Benedictine and Dominican Keys to Prayer

So Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI is up at Castel Gandolfo taking in, what is surely, some well deserved R&R. Nevertheless, while communing with God and nature, he has found the time to offer some spiritual thoughts.

On the recent Feast of St. Dominic, Pope Benedict XVI gave a talk on the “9 Ways of Praying of St. Dominic.” (Video link of his talk is here) According to this web site which outlines the 9 ways, this treatise “was written by an anonymous author, probably at Bologna, sometime between 1260 and 1288.” The ways primarily involve posture (standing, bowing, lying prostrate, etc…) which I have personally found effective depending what is going on in my life and what state my spirituality is in at a particular moment.

What was particularly interesting and attractive (especially to an “out-of-doors” type like myself) were the two methods of prayer that were emphasized by Pope Benedict. He says that St. Dominic recommended simply walking through the woods as one method of prayer. He mentions that communing with God’s creation in nature leads us to the Creator Himself. Another method emphasized by the Holy Father was simply to sit and spend time quietly with God. This is a very “Marian” posture where we don’t have to “work at it” but allow ourselves to sit in a posture of “reception” trusting that the Lord knows what we need and will provide for it.

Speaking for myself, I also just got back from several days retreat at the “Visitation Monastery” located on Mount Saviour in Pine City, NY (near Elmira). I’ve been visiting the Benedictine monks for a number of years now. I love the quiet of the place and with 1,200 acres of rolling hills and the only sound being the bleating of sheep, the place affords a great, peaceful respite from the tirade of the techno-world.

Besides wonderful hospitality and great chow, they also have an interesting, eclectic gift shop and book store. While I was there, I picked a small booklet entitled, “Twelve Keys to Prayer” by Jerome Kodell, O.S.B. He is the Abbot of Subiaco Abby in Arkansas and has written a gem. It’s only 12 pages (ironically) but summarizes 12 aspects of prayer that would be a help to anyone serious about the spiritual life. I found much of what he wrote spot-on, concurring with my own experience as well as with that, which I have told other people concerning their respective prayer lives.

I’ll mention the 12 keys below. If you want details, buy the book (here for example). It’s less than $4.00 and well worth the price.

1. Prayer is a relationship

2. Prayer is like love; it’s a decision - not a feeling.

3. Involuntary distractions do not interrupt prayer.

4. Prayer is not about thinking; it’s about loving.

5. Several, shorter times at prayer are better than one, long period of prayer.

6. Public prayer does not make up for private prayer.

7. Do not expect the reward of prayer time to be felt during the actual prayer time.

8. The proof of prayer is seen in how we treat each other.

9. Either you will stop praying, or you will stop sinning.

10. The warmth of spiritual courtship is followed by the cold of ritual testing.

11. No one with a prayer life says that prayer doesn’t work.

12. God is not “out there” but rather God is “in here.”

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