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Contents The Journey from “You’ve Got a Friend” to Salve Regina . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xi 1

The Sign of the Cross

The Holiest of All Signs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

2

The Our Father

Teach Us to Pray . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

3

Hail Mary

Greeting Our Mother . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

4

Credo

What We Believe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

5

The Morning Offering

The Gift of the Present Moment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

6

Salve Regina

The Prayer for Help . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

7

The Act of Contrition

The Promise of Mercy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

vii

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13 27 37 49 59 67


viii

Contents

8

The Jesus Prayer

Pray without Ceasing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

9

Anima Christi

Prayer for Happiness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

10 Angel Prayers

Help in the Struggle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

11 Prayers of St.‑Francis

God in All Things . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

12 St.‑Patrick’s Breastplate

Prayer for Protection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

13 Memorare

The Mother Who Will Never Let Us Down . . . . . . .

14 Suscipe

The Radical Prayer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

15 Veni Creator Spiritus

The Prayer of Power . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

16 Grace at Meals

The Prayer of Gratitude . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

17 The Liturgy of the Hours

The Prayer of the Church . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

75 87 95 105 117 125 135 143 153 161


Contents

18 Glory Be

Words of Praise . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

19 Amen

We Say Yes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

ix

175 183

Where Do My Prayers Go? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191 Using Vocal Prayer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 197 Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 205


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sign cross the

of the

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.






The Sign of the Cross

The Holiest of All Signs When they were baptized, none of my four children were particularly bothered by being splashed by or immersed in water. What got them was the succession of fingers messing with their foreheads. Before the actual baptism, the presider traces a small cross on the baby’s forehead as a sign of being claimed for Christ by his church. Then the presider invites parents, godparents, and—if the group is small or the priest has a lot of time on his hands—everyone in sight to do the same. You ­­wouldn’t think that this brush of skin against skin would have such an effect, but it did. You ­­wouldn’t think a ­­little cross would bring tears and struggle, but it did, once or twice even necessitating a liturgical intermission of sorts. This sign of the cross marks us at the beginning of life, and as the same sign of the cross is made over our caskets, it will send us on our way at the end of life. In between, we will mark our own bodies and bow our heads as ­­others trace the cross in the air over us thousands of times. We can think and speak of our Christianity, but in this physical sign, this movement, our identity as Christians takes on physical form. It is a public expression, made again and again, of our faith in Christ crucified. With it we identify, we bless, and are blessed, even if at times we still resist, lest it get too close and change us. The making of the sign of the cross is so short and so much a part of us that we hardly think of it as a prayer at all. It’s more


The Holiest of All Signs



of an introduction to prayer, something to get us in the mood, a ­­ little something to get us started like “The Star-Spangled Banner” before a football game. But it is a prayer, and while its gesture and fifteen words seem ­simple, the sign of the cross has a fascinating and complex history. Its contemporary usage is fascinating as well. We don’t know exactly when it started; we don’t know why its form changed over time; we certainly don’t know exactly when these words came to be wedded to this motion. When you look at who prays the sign of the cross today, you see amazing variety. South and Central American Catholics do it differently from North Americans. Orthodox Christians do it differently still and use a variety of phrasing, depending on the church. The physical sign came first. From early in church history and for hundreds of years, Christians signed themselves and the world around them with crosses. This was an exceedingly odd thing to do, because in the Roman Empire, the cross represented a very shameful means of execution. One who died on a cross had obviously committed shameful acts and was enduring a justifiably shameful death, stripped naked, nailed and tied to wood, suffering to the scorn and mockery of passersby. Making the cross a central symbol of our faith at that time could be compared to making the electric chair a symbol of our faith today. But with Jesus and those who share the Good News about him, this is the way things almost always are. As is his habit, God had done something new, had turned the world




The Sign of the Cross

upside down, and had transformed shame into glory. In the cross, Christians saw it all: the power of sin, the tragedy of creation turned on its author, and in response, love sacrificial enough to embrace the tragedy and powerful enough to transform them. So from the beginning, Christians spoke of the cross because Jesus had spoken of it, Jesus had hung on it, and Jesus had conquered it. The cross, weighted by the world’s shame, was reverenced by Christians. They not only spoke of the cross, they re-created it by making it their primary means of identification. It seems that the most common way to do this at first was with one finger, or perhaps the thumb, on the forehead. In the early third century, a North African Christian named Tertullian wrote: At every step and movement, whenever we come in or go out, in dressing or in putting on our shoes, at the bath, at table, at the lighting of the lamps, in going to rest, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross.1

A century later, St.‑Cyril of Jerusalem indicated that the practice had expanded, so that the early Christians surrounded themselves and the air they breathed with crosses. Let the cross become our seal, made with boldness by our fingers upon the forehead, oil everything on the bread we eat and the cups we drink; in our comings in and goings


The Holiest of All Signs



out; before sleep, when we lie down and when we awake; when we are walking and when we are still.2

At some point, Christians began making the sign of the cross in a more expansive way, over the entire body. We are not sure exactly when this development happened, because religious practice evolves over time, and tracing the evolution is difficult, especially when sources are scarce. Not only that, but none of this was happening by orders from the top; ordinary ­­ people were discovering powerful expressions of faith for themselves. And, perhaps because the practice evolved rather than was officially introduced, it was done differently in different parts of the Christian world. Some believers moved their hands from the head to the heart, bringing to mind God’s love. Others said that the hand should move from the head all the way down to the belly, to symbolize God’s Word incarnate in the womb of Mary. And what about the shoulders? For centuries, the movement throughout all of Christianity was from right to left, the way it is still done in Orthodox churches today. But during the Middle Ages some in the West started moving from left to right. Writing around the beginning of the thirteenth century, Pope Innocent III discussed both methods. He said that going from left to right was good because it symbolized Christ’s descent from heaven (head) to earth (breast) and his crossing over from Jews (the right) to gentiles (the left). But on the other hand, going from left to right brought to mind the truth that


God’s Gift from the Past

Welborn

$11.95 U.S.

Religion/Catholic

(Loyola Press, 2003), Loyola Kids Book of Saints (Loyola Press, 2001), and the Prove It! series of apologetics books

the words we pray

Amy Welborn is the author of Loyola Kids Book of Heroes

words pray we

I

mmense spiritual riches are hidden within the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, the Apostles’ Creed, and other traditional Catholic prayers. When we pray these words crafted by holy people and blessed by the Church, we join the millions of Christians who have prayed them throughout the centuries. As their words become ours, God’s truth enters our hearts. Amy Welborn opens these ancient words for us. She tells the story of eighteen of the most popular and powerful traditional Catholic prayers, describing how and why they were composed and unearthing the sacred wisdom at their heart. She shows how “the words we pray” draw us closer to God.

the

for youth (Our Sunday Visitor). She is the general editor of the Loyola Classics Catholic fiction series (Loyola Press). A freelance writer, she has published widely in the Catholic press. Amy resides in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with her family.

Discovering the Richness of Traditional Catholic Prayers

Amy Welborn


The Words We Pray: Discovering the Richness of Traditional Catholic Prayers  

This enchanting prayer book includes the history and traditional use of each prayer as well as personal anecdotes to show why the body of Ca...

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