When I started to work on Litany of Loreto I didn't know how much praying and reading and research would be involved.
As time went on, I began to enjoy more and more dipping into the theology of Mary, the Mother of God, and trying to translate this Mariology into reasonably understandable and devotional terms for the reader not only to learn from, but to enjoy a little too.
Above all, the writing has involved me, as I hope its reading will involve you, in a deeper appreciation of and love for Our Lady—and should it achieve this in even one reader, it will have been worth the whole task. Indeed, I may say, it has already been worthwhile for what it has achieved in me.
So, get out that prayer book at the Litany of Loreto and read it, pray it, with each invocation.
Take out the hymnal too and re-read those lovely hymns to Our Lady which you have probably sung out in church without
really plumbing the depths of their meaning. Take the rosary from your mantlepiece (or, better, your pocket) and
ply the beads in honour of Jesus and Mary.
I suppose there are as many forms of prayer as there are people. We all have our own way of talking to God. Some are gifted with a certain ease in contemplation—sitting quietly in the presence of God and letting him act on us, with very few words. Indeed, this openness to God's action upon us is something worth practising and striving for. Others find this more difficult, but stick to simple forms of vocal prayer learned when they were young. Indeed, St Therese of Lisicux always maintained that she could never get beyond the words 'Our Father' in the Lord's Prayer, so full did her mind become at the very word 'Father'.
Other people need pit-props in prayer, the Rosary, Prayer Books, the Thirty Days' Prayer—and have their special 'favourites' amongst the prayers of the great Saints.
The important thing is to pray—to get into contact and raise your mind and heart to God frequently, wherever you may find yourself: it's a question of giving time to God instead of to other things. St Benedict's 'To work is to pray' must be interpreted correctly . . . he did not mean that work was a substitute for prayer, but that it is possible to raise your mind and thoughts to God even during work. His adage must not be used as an escape from contact with God, even during work.
We must not look askance, then, at others' preference for this or that method of praying. It is important to discover what is good for ourselves, and through this to develop with the passage of time into people from whom God is never far away. Maybe a new definition of prayer (another to add to the thousands!) would be simply, 'to live constantly in the presence of God'. Never, but never, say 'I'm not very good at prayer' .. . if you do, my answer would be 'Then become good at it', for it takes the grace of God and practice of years to be constantly aware of the presence of God all around you in everything and everyone. Besides, you must not look always for consolation in prayer: sometimes it is the constant doing down of distractions which makes for the best effort, and it's effort which the Lord looks for, and not merely results. Surely one of the finest prayers of Our Lord himself was his agonising prayer in Gethsemani. And the answer to that particular prayer was a clear 'No' from the Father.
Nor must prayer be looked upon as a mere asking, pestering of God for favours. Prayer, like the
Mass itself, can be the sheer adoration of God, thanking him for his innumerable benefits, confessing our own sins
and unworthiness; I would say that these aims in prayer are the proper priorities, way ahead of asking for favours:
if your prayer has become sheer adoration, there will never be a need for any other sort!
Review by Dr Pravin Thevathasan