I’ve been working on a compilation of traditional morning and evening prayers with the intention of publishing a little booklet. The rough draft is just about finished. I’ll post it here in sections for the benefit of my readers.
The Catholic who seeks prayer and devotional materials need not look very far today. Modern technology makes an ocean of Catholic literature available almost instantly – just “a click” away, as they say. As the Church in our time begins to recover her identity under the gentle guidance of Pope Benedict XVI, we find that novenas, litanies, holy hours, and many other treasures of popular piety are increasingly available.
However, it can still be difficult to find many of the prayers in use before Catholic devotional language was tragically “updated” after the Second Vatican Council. The prayers available today often downplay, ignore, or even contradict those truths which modern man finds so difficult to accept. The reality of sin and its consequences, mankind’s radical dependence upon the grace of God, the necessity of confession and penance, the urgency of achieving holiness, the assumption of biblical inerrancy, and the exclusive claims of Christ and His Church are among the casualties in recent years. The intrusion of feminist politics, too, resulting in an almost fanatical avoidance of male pronouns and masculine imagery, has caused no little confusion with respect to the nature of God and man in the modernized prayers. Familiarity with the older forms can therefore serve as a corrective until better times.
How should a Catholic pray? Daily Mass is recommended by many spiritual writers. Our Lady, indeed, asks the daily rosary of everyone. The mystics tell us that meditation, or contemplative prayer, is essential for salvation. The Divine Offices can be prayed by those with sufficient time apart from their worldly responsibilities, and for those with less time, the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a possibility. But one can hardly be called a practicing Christian who does not, at least, begin and end each day with a few moments of prayer. Morning and evening prayer is therefore the foundation of Catholic discipline for the laity. Many of us need to acquire this simple habit before taking on other things.
In this booklet you will find six forms of morning and evening prayer. Even the longest form takes only a few minutes to pray. You may wish to supplement these prayers with psalms or a meditation, or to modify them in some other way. It is best to use one form often enough to commit it to memory.
All forms may be said alone or together with others. There are no rubrics: the prayers may be said in unison, or responsively, or in alternating fashion. The traditional posture is kneeling, but other postures are acceptable so long as one remains at attention. The sign of the cross should be made when you see ( + ), but there is no reason why it could not be made at other times. When standing, it is customary to bow slightly at the name of Jesus.
There are no original prayers in this booklet, although some of the forms are slightly modified. Everything is taken from the public domain. Form One is intended to be more corporate, the others more personal. Some of the language is borrowed from traditional Anglican sources, since it cannot be disputed that such language is not only beautiful, but is the most familiar to the English-speaking world. The prayers which have Anglican sources – for instance, the Venite and the Magnificat – are either the common inheritance of all Christians from ancient times, or they are faithful translations of Catholic prayers in use for centuries. Most prayers, however, are taken from Roman Catholic sources, including The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Gueranger, My Prayer Book by Fr. F. Lasance, and The Pocket Key of Heaven by “a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis”.