Year of Faith, Year of Prayer

At the Mass I attended yesterday at St. Hubert Catholic Church, Fr. Rolf Tollefson suggested that a worthy aspiration for the New Year would be to make it a “Year of Prayer.” Pope Benedict XVI has already, Fr. Rolf reminded us, declared this year to be a “Year of Faith.” In order for a deepened faith to be realized, he suggested, we need prayer.

Fr. Rolf made two suggestions for ways to deepen one’s prayer life that don’t require the kind of major time commitments that seem daunting. First, he suggested that people spend some time before and after Mass in quiet prayer.

This struck me as a simple but worthwhile piece of advice. Many people come scrambling into Church with barely a moment to spare before the opening procession, allowing not even a moment to compose themselves before Mass begins. And far too often, people either leave Mass immediately after communion or are putting on coats and inching toward the aisle before the closing recessional. If you are already in Church anyway, why not take some time before or after Mass in prayer or quiet reflection. (As an encouragement, St. Hubert has in the pews a booklet of prayers of preparation and thanksgiving for before and after Mass, which contains some beautiful prayers by St. Francis of Assii, St. John Chrysostom,St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Ignatius of Loyola and ohters).

The second suggestion offered by Fr. Rolf was that people engage in a daily Examen. Given that an Examen has been part of my own daily prayer for well over a decade and that I often recommend it to others, I was delighted to hear him offer this suggestion.

The method of praying the Examen that he offered was a simple three-part one. First, to “troll for graces,” that is, to go back over the previous day looking for places where there were signs of God’s presence, and expressing gratitude for those graces. Second, to ask for forgiveness of sins and the release of any resentments one might be holding. Finally, to anticipate the next day, looking to see where one might be in particular need of God’s help. A simple, but effective, method of the Examen.

As you may recall from my post of yesterday, “Pray just a tiny bit more,” was one of Fr. Jim Martin’s list of things you can do for a happier new year. Fr. Rolf’s suggestions provide a couple of ways one might do that.