I’ve written before about my feelings about the value of communal prayer. I’m not just talking about coming together once a week for Sunday Mass, as important as Eucharist is to the life of a Christian community.
Here at St. Benedict’s Monastery (from where I will sadly depart this morning), the sisters gather each day for Morning Prayer, Noon Prayer, Mass and Evening Prayer. When I’m in residence here, as I have been this past week, I join in those gatherings (although, I don’t frequently make it to Evening Prayer).
Part of what I love is the way the prayer times fit into and affect the rhythm of the day, creating natural breaks from my work. But the experience is much different than if I just stopped what I was doing four or five times a day to pray on my own.
It is not all that easy to put into words what it is that I find to affecting. Everyone stopping whatever it is they are doing to come to the oratory for time together? The antiphonal chanting of the psalms? The recitation of prayers that have been recited by the community thousands and thousands of times over the years? (The nun sitting next to me making sure I can find my place in the book? The fact that I’ve now been here enough times that I know various of the chants without having to look at the square notes?)
What I know is that as I sit in my place in the oratory, I feel part of a community of pray-ers that includes not only the women sitting there with me, but those who have prayed in those seats over the years and those who are sitting in oratories around the world listening every morning to readings from St. Benedict’s Rule and reciting the same psalms and prayers.
And I feel a peace in the presence of God.