Friday, September 27, 2013

Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor)

Throughout his reign as pope, Benedict XVI has given many talks on various aspects of the Faith, including the Apostles, the Fathers of the Church, Doctors of the Church, etc. Our Sunday Visitor has done an excellent job compiling these texts into published volumes and keeping the appearance of the books uniform throughout the series. This makes for not only a superb collection of writings but also an aesthetically pleasing section on your bookshelf when you line up the many tomes of our retired Holy Father. When I heard that there was a book being released on Prayer, I knew had to read it.

The text of this book includes General Audiences that Pope Benedict XVI gave from May 2011 through October 2012. He stopped giving these talks in February 2013, when he resigned from the papacy to pursue a life of prayer. That makes this series of catechetical talks one of his very last, and a must-own for any serious student of Pope Benedict. A thought struck me while reading through this book. I'm not sure if it's true, but it seems like he was not only educating his flock on prayer but also preparing for the next chapter in his life.

Spanning forty-five chapters (or talks), this book covers a wide range of topics on prayer. I won't list them all here, but some of the highlights include chapters on Moses, Elijah, Peter, Paul, Stephen, and various psalms. Of particular interest to me was the Chapter Thirteen, which discussed Psalm 22 (21). As Pope Benedict pointed out, this psalm is very Christological. For those of you unfamiliar with this psalm, it begins with, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" We hear these words of the psalmist David echoed from the lips of Jesus on His cross. However, as Pope Benedict is quick to explain, this lamentation in the psalm turns into a song of praise. By explaining this, it brings to light the fact that Jesus didn't actually lament God forsaking Him, because God did not forsake Him. It also reminds us that we should always trust God, even in moments of persecution and humiliation.

If you would like to learn more about prayer, I can think of no better teacher than our previous Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. Each talk is spiritually deep and full of wisdom. However, they remain clear and concise too. Reading some of these chapters made me feel like I was in Rome listening to him deliver these addresses in person. Pick this book up, and read it. Then, re-read it, and follow his lessons and example on how to develop and cultivate a prayerful life. Lastly, let us remember to pray for both him and our current Holy Father, Pope Francis.

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