Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Praying in Lent (1)

Apologies for a rather disjointed post. Firstly, here is the quote I promised last time from the Rule of St. Benedict (chapter 49, on the observance of Lent)

"During these days, therefore, let us increase somewhat the usual burden of our service, as by private prayers and by abstinence in food and drink. Thus everyone of his own will may offer God "with joy of the Holy Spirit" (1 Thess. 1:6) something above the measure required of him. From his body, that is he may withhold some food, drink, sleep, talking and jesting; and with the joy of spiritual desire he may look forward to holy Easter."

The immediate context admonishes each monk to obtain the blessing and approval of his abbot before undertaking such things on his own: "For anything done without the permission of the spiritual father will be imputed to presumption and vainglory and will merit no reward." This and other posts will include optional private devotions (as the last post touched on Lenten reading); even outside the monastic context, though, St. Benedict's words can remind us not to plunge recklessly into our own Lenten agenda, but to seek the advice of a spiritual director.

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Praying for Light. We're one week into Lent. This is traditionally Ember Wednesday; from today's Mass propers comes one of my favorite short prayers in the entire Missale Romanum, a prayer for us to have both the knowledge and strength (discernment and fortitude) to do what we ought to do:

O Lord, enlighten our minds with Your own clear light, that we may understand our duties and fulfill them with courage. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.
another [more literal] translation:
Enlighten our minds, we beseech Thee, O Lord, with the light of thy brightness, that we may be able to see which things ought to be done and have strength to perform the things that are just. Through our Lord, etc.
and the Latin:
Mentes nostras quaesumus, Domine, lumine tuae claritatis illustra: ut videre possimus, quae agenda sunt; et quae recta sunt, agere valeamus. Per Dominum.
After ten years or so of copying this into the inside front cover of each notebook, I find myself more than ever in need of this prayer, of this grace of Divine light and the mental and physical energy to get those things "quae recta sunt" done, finished, agere-d.

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Prayers especially appropriate for Lent:

The Stations of the Cross (a.k.a. The Way of the Cross, Via Crucis)
As if we were walking on Via dolorosa on pilgrimage in Jerusalem, we see, contemplate, pray, and move among 14 representations [sculptures, paintings, etc—or at least numbered crosses] reminding us of stages of Christ’s wearying and painful journey up Mount Calvary and to his death and burial. While all that is strictly required is “"a pious meditation on the Passion and Death of the Lord, which need not be a particular consideration of the individual mysteries of the stations,” there are a number of different meditations written for this devotion. Booklets (such as these) are available for personal or group/parish use, or the texts may be found online. Here is the Way of the Cross according to the method of St. Francis of Assisi. The prolific blogger, "Fr. Z"[Zuhlsdorf], has made available audio (mp3) files of three other well-known versions, those of St. Alphonsus Ligouri, Blessed John Henry Newman, and Pope Benedict XVI.

Note: I hope members of the sodality can pray the stations together at some point during this Lent, and individually at least weekly (perhaps Friday or Sunday). Would one of you (who has a camera better than my pathetic cell phone's) please take some pictures of Fr. Nevin Ford's mosaic Stations of the Cross at the SB Mission? Those could be featured in a separate post. Thank you.

The Rosary, especially the sorrowful mysteries (1. The Agony in the Garden, 2. The Scourging at the Pillar, 3. The Crowning with Thorns, 4. The Carrying of the Cross, 5. The Crucifixion and Death of our Lord)

Perhaps the rosary needs no introduction, but this site not only shows how to pray the rosary (in 16+ languages) but also gives  historical background and information about the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. If you do not have your own rosary beads, please let me know, and I will help you procure some. 
 The Grades of the Passion. I cannot find these online, so I will transcribe from Holy Souls Book: Reflections on Purgatory by Rev. F. X. Lasance (1922). By that time, these had been [heavily] indulgenced and seem to be associated with the Passionist Order; the format suggests that they would usually be prayed by one leader with the rest of the congregation responding (as in a litany). I have sometimes prayed these every day of Lent, whereas I might only complete the Stations of the Cross weekly or twice-weekly at most.

  • Most sweet Jesus, sorrowful in the Garden praying to the Father, in agony, and covered with a sweat of blood. Have mercy on us. [Response] Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.
  • Most sweet Jesus, kissed by the traitor, delivered into the hands of the wicked, taken and bound as a robber, and forsaken by Thy disciples. Have mercy on us. [Response] Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.
  • Most sweet Jesus, found guilty of death by the Council of the Jews, led to Pilate as a malefactor, by the impious Herod despised and mocked. Have mercy on us. [Response] Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.
  • Most sweet Jesus, stripped of Thy garments and most cruelly scourged at the pillar. Have mercy on us. [Response] Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.
  • Most sweet Jesus, crowned with thorns, hit with blows, struck with a reed, clothes with purple in derision, in many ways mocked and saturated with opprobrium. Have mercy on us. [Response] Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.
  • Most sweet Jesus, Who wast esteemed inferior to Barabbas, refuted by the Jews, unjustly condemned to death. Have mercy on us. [Response] Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.
  • Most sweet Jesus, weighed down by the wood of the cross, and as a sheep to be slaughtered led to the place of execution. Have mercy on us. [Response] Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.
  • Most sweet Jesus, Who wast numbered among thieves, blasphemed and derided, given gall and vinegar to drink and from the sixth to the ninth hour in horrible torments crucified upon the cross. Have mercy on us. [Response] Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.
  • Most sweet Jesus, Who didst die on the cross, and wast pierced by a lance in the presence of Thy holy Mother, issuing blood and water from Thy side, have mercy on us. Have mercy on us. [Response] Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.
  • Most sweet Jesus, Who, when taken down from the cross, wast covered with the tears of Thy most holy Mother. Have mercy on us. [Response] Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.
  • Most sweet Jesus, covered with bruises, and marked with five wounds, anointed with spices, and laid in the tomb. Have mercy on us. [Response] Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.

Thank you for your prayers. I plan to include additional prayers as we continue through Lent (the chaplet of Divine Mercy, the chaplet and other devotions to Our Lady of Sorrows, to the Holy Face of Jesus, to Jesus crucified, etc.) Please mention in the comments or by email [or in your own post!] other devotions that you would like to share.


  1. Thanks for this long-awaited, extensive post of large proportions! It's not disjointed but my comment will be. I could easily see all of these Lent posts being edited and compiled into a little Lentine book. There is so much to read and contemplate here, and I hope to get to as much of it as I can. I have not made much progress on my planned Lentine readings yet, including the Epistles of Paul, even though I also want to get to some of your suggestions and Matt's suggestions.

    I was surprised to read in the Rule of St Benedict that monks may be expected to fast from talking and sleep as well as food. I enjoy and receive much solitude, but when I am around people I am talkative and this doesn't change much during Lent. And despite the stereotype of our profession, getting sleep has always been a priority in my life. These fasts would certainly be a challenge for me. Having some sort of accountability to ensure that we are not doing too little or too much fasting of any kind is an interesting point of discussion, which becomes more difficult outside the monastic context. For those of us including myself who do not have a spiritual director, it is especially challenging.

    The prayer of light is great. It is interesting that you write this down repeatedly. I will definitely begin saying this prayer. I note your use of the word "agered." It sounds similar to agreed. the process of having something complete; done; finished; all ended well; is something we are all looking for, and perhaps has permeated much of our language. In the context of the academic life which several of us in this group share, the desire for completion turns particularly powerful and has the danger of overcoming the rest of our lives. One of my former theology professors always said that we must "cast our cares upon the Lord", and this prayer is an example of that.

    I have done the Stations of the Cross every Lent since my conversion, but there is still so much to learn about it. Praying the shorter prayers every day would seem to have a major impact on one's prayer life. We should definitely pray the Stations as a group; perhaps in the first week or so of next quarter (aka early April).

    I like hearing about obscure days in the traditional Church Callendar like Ember Wednesday. Please keep sharing those.
    More later. I am on a train now; quite an interesting backdrop for writing this comment.

  2. Thanks, Skylar, especially for your thoughts on completion. The Latin verb agere has a range of meanings--not just act or do, but also drive [such as animals], transact, cause to bring forth, urge, think manage, exercise, accuse, deliver [a speech], play [as an actor], and so on.
    The gerundive form of this word, agenda, is a familiar English word. In Latin, it literally means "things to be done." God bless whatever work is on your agenda. Safe travels.

  3. I have two prayers to add. Neither are specifically Lenten.

    The first is the Liturgy of the Hours (, the church's response to St. Paul's command to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess 5:17). An app called iBreviary has made it very easy to pray the hours from the web or a phone. I've added a link to their web app to the right column of our site. I find the Office of Readings especially interesting. The second reading often draws from sources I wouldn't normally come across (yesterday's was from the Mirror of Love by Saint Aelred).

    The second prayer I want to point out is the Universal Prayer. The connection to Lent is a blog post I saw by Msgr. Pope. Take a look: .

  4. I second Matt's recommendation of the Liturgy of the Hours, and I believe Michael is interested in that as well.