This week, we began the first part of what is called Ordinary Time in the Church’s liturgical year. Ordinary Time is thirty-three or thirty-four weeks of the year that are not in the Advent, Christmas, Lent, or Easter seasons. The term ordinary here does not mean commonplace or uneventful, but is rather based upon Latin terms ordo and ordinalis, which imply regular, steady, ordered growth. That is one reason why the color for ordinary time is green, the color of things such as trees, bushes and many crops that grow in an orderly way over the course of time. The idea is that we are meant to focus on how our spiritual lives of prayer, virtue, charity, and evangelization are growing in a regular and steady fashion. This and the next four articles will focus on this regular, steady growth in prayer, in holiness of life, in intellect and in good deeds.
To begin with, we should have a regular, consistent life of prayer. The two continual requirements of prayer for Catholics are:
(1) attendance at Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation; and (2) the regular receipt of the sacrament of Reconciliation.
These universal requirements are meant to be the foundation of a regular life of prayer that can in turn be lived out in many different ways. As the Catechism says, Christian “prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond all measure, with His Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit.” And as such, “prayer and the Christian life are inseparable.” Catechism 2565, 2745.
Part IV of the Catechism gives much advice on prayer and then gives an extensive commentary on the Lord’s Prayer that in turn describes our relationship with God and the many things that we should pray for. Reading this part of the Catechism, which is about 75 pages in the most common translation, will help one understand what prayer is, know better the more the many sources, motives and ways of prayer, and fully appreciate the effort needed for this most noble quest.
Other guides to prayer, such as Fr. Thomas Dubay’s very accessible 2002 book Prayer Primer or St. Francis de Sales’ 17th century classic Introduction to the Devout Life, can also be very helpful. These and other sources of wisdom from the Church and her saints can help us worthily and joyfully set aside daily space for prayer and so progress steadily as sons and daughters of God.
Next week’s article will discuss some ways of prayer and advice from the Catechism and the great spiritual masters to advance in this path of God.