There is an essential part of a Priest”s life that a lot of people know very little about. Each Priest (religious and Deacons too) pray the Liturgy of the Hours each day. The Liturgy of the Hours is a series of Psalms, Bible readings, and selected readings from Church Fathers and Saints. It is prayed 7 times daily. Diocesean priests are obliged to say the Office 5 times a day. As a part of a person’s religious profession, and as a part of the Ordination ritual, a promise is made by the cleric or religious to pray the Office.
Many Diocesan Priests struggle with this obligation because they often find themselves praying it alone (which is not ideal) and in odd situations at odd times, in odd places (priests might call this occasion “fitting it in” – as often happens during a busy day). Some Priests abandon the practice altogether, which is not a good thing (usually the signal of some serious spiritual issues for the priest). Hey, it is tough to pray the Office day in and day out, by yourself, in the quiet of your own space.
But this type of prayer, and other forms of prayer, are essential. We read in the Office a few weeks ago something like, “If you pray only for yourself, then you are praying alone. If you pray for others, then you pray together.” Shared prayer is the basic building block of the Church. When we pray, and pray for each other, we exhibit care and concern for the other. We support each other. We become one in heart and spirit with each other, even over long distances. We leave behind our own bodily concerns and selfishness, and reach out to the needs of others on the deepest of levels. We call upon the Holy Spirit to minister to the body, mind, and soul of another. We also enlist the help of the Blessed Mother and the Saints, recognizing that the Church is both on Earth and in Heaven.
It can be hard to pray by yourself, as it can feel lonely and challenging. But it is those prayers of solitude and trust that lay the foundation for the Faith to grow in the hearts of all believers. Certainly, in regards to vocations, prayer is the foundation to growing seminarians. For many years, our parishes have been praying for Vocations at Sunday Mass. Groups exist all throughout the Church to pray for Vocations (Knights of Columbus and Serra Club, as well as the St. Mark Seminary Auxillary, come to mind). People on their sick beds pray for vocations. Parents pray for vocations from their families. I am convinced that this silently moves hearts to be open to the call. The desire of the Church, crying out for the Sacraments and the Word of God, moves hearts to consider the Call. Will you pray for vocations, in the midst of the crowd, and behind the closed door? The work done on our knees, or with an open prayer book, often times does more to open hearts than the work of the hands and the feet. Everyone can pray. We can scatter seeds, but if we don’t cultivate the soil through prayer, what will happen with those seeds?
Even Jesus prayed! Why, then, would we ever believe that prayer is not the answer?