What follows are notes from Msgr. Aloysius Callaghan’s talk at St. Michael Catholic Church in St. Michael Minnesota on February 25, 2011. Msgr. Callaghan is the Rector of The St. Paul Seminary. Please see Msgr. Callaghan’s bio here: www.stthomas.edu/spssod/pdf/cv/CallaghanCV-2009.pdf
In Chapter 11 of St. Luke’s Gospel we find the art and practice of prayer. “Lord teach us to pray.” Luke’s Gospel is a Gospel of prayer: Luke shows us Jesus at prayer before the great events of His life.
– Jesus prayed at His baptism
– Jesus prayed before His first conflict with the Pharisees
– Jesus prayed before His choice of the 12 Apostles
In Luke we see Jesus praying just before He asks the disciples who He is.
In Luke we see Jesus praying prior to His first prediction of the Passion.
– Jesus prays at the Transfiguration
– Jesus prays on the cross
– Jesus promises to pray for Peter when Peter faced the hour of his great temptation
Jesus Christ witnessed prayer over and over again at significant moments in His ministry and regularly in deep meditation. (Christ’s disciples had ample opportunity to observe Jesus at prayer.)
The Gospels, however, say little about what His prayer was like. We do have some clues:
In Christ’s Last Supper discourse He publicly prays to His Father with warmth and intimacy.
My brothers, in the 11th Chapter of Luke we hear Jesus teaching His followers to pray the Our Father. The Apostles were moved by the beauty and obvious depth of Christ’s prayer so they asked Him how to pray.
Jesus responded by teaching them the Our Father.
– Prayer is a lifting up of the mind and heart to God.
– Prayer is meant to enlarge our capacity for happiness.
– Prayer is an exercise of our inborn desire to be happy.
Pope Benedict in his book Jesus of Nazareth gives beautiful insights into Jesus and prayer.
He notes in Chapter 5 of this work that God is not some distant stranger, rather He shows us His face in Jesus. In what Jesus does and wills, we come to know the mind and will of God Himself.
The Holy Father points out that if being human is essentially about relation to God, it is clear that speaking with and listening to God is an essential part of it.
The Holy Father refers to Matthew’s Gospel and the Lord’s prayer. In the Gospel of Matthew the Evangelist leads up to the “Our Father” with a short catechesis on prayer. He warns against false forms of prayer.
– Prayer is not an occasion for showing off before others. It requires the discretion that is essential to a relationship of love.
– Prayer is not chatter or verbiage that smothers the Spirit – a recitation of habitual formulas while the mind is somewhere else entirely.
Prayer, at its core being, is silent inward communication with God. It requires nourishment and that is why we need articulated prayer in words, images or thoughts.
Praying deepens our communion of being with God. Our praying can and should arise above all from our heart, from our needs, our hopes, our joys, our suffering, from our shame over sin and from our gratitude for the good. It can and should be a wholly personal prayer.
The Our Father begins with God and then, from that starting point, shows us the way toward being human! The Our Father is the prayer of our identity as followers of Christ.
There are some 20 original prayers of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke and everyone of them begins by addressing God as “Father.” It is a title of relationship, of nearness, intimacy, and trust.
In the “Our Father” this prayer of Jesus takes us towards intimacy and transcendence at the same time. “Our Father Who art in Heaven.”
Saint Teresa of Avila, when asked by someone what should she do for contemplative prayer, replied, “Say the Our Father . . . and spend an hour at it.”
The Our Father is a complete expression of the various movements of the Christian disciple toward God and the world.