February 1, 2008


We are called to be stewards of the tradition of Catholic prayer

The Church in the United States owes a debt of gratitude to the Benedictine monks of Saint Meinrad for many gifts.

For more than 150 years, the southern Indiana monastery has been a center of unceasing daily prayer, a school for the formation of priests and lay ecclesial ministers, a beacon of hospitality and spiritual refuge for the thousands who visit there each year, a vibrant place of worship and Church music … and much more.

Now, the monks have added to their long list of diverse apostolic works a form of stewardship that is truly distinctive. They have cultivated and generously shared with us the tradition of Catholic prayer.

Religious women and men who follow the Rule of St. Benedict dedicate their lives to prayer and work (“ora et labora”).

They are contemplatives who participate actively in the Church’s ministry. This means they are called to understand, and practice in their daily lives, the rich tradition of prayer that the Catholic Church preserves and carries forward as an integral part of her divine mission.

The tradition of Catholic prayer is ancient—dating back to the earliest experiences of the Jewish people throughout the Old Testament, to the prayer that Jesus gave his disciples and the worship of the early Christians, to the eucharistic devotion of the Middle Ages, the piety of the Counter Reformation and the diverse spiritualities of the modern era.

To be good stewards of this precious heritage requires careful study and prayerful reflection. To share this tradition with others requires personal witness and the lived experience of prayerful people who are also great teachers.

The monks of Saint Meinrad accepted the responsibility to be stewards of the tradition of Catholic prayer when, as missionaries from the Swiss Abbey of Maria Einsiedeln, they established their first foundation in the hills of southern Indiana in 1854.

They have continued this stewardship of Catholic prayer through various forms of “ora et labora” to the present day. This is the good news for us: We can count on the monks of Saint Meinrad to pray for us and to carry forward the tradition of Catholic prayer that is both ancient and ever new.

But there is even better news: We can now come to a much fuller understanding of this tradition, and practice it in our own daily affairs, as a result of a new book written by the monks of Saint Meinrad (and published by Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minn.) called The Tradition of Catholic Prayer.

This prayerful, informative and inspirational book is a gift to the Church. It should be required reading for every adult Catholic this Lent because it shows in the most vivid and helpful terms what it means to pray as Catholic Christians—alone and in community.

The Tradition of Catholic Prayer begins with a warning: “This book may be hazardous to your spiritual health.”

In other words, it may motivate us to change our ways—from silence to attentive listening and prayerful conversation with God, from inaction and self-centeredness to loving service to all who are in need.

According to Archabbot Justin Duvall, The Tradition of Catholic Prayer “looks at the great tradition in Catholicism that has been shaped by the prayer of real people over the centuries. They opened their hearts and minds to God in prayer and came away changed by the living God whom they encountered. They did this with others in the liturgical assembly, they did it behind closed doors in the privacy of their rooms as Jesus commanded his followers (Mt 6:6), they did it on the fields of battle, they did it in monasteries and religious houses, they did it on trains and planes as they traveled, and they did it with children on their knees. The present generation of Catholic Christians continues to pray, encountering the God whose kindness extends from generation to generation.”

As we experience the singular graces of this upcoming Lenten season, which call us once again to prayer,

self-denial and the sharing of all our gifts, let’s acknowledge our responsibility to be stewards of the tradition of Catholic prayer.

Let’s look to the monks of Saint Meinrad for inspiration and assistance as we cry out, in the words of the first disciples, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk 11:1-4).

—Daniel Conway

Local site Links: