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Category Archives: Major Themes

The Holy Spirit Leads Us to Pray ‘Abba, Father’

Text of "Our Father" prayer with Tri...Yesterday, Pope Benedict contiuned his Catechesis on Christian Prayer by focusing on two passages from St. Paul (Galatians 4:6 and Romans 8:15) where Paul speaks of God as Abba, Father.

Here is the English excerpt:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our reflection on prayer in the letters of Saint Paul, we now consider two passages in which the Apostle speaks of the Holy Spirit, who enables us to call upon God as “Abba”, our Father (cf. Gal 4:6; Rom 8:5). The word “Abba” was used by Jesus to express his loving relationship with the Father; our own use of this word is the fruit of the presence of the Spirit of Christ within us. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism, we have become sons and daughters of God, sharing by adoption in the eternal sonship of Jesus. Paul teaches us that Christian prayer is not simply our own work, but primarily that of the Spirit, who cries out in us and with us to the Father. In our prayer, we enter into the love of the indwelling Trinity as living members of Christ’s Body, the Church. Our individual prayer is always part of the great symphony of the Church’s prayer. Let us open our hearts ever more fully to the working of the Spirit within us, so that our prayer may lead us to greater trust in the Father and conformity to Jesus, his Son.

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The full text is already available on Zenit.


Prayer is a Gift from and Work of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit depicted as a dove, surrounded...

In, today’s audience on Christian Prayer, Pope Benedict moves from the Acts of the Apostles to the letters of St. Paul.  It is a very beautiful reflection on the role of the Holy Spirit in our prayer life and a nice reassurance that it all does not depend on us.  Prayer is less about what we do and more about what the Holy Spirit does.  Here is the excerpt from the Vatican website:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on Christian prayer, we now turn to the teaching of the Apostle Paul. Saint Paul’s letters show us the rich variety of his own prayer, which embraces thanksgiving, praise, petition and intercession.For Paul, prayer is above all the work of the Holy Spirit within our hearts, the fruit of God’s presence within us. The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness, teaching us to pray to the Father through the Son. In the eighth chapter of the Letter to the Romans, Paul tells us that the Spirit intercedes for us, unites us to Christ and enables us to call God our Father. In our prayer, the Holy Spirit grants us the glorious freedom of the children of God, the hope and strength to remain faithful to the Lord amid our daily trials and tribulations, and a heart attentive to the working of God’s grace in others and in the world around us. With Saint Paul, let us open our hearts to the presence of the Holy Spirit, who prays with us and leads us to an ever deeper union in love with the Triune God.

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Though the full text will not be on the Vatican website for another week, I just discovered that the Vatican Radio website posts their own translation rather quickly.  So head on over there to read the whole thing.

St. Peter in Chains

St. Peter In Chains Cathedral, Cincinnati, OH

Today, Pope Benedict reflects on that event recorded in Acts 12:1-19 where Peter is imprisoned by Herod.  The Holy Father makes a touching personal connection between the prayer support Peter received from the Church which came to fulfillment in his miraculous release from prison and the prayer support he receives as a successor to St. Peter, for which he is most grateful.

This incident has long been honored in the life of the Church.  A minor basillica in Rome bears the name of this event, as well as the Cathedral for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.  In the old 1962 liturgical calendar, the feast of St. Peter in Chains was celebrated on August 1st.

Here is the excerpt for English-speaking pilgrims:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on Christian prayer, we now consider Saint Peter’s miraculous liberation from imprisonment on the eve of his trial in Jerusalem. Saint Luke tells us that as “the Church prayed fervently to God for him” (Acts 12:5), Peter was led forth from the prison by an Angel of light. The account of Peter’s rescue recalls both Israel’s hasty exodus from bondage in Egypt and the glory of Christ’s resurrection. Peter was sleeping, a sign of his surrender to the Lord and his trust in the prayers of the Christian community. The fulfillment of this prayer is accompanied by immense joy, as Peter rejoins the community and bears witness to the Risen Lord’s saving power. Peter’s liberation reminds us that, especially at moments of trial, our perseverance in prayer, and the prayerful solidarity of all our brothers and sisters in Christ, sustains us in faith. As Peter’s Successor, I thank all of you for the support of your prayers and I pray that, united in constant prayer, we will all draw ever closer to the Lord and to one another.

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The full text should be available on the Vatican website next week and an unofficial translation will be on Zenit’s website by the end of the day.  For a really unofficial translation, you could also try using Google Translate on the Italian text.

The Prayer of St. Stephen

St Stephen (detail), painting by Giacomo CavedoneBenedict continues to make his way through the Book of Acts in his Catechesis on Christian Prayer.  Today, he turns to the prayer of St. Stephen, particularly Stephen’s profound discourse in Acts 7 just prior to his martyrdom.  Here is the excerpt in English:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on Christian prayer, we now consider the speech which Saint Stephen, the first martyr, delivered before his death.  Stephen’s words are clearly grounded in a prayerful re-reading of the Christ event in the light of God’s word.  Accused of saying that Jesus would destroy the Temple and the customs handed down by Moses, Stephen responds by presenting Jesus as the Righteous One proclaimed by the prophets, in whom God has become present to humanity in a unique and definitive way.  As the Son of God made man, Jesus is himself the true temple of God in the world; by his death for our sins and his rising to new life, he has now become the definitive “place” where true worship is offered to God.  Stephen’s witness to Christ, nourished by prayer, culminates in his martyrdom.  By his intercession and example may we learn daily to unite prayer, contemplation of Christ and reflection on God’s word.  In this way we will appreciate more deeply God’s saving plan, and make Christ truly the Lord of our lives.

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As always, the full text will be available on Zenit some time tonight and on the Vatican website next week.

The Seven Deacons

Пятидесятница. Около 1497. Собор Успения Богор...

Пятидесятница. Около 1497. Собор Успения Богородицы, Кирилло-Белозерский монастырь (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Sorry I have missed the last several weeks.  In that time, Benedict took his historic Apostolic Journey to Mexico and Cuba, which he reflected on during Holy Week’s general audience.  During Easter week, as is customary, he took another break from the current series and dedicated his catechesis to the transforming power of the Resurrection on the disciples.

Last week, Benedict returned to the theme of Christian Prayer and spoke of the “Little Pentecost” of Acts 4.

This week, he reflects on the early Church’s discernment of the need for the seven deacons and uses it as an opportunity to reflect on the meaning that prayer brings to our daily activities.  Here is the excerpt from today’s audience:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on Christian prayer, we now consider the decision of the early Church to set aside seven men to provide for the practical demands of charity (cf. Acts 6:1-4). This decision, made after prayer and discernment, provided for the needs of the poor while freeing the Apostles to devote themselves primarily to the word of God. It is significant that the Apostles acknowledge the importance of both prayer and works of charity, yet clearly give priority to prayer and the proclamation of the Gospel. In every age the saints have stressed the deep vital unity between contemplation and activity. Prayer, nourished by faith and enlightened by God’s word, enables us to see things in a new way and to respond to new situations with the wisdom and insight bestowed by the Holy Spirit. In our own daily lives and decisions, may we always draw fresh spiritual breath from the two lungs of prayer and the word of God; in this way, we will respond to every challenge and situation with wisdom, understanding and fidelity to God’s will.

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Mary’s Prayer in the Upper Room


After wrapping up the section on the Prayer of Jesus last week, our Holy Father begins today a new cycle on Prayer in the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of St. Paul.  First up is a reflection on the Blessed Mother’s time of prayer with the Apostles in the Upper Room in the nine days between Jesus’ Ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  Here’s the excerpt he gave in English (with the full text available on Zenit later today and on the Vatican website next week):

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on Christian prayer, we now begin a new chapter on prayer in the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of Saint Paul. Today I wish to speak of the figure of Mary, who with the Apostles in the Upper Room prayerfully awaits the gift of the Holy Spirit. In all the events of her life, from the Annunciation through the Cross to Pentecost, Mary is presented by Saint Luke as a woman of recollected prayer and meditation on the mystery of God’s saving plan in Christ. In the Upper Room, we see Mary’s privileged place in the Church, of which she is the “exemplar and outstanding model in faith and charity” (Lumen Gentium, 53). As Mother of God and Mother of the Church, Mary prays in and with the Church at every decisive moment of salvation history. Let us entrust to her every moment of our own lives, and let her teach us the need for prayer, so that in loving union with her Son we may implore the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the spread of the Gospel to all the ends of the earth.

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The importance of Silence in Prayer

English: Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mos...

Yesterday, the Vatican website was experiencing some technical difficulties, so this comes a day late.

This week, Benedict wrapped up the section on the catechesis on the prayer of Jesus within the larger Series on Christian Prayer.  He touched once again on the  the familiar theme of silence that he has woven into several different documents and general audiences.  Here is the excerpt he gave to the English-speaking audience:


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In concluding this series of catecheses on the prayer of Jesus, I would like to speak of the importance of silence in our relationship with God. In Christ’s own life and prayer, and especially in his experience of the Cross, we see a constant interplay of word and silence. Jesus’ mortal silence on the Cross is his final word to the Father, his supreme prayer. To hear God’s word requires the cultivation of outward and inward silence, so that his voice can resound within our hearts and shape our lives. But Jesus teaches us that God also speaks to us, especially at times of difficulty, through his silence, which invites us to deeper faith and trust in his promises. Jesus is our great teacher of prayer; from his prayer we learn to speak with confidence to our heavenly Father as his beloved sons and daughters. In this filial dialogue we are also taught to recognize God’s many gifts and to obey his will, which gives meaning and direction to our lives.

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As always, the full text should be available on the Vatican website next week.  In the mean time, you can meditate on Zenit’s translation of the audience.

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