Hello there Rosary Lovers! In this post, we ask: What is Catholic prayer?
Prayer is a big deal to the world religions and for good reason. All the major religions seem to teach that prayer is a special way humanity can be united to God/Transcendence.
Catholic Prayer Can be Offered to Any Heavenly Being
Catholicism is unique in Christianity in that it teaches that prayer can be offered to ANY heavenly being. Anything that is in heaven can receive our prayers and petitions.
For instance, Catholics pray to saints. St Joseph is popular choice, as is St Michael the Archangel. There are saints for anything and everything. There’s even a saint for arthritis!
Mary is the most important saint. Catholics don’t often refer to her as St Mary, because Mary is really in a category of her own.
The Church teaches that Mary is the best creature God has ever created. Many saints even teach that if you place all of creation on one end of a scale, and Mary on the other, Mary on her own would far outweigh the rest.
This explains the sheer Catholic devotion to Mary which has always existed in the Church since very early times.
Outside of Mass, many Catholics appeal to Mary more than anything else in heaven.
It is worth pointing out, however, that the Catholic Church nowhere MANDATES that Catholics MUST pray to anything other than God/Jesus. Catholics are perfectly free to only pray to God if they so choose.
However, if they choose this, they cannot condemn Catholics who do pray to saints and to Mary. We must all accept each other’s perspectives here.
Catholic Prayer is Offered Ultimately to God
It is also worth pointing out that although many Catholics pray to saints, prayer is ultimately offered only to God.
In other words, a saint is not an end in the prayer cycle. We don’t pray to a saint as if that saint is God. We pray to a saint expecting that saint to take our prayer to God.
When a Catholic prays to Mary, we don’t pray to her as if she herself is Almighty God. We realise she is only a creature and infinitely inferior to God. Besides God, Mary is nothing and less than nothing. She’d be the first to admit this.
When we pray to Mary, we are using her as a channel to God. Mary leads us to God. Mary is not God. She is not the end in and of herself. She is a means to an end. God is the end.
We don’t actively think like this when we pray to saints. We aren’t thinking every time we pray to a saint, ‘O goodness, I know I’m praying to a saint, but I realise in this prayer I’m ultimately praying to God!’
We don’t do this. But we do understand it subconsciously.
The reason for this will be explained later. In short it’s because Catholics know that the supreme prayer of Christianity is the offering of the sacrifice of the Mass. This can ONLY be offered to God. And it is from the Mass that all other prayers outside of Mass get their effectiveness.
Examples of Very Popular Catholic Prayers
Here are some really popular Catholics prayers.
The Divine Office
All Bishops and Priests MUST pray the Divine Office everyday.
It is a lengthy prayer schedule and there are limited exceptions to praying it. Catholics are encouraged to follow the hierarchy here.
We are lucky to live in an age where (thanks to the internet) we can access the Divine Office on our laptops and phones.
Praying the Divine Office links us hour by hour with the Church’s own prayers and scriptures for the day. Highly recommended. Try this.
The Rosary is thought by many saints to be the greatest prayer in the Church outside of the Mass.
The Church herself doesn’t necessarily believe this, and nowhere does she mandate the Rosary for any Catholic, even for Popes and Bishops.
However, unquestionably the Rosary is an extremely powerful and popular devotion on the Church. At Rosary Lovers, we LOVE the Rosary.
Novenas are nine day prayers to specific saints. Many Catholics use these to help them with particular problems or concerns.
A good idea. Try here.
Chaplet of Divine Mercy
A beautiful devotion, revealed by Jesus to St Faustina in the 20th century. It has since gained tremendous popularity.
Part of its appeal is that it centres itself on the Eucharist. It is an extension of the Mass. 5 times in this prayer, one prays:
‘Eternal Father, I offer you the body and blood, soul and divinity of your dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.’
Jesus apparently told St Faustina to always this Chaplet, and to especially pray it when entering Church.
Highly recommended, can be found here.
Get on the internet, or buy a Catholic prayer book, and get praying! Your life will never be the same.
The Prayer of Christ
Of course, the greatest prayer any Catholic can ever offer is the Lord’s prayer, the Our Father.
If you can’t find a form of prayer that works for you, you can do no better than to pray often throughout the day the Our Father.
Try praying 5 Our Fathers in the morning, 5 in the Afternoon, 5 mid-afternoon, 5 in the evening, and 5 at night. I call this the 5 by 5 Our Father prayer rule.
The Supreme Catholic Prayer
Over and above all of what’s been said, the supreme Catholic prayer, the ONE prayer that is really only offered to God above all, is the Holy Sacrifice and Offering of the Eucharist.
The Offering of the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son to his Father.
God offered to God.
Nothing else offered to God is really of any worth on its own.
God is of such infinite value that the only thing that is acceptable to him is himself: the Son offered to the Father in the Holy Spirit.
This is why the Eucharist is offered only to God the Holy Trinity. Never ever to Mary or any saint or any creature.
This is also why prayer, in and of itself, on its own, cannot really be accepted by God. Nothing we do can be accepted by God. No creature in and of itself can be accepted by God.
The infinite gap between Creator and creature is simply far, far too great. An impossible chasm to cross without the precious blood of the spotless Lamb of God.
Even Mary cannot cross this chasm on her own.
Do you know what the dogma of the immaculate conception is? It is the teaching of the Catholic Church that Mary was conceived in the womb of her mother without any stain or spot of sin at all.
But do you know that the only reason this occurred was because the effects of her incarnate Son’s redemption were applied to Mary long before Jesus died for her?
This is the sheer grace of God to Mary, a creature, the greatest creature. She was redeemed/saved from the first moment of her existence, but SHE WAS SAVED. She is a creature.
So this is why our prayers, good works, acts of love, fasting, and anything else we do, only have their acceptance with God IN UNION WITH the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Never ever outside of it or by bypassing it.
Aside from the Mass, aside from the blood of Jesus Christ, nothing we do can ever please God. Only the blood of Jesus is acceptable to God.
Anyway, I’ve laboured the point. But this is why actively attending Mass and feasting on Jesus’ flesh is the greatest thing you can ever do for God.
‘If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.‘ – Jesus Christ
‘The Mass is the most perfect form of prayer.‘ – St Pope Paul VI
‘The celebration of Holy Mass is as valuable as the death of Jesus on the cross.’ – St Thomas Aquinas
‘The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life.‘ – St Pope John Paul II
If you have any comments to add, please add them below!