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A P R A Y E R B OO K

for Catholic Women Traditional and Contemporary Prayers for Every Season of Life

Agnes M. Kovacs


Copyright © 2018 Agnes Kovacs All rights reserved. Published by The Word Among Us Press 7115 Guilford Drive, Suite 100 Frederick, Maryland 21704 wau.org 22 21 20 19 18

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ISBN: 978-1-59325-334-9 eISBN: 978-1-59325-509-1 Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All rights reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Scripture quotations marked NRSV are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Compiled by Agnes Kovacs Cover design by Faceout Studios No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the author and publisher. Library of Congress Control Number: 2018936171


Contents Introduction������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ i

Part One: Seasons of Prayer��������������������������������������������������� 1 Chapter 1: Responding to the Divine������������������������������������������ 2 Chapter 2: Beginnings—Setting Out—Planting Seeds������������� 13 Chapter 3: Bearing Fruit—Staying the Course—Establishing��� 38 Chapter 4: Harvesting—Slowing Down—Changing Course���� 64 Chapter 5: Storing—Resting—Conserving������������������������������� 85

Part Two: A Rich Tradition of Prayer����������������������������� 103 Chapter 6: Basic Prayers����������������������������������������������������������� 104 Chapter 7: Marian Prayers������������������������������������������������������� 112 Chapter 8: Prayers throughout the Year��������������������������������� 120 Endnotes������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 164 About the Author���������������������������������������������������������������������� 167 Personal Reflections������������������������������������������������������������������ 168


I ntrodu cti on “Teach us to pray,” we ask, as did the disciples of old. Yet prayer is more an attitude than a skill. It is more about our willingness to do it and less about how we go about it. Some guidance certainly helps, but it is important to know that there is no one right way to pray. Our prayer and prayer life will look different from that of others, depending on our personality, life experiences, and circumstances. And we may find that what once fit beautifully does not appeal anymore, for we have changed. Prayer changes us and changes with us. Prayer is an expression of our need to be in relationship with divine Love, here and now. Saint Augustine said it best: “Our heart is restless until it rests in you.” This book is intended to be a prayer primer: an introduction to prayer and different prayer forms, and an invitation to go deeper. It is more about exploring the territory than about prescribing a concrete direction. It will offer ways to help you nourish your relationship with God and others. i


The selection of prayers represents but a small sampling from the bounty of traditional and liturgical prayers of the Church. I have included contemporary compositions by various authors and have identified those throughout the book. I have also written many prayers specifically for this book, and those prayers in Part One that are not identified as traditional or by another author are my compositions. The content of Part One is organized around seasons— seasons of nature, life, and the spiritual journey—ever mindful of the fact that in different times of our lives, we might find ourselves in different seasons. Part Two contains many traditional prayers of the Church that have helped people, through the ages, as they journeyed through their own seasons. There are also some contemporary prayers; most of these include the name of the author. May this prayer book serve you well in finding rest in God!

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P a rt O n e Seasons of Prayer


Chapter One

R e s p ond i ng

to the

D i vi ne

Prayer is integral to our Judeo-Christian heritage. Scripture reveals the Hebrew people as steeped in prayer. An entire book, The Book of Psalms, is dedicated to prayer. The Gospel accounts are full of references to Jesus praying. He prayed by himself and with others, in private and in front of thousands. He recited prayers from his Jewish heritage and offered his own. Prayer enabled Jesus to stay in tune with God the Father and gain strength for living his mission. Liturgical and non-liturgical prayers of the disciples and the early Church were preserved and handed down through the centuries in historical documents such as the writings of the Church Fathers. Prayer is our sure way to connect to God who created us and is drawing us into the divine life. Prayer can be a prelude to action or a response to unfolding events. Prayer is communication, with or without words.

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Prayer is both listening to and responding to God’s invitation to be in relationship. Most of all, prayer is a state of being present to God. Prayer is like a well-made tapestry that is tightly woven from yarns of different colors and types. The variation in these prayer threads creates an image, fosters multisensory engagement, and evokes a response. Prayer comes in many forms and modes. Prayer can be communal or personal, verbal or silent, and it can involve movement, music, or stillness. It may rely on engagement with nature or emerge from the act of thinking; it may be the fruit of encountering others or going deep within ourselves. Prayer can be formulaic or freely composed; it may spring forth from memory, like prayers we know by heart, or it may be a new particular response to the moment. Prayer is as varied as human beings are diverse. Whether we use silence, words, movement, music, the visual arts, or any combination thereof, prayer is an expression of our relationship with God.

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A Prayer Practicum Pray ing Spont ane o u sly Many Catholics find praying spontaneously in a group setting quite intimidating. They worry about finding the right words and putting them together to form a coherent prayer. While God surely sees what is in our hearts, it helps to have a few tools for expressing ourselves. One formula that may ease anxiety about creating a prayer is ACTS. A—adoration: “Almighty God, you are . . .” C—contrition: “I am sorry for . . .” T—thanksgiving: ”Thank you for . . .” S—supplication: “I ask . . .” Another formula follows the shape of the Collect prayers of the Mass: You-Who-Do-Through.

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You—Name God Who—Describe what God has done in the past Do—Ask for God’s action now Through—Finish with the Trinitarian formula: “Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.” Or “We ask this in the name of your beloved Son, Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.” With some practice, these formulas will become second nature and will enable us to offer prayers under any circumstances. In our personal prayer, we do not need to use formulas. We can talk to God as if to a friend, sharing our daily joys and struggles without keeping to a set pattern. Many of the prayers that follow fall into this category. Keep in mind that they represent only one side of the conversation that is prayer.

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Pray ing wit h Scrip ture Our common, or public prayer in the liturgy—both the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours—is deeply scriptural. Listening to the biblical readings proclaimed within liturgy is an essential way to engage with Scripture. Catholics may feel less comfortable praying with Scripture on their own. But the importance of praying with the Bible gained new momentum after the Second Vatican Council, and we are now encouraged to incorporate Scripture into our personal prayer. Lectio divina (sacred reading) is an ancient prayer tradition of the Church that is centered on the slow, contemplative reading of a passage from Scripture. If you choose to pray in this manner, these questions should guide your prayer as you slowly read, several times, the selected Scripture passage:

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What does the text say?

What does the text say to me? How does the text

speak to my daily life? •

What do I want to say to God about this text? In light of its relevance for my life, what do I need to

say to God? (Here you can name feelings and thoughts that arose while reading the text.)

What difference does this text make in my life?

How am I going to respond to what just emerged

in prayer? How am I willing to change? Lectio divina is not about the “product” of this process

but about being present and open to God. Scriptures are the living word of God: the Holy Spirit is working through them. Expect to be surprised by this prayer experience!

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Another way to pray with Scripture is to memorize verses that strike you. Perhaps write them in a notebook, or mark them in your Bible so that you can easily refer to them later. Favorite passages from the prophets, from the psalms, from the Gospels (or any other book of the Bible) can become the structure around which you build your prayer life. Drawing on the riches of Scripture is important for developing and deepening your personal prayer. In the chapters that follow, I’ve included selections of Scripture passages that seem to resonate with many believers or have become important for me. I hope that you’ll add your own Bible verses and thus make this prayer book your own. Pray ing wit h Visual Arts “A picture is worth a thousand words” goes the saying. Indeed, images can connect with our emotions, can evoke a response from us, and can help us recognize and remember stories and truths.

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It is not surprising, then, that since the days of the early Church, the visual arts have been an essential tool for expressing our faith. Jesus painted images with words in parables and metaphors for his listeners. Christians painted images based on Jesus’ words and deeds. When we pray with visual arts, we find that word and image, revelation and interpretation, combine forces. Visual arts are always an expression of a given culture. Praying with art from different eras and cultures can offer new appreciation for a story that has become too familiar. It can jar us out of our set patterns of thinking, allowing us to share in the insights that God granted to the artist. I once had a particularly moving experience of the power of visual arts. Amid the usual hubbub of the international airport, a sign caught my eye: it advertised a temporary exhibition set up in one of the areas connecting the terminals. The Rijksmuseum had brought to the traveling public several paintings of the Old Dutch Masters, among other treasures. As I was standing in front of the paintings, I couldn’t help but be touched by these masterpieces; the artists of old reached out and spoke to me from across the centuries.

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I paused before Johannes Vermeer’s The Milkmaid, an exquisite study in light and form, depicting a maid pouring milk as the light pours through the kitchen window. I know how painfully slowly Vermeer painted because he had to have every aspect of the picture just right: balance, composition, colors, light. I have a deep appreciation for the painting, partly because I know all of these things about the artist and partly for its sheer beauty, untouched by the passing of centuries. I picked up a reproduction in the gift shop, and while the attendant wrapped it carefully, I said a prayer of thanks to God for soothing my aching soul with the beauty of the divine gift bestowed on this artist. I made my way to the gate, filled with the peace of God’s presence, and boarded the plane to go to my mother’s funeral.

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Praying wit h Music Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord; cry out to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with a song of praise, joyfully sing out our psalms. —Psalm 95:1-2

The power of music to help us connect to the transcendent, to the divine, is unsurpassable, for music engages our whole being, not just certain parts of our brains. Why do we sing or chant certain parts of the Mass? Why are national anthems set to music? Why don’t people just recite them? Because saying the words does not have the same effect on us as singing them together. Singing, listening to music, or playing a musical instrument can help us develop our personal relationship with God. Some chapters of this prayer book include text of hymns that you can pray by singing.

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Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another [in] psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father. —Ephesians 5:18-20

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. —Colossians 3:16

Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth; break into song; sing praise. Sing praise to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and melodious song. With trumpets and the sound of the horn shout with joy to the King, the Lord. —Psalm 98:4-6 12


Chapter Two

Beginnings—Setting Out— Planting Seeds In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. —John 1:1-5

Beginnings in life can be exhilarating, anxiety provoking, hope-filled, and frustrating—or any combination thereof. It all depends, doesn’t it? It depends on the circumstances under which this beginning happens. Life transitions of all

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sorts, whether willingly chosen or not, or occurring as a matter of course, evoke a range of emotions that we can easily recall. Questions like “Remember the first . . . ?” or “Remember when . . . ?” may lead us on a roller-coaster ride of feelings, regardless of our willingness to engage our emotions. Sit for a few minutes and remember. Note the range of feelings these memories evoke, name them, and describe them. Feelings and emotions are morally value neutral; that is, having a certain feeling is neither good nor wrong in and of itself. The psalms are a great example of giving expression to a wide range of thoughts and emotions: from beseeching God (Psalm 38:2) to demanding action from God (Psalm 26:1), from joyful thanksgiving (Psalm 66) to fear (Psalm 6:2), from lamenting one’s situation (Psalm 13:2) to being angry (Psalm 58), and many others. Starting out on this journey of prayer may also elicit some feelings. Whether you are curious, excited, a little unsure, or setting out confidently, what matters most is your willingness to try. However, recognizing what and how you feel when you pray will help deepen your self-understanding, 14


your connection to God, and your connection to fellow human beings. An important aspect of beginning any new endeavor is creating a space, both literally and figuratively, in which this new endeavor can take place. In other words, we develop certain routines that facilitate our engagement. When it comes to prayer, consider the following questions: Is there a designated time and place that you will set aside for prayer? What do you need to do to establish a routine that can support your prayer? For instance, if you get easily distracted, you will need a space that offers no or few distractions. If you would like to engage your whole body, you need enough room to do so; if you rely on music or the visual arts, you need to have access to them, and so on. Getting ready is part of beginnings. This chapter includes prayers about different kinds of beginnings that we may notice in nature, beginnings we experience in human life, or beginnings that are part of our Catholic heritage.

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—Be Light for Us, O Christ— Be light for us, O Christ, this short, short winter day, that we may see to run by faith amid the dark and gray. Be light for us, O Christ, this cold, cold winter day, that we may feel your warmth and touch with every healing ray. Be light for us, O Christ, this spare, spare winter day: a light that brings a quiet peace and gathers us to pray. Be light for us, O Christ, this good, good winter day, that we may radiate your word with every word we say. 16


Be light for us, O Christ, this new, new winter day, that with the dawn our praise may rise and fill the coming day. —Harry Hagan, OSB1

—New Beginnings— O God of life, who chooses creation over chaos and new beginnings over emptiness, we bring to you the disorder of our nations and world and the emptiness of our lives and relationships. Bless us and the nations with the grace of creativity. Bless us and all people with the hope of new beginnings. —J. Philip Newell2

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—Morning Offering— As a new day stirs, my prayer greets you: let all whom I encounter catch a glimpse of your love; let all that comes my way be a harbinger of your presence; let all of me glorify you, most Holy Trinity!

—A Morning Prayer— Grant us, O Lord, to pass this day in gladness and peace, without stumbling and without stain; that reaching the eventide victorious over all temptation, we may praise you, the eternal God, who is blessed and governs all things, world without end. Amen. —Mozarabic Liturgy3

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—A New Day— Thank you, Lord, for the blessings of this day! I may not know what the day will bring, but I do know you are with me as you have been through all my yesterdays. Give me courage to meet the day’s challenges, grant me wisdom to handle them well, and open my heart to love as you love. May I be your blessing for others today!

—Today Is a Gift— Today is a gift from God. I can overlook it, or I can live it, love it, and leave the world better for it. I can waste it, lamenting what I don’t have, or I can seize its power to change my life. I can ignore it, or I can embrace it to grow closer to God and those I love.

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I can spend it bitter over yesterday, or I can spend it better—letting go and forgiving. I can live in its shadows, or I can shed light, shine love, and share peace. Whatever I decide, tomorrow is always determined by how I spent today. —Lisa O. Engelhardt4

—Sounds of Presence— What a sound-soaked morning! Birds compete with a lawn mower making its way down the road. Diesel motors cut through the serenity of cool breezes, a break in the heat of summer. Thank you for surrounding me! Thank you for the gift of sound that reminds me of your presence in creation: You are near, you are here, you are. Help me hear you in all your disguises today! 20


—Little Things— God of hope, you reveal yourself in the little things of life. Open our eyes and make us sensitive to your presence and action in the ordinary places and events of life. Amen.

—Duties of the Day— The Lord walks among the pots and pans helping you both interiorly and exteriorly. —St. Teresa of Ávila

—Flowers and Plants— You’ve outdone yourself with the burst of colors and forms! Praise and glory be for this beautiful diversity that is a perennial reminder of your limitless creativity!

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—A Gaelic Blessing— (Traditional) Deep peace of the running wave to you, Deep peace of the flowing air to you, Deep peace of the quiet earth to you, Deep peace of shining stars to you, Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you. Amen.

—Morning Prayer in Time of Stress— Holy Spirit, fiery friend, guide me through this turmoil: ease the vise of stress, lift the cloud of worry, shine your light into my darkness, that I may see you and praise you, to find you anew!

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—Prayer of St. Prisca— (Traditional) O Lord God, Eternal King! You who stretched out the heavens and built the earth. You who put limits on the ocean and trampled the Serpent’s head. You, O Lord, do not abandon me now. Hear my prayer.

—Known by God— Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you. —Jeremiah 1:5

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—Confidence in the Future— For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. —Jeremiah 29:11

—Prayer from Christmas Mass— In the wonder of the Incarnation, your eternal Word has brought to the eyes of faith a new and radiant vision of your glory. In [Christ] we see our God made visible and so are caught up in love of the God we cannot see. —The Roman Missal5

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A Prayer Book For Catholic Women  

Meet Jesus in prayer. Prayer lifts us up and transforms our lives—and the lives of those we love. This beautiful prayer book is the perfect...

A Prayer Book For Catholic Women  

Meet Jesus in prayer. Prayer lifts us up and transforms our lives—and the lives of those we love. This beautiful prayer book is the perfect...