‘The most important thing is … that we pray.’
Suggestions for integrating prayer into daily activities
Big things are happening at St. Louis Besancon, a small church nestled in New Haven’s farm country. An adult education series titled “Spark Your Faith” began at the church two years ago, and it has become a way for parishioners of all ages and backgrounds to delve deeper into their Catholic faith while strengthening their parish community.
Once a month, with exceptions made during the busy farming months of May-August, members gather together to hear from speakers or talk in small groups — or a combination of both — or perhaps something completely different. Previous speakers have included deacons, priests and parishioners. Catholic radio host Dr. Ray Guarendi spoke at the parish this past fall. On Tuesday, Feb. 7, the featured speaker was Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades.
One of the oldest parishes in the diocese, St. Louis Besancon has 295 families. Many of them came to hear Bishop’s talk, titled “How to be Catholic the other six days of the week.”
Daily prayer in the context of one’s vocation was emphasized, as well as specific ways Catholics can live as joyful disciples. The bishop called attention to two saints who teach “that we can become saints in our ordinary lives, sanctifying ourselves and the world through work, family life, and all daily activities;” those saints were St. Josemaria Escriva and St. Francis de Sales. He specifically recommended St. Francis de Sales’ book, “Introduction to the Devout Life.”
Bishop Rhoades noted that when it comes to daily prayer, “one size does not fit all. The wonderful thing is that the Catholic Church has such a rich treasury of prayers, devotions, and spiritual practices. The most important thing is not how we pray, but that we pray.”
Specifically, he recommended prayer upon rising in the morning. While priests, deacons and religious are required to pray Lauds, or the Morning Prayer of the Church, from the Liturgy of the Hours, laity can also pray Lauds. In fact, lay people have the option to use an abbreviated form that can be found in the monthly Magnificat publication. Another option for morning prayer is the Morning Offering, which Bishop said he has taped to his bathroom mirror.
He also encouraged everyone to end his or her day with prayer which, again, could be from the Liturgy of the Hours or the shortened version found in “Magnificat.” Another idea is praying the Act of Contrition when going to bed, a custom he learned as a child. In his words, “the end of our day, like the beginning of our day, is an act of prayer. That’s what is key. The hinges of our day are focused on the Lord.”
Praying Grace Before Meals was also recommended. “We can pray before meals in spontaneous words or with the traditional prayer. It is a small thing, but when done attentively and deliberately, it helps us to cultivate an awareness of God at meal time,” the bishop said. Daily Mass, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, novenas, litanies or praying the Stations of the Cross, are similar practices. He said there should be a dedicated time of concentrated daily prayer for at least 15 minutes, time which be filled however one see fit: for instance, with the previous ideas or perhaps the Lectio Divina (the prayerful reading of Scripture) or a rosary.
All are called to live as intentional disciples, he concluded. Therefore, we should ask ourselves: “Do other people see God at work in our lives? Do they see goodness and generosity, mercy and love in us? Can they recognize that we are disciples of Jesus Christ by the way we speak?
St. Louis Besancon pastor, Father Ben Muhlenkamp, reflected upon the evening event by saying, “it’s always so nice to have our chief shepherd here with his flock. We’re a small parish, but to have him come really means a lot to our people. They see our connection with the larger Catholic community.”
Claire Stuerzenberger is St. Louis Besancon’s youth minister and a junior at the University of Saint Francis. She said all the Spark Your Faith events, including Bishop’s visit, strengthen the parish family. “I like to see the different generations coming together and being able to talk and share with one another.”
A committee of four parishioners — Paul Kline, Jenny Wyss, Vickie Lortie and Jan Robbins — organize Spark Your Faith. Lortie said the events, as the name suggests, are “meant to be a spark: to get people charged up so that they want to go out and continue to research or read into it on their own.”
Father Muhlenkamp said the Spark Your Faith events are powerful, and he appreciates the parishioners who suggested the idea and followed through. “I’m just so grateful. I try to empower them, and then they do amazing things.”
To see when the next Spark Your Faith will be, and what its theme will be, call St. Louis Besancon parish at 260-749-4252 or visit the parish website, www.stlouisb.org.