; the Transfiguration on the Mountain; and the Institution of the Holy Eucharist, is that we take the humanity of Our Lord more seriously.
So I try to say the five decades of the appropriate day every day, and sometimes (if I am walking about a lot) much more, dedicating each decade for a particular person or need.
And from all this formal prayer comes one’s private and intimate conversation with God, which can take place at any time. There we abandon the spoken word and enter into a silence of loving awareness of one another’s presence. There we hold up our loved ones and their needs, the pains of the sick and needy, our penitence for sins, the thanksgiving and praise for our “Creation, Preservation and all the blessings of this life” as the General Thanksgiving puts it (a prayer we should use very often).
As you can see, some of this takes a lot of time, but I make no apology for saying that this is the priest’s first priority. Of course, a busy parish priest cannot give as much time to formal prayer as a cloistered nun, but if he practises most of what I have listed above, prayer will simply permeate all he does.
I am reminded of the busy doctor who went to a saintly priest for advice about his prayer life. The priest said to him: “You must pray for half an hour each day. Except when you are very busy – then you must pray for an hour”!