Pro Orantibus Day 2012 – A Moment of Gratitude for Those Who Pray

Blessed are the Pure of Heart, For they Shall See God ©, 2012. KJ photo

“The prayer of him that humbleth himself, shall pierce the clouds: and till it come nigh he will not be comforted: and he will not depart until the Most High behold (Ecclesiasticus 35: 21).”

Prayer is the ultimate gift. Its swiftness surpasses the speed of light as it moves from the heart of the suppliant to the Heart of the Divine. No human construct can compare with this acute form of communication. Human longings are transformed by the Spirit into a reality that is intelligible to God alone. Scripture assures us:

“In the same way, the Holy Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the One Who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because He intercedes for the holy one’s according to God’s Will (Romans 8: 26-29).”

Prayer is the voluntary movement of the human soul in response to Divine Love. It is sublime and efficacious.

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face once stated:

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart, it is a simple look toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy (Manuscrits and Autobiographies, C25r).”

When one offers to pray for another, it is a tremendous gift; when one offers his or her very life in the service of contemplative prayer, the gift is incomparable.

“We Share the Fruit of Life Through You, O Daughter Blessed by the Lord.” ©, 2012 KJ Photo

Today, on the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Mother in the Temple of Jerusalem, it is fitting that we should celebrate the vocations of those cloistered and monastic men and women who dedicate their lives in prayerful service to the members of the Body of Christ. Pro Orantibus Day was instituted by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1997 as an ecclesial event to be annually observed worldwide on November 21. Pro Orantibusliterally translates to: “For those who pray.” In essence, we are offered an opportunity to offer a measure of prayer for those who spend their lives praying for us.

Hallowed Halls of Prayer – Carmelite Monastery Denmark ©, 2012

Today, the entire Church pauses for a moment of gratitude for those hidden religious whose prayers truly are vital to the health and well-being of the Body of Christ. These men and women live the exhortation to “pray without ceasing.”

Origen once stated:

“He ‘prays without ceasing’” who unites prayer to works and good works to prayer. Only in this way can we consider as realizable the principle of praying without ceasing (Origen, De orat. 12: PG 11, 452C, Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 658).”

As we honor Our Blessed Mother today, contemplating her purity, sacrifice and prayer, it is appropriate that we should also honor the contemplative religious whose daily labor of love sustains the work of the Universal Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “Mary is the perfect Orans (pray-er), a figure of the Church (p. 644, 2679).” Let us reciprocate the gift of prayer, both by thanking God for the contemplative religious who pray for us, and by invoking Our Lady’s intercession. Let us ask Her to protect their vocations by holding them tenderly to Her Immaculate Heart, and to send new laborers to the vineyard of Her Divine Son.

May Your Mother Intercede for us Lord ©, 2012. EA Photographer

Please join me in prayer for our monastic and cloistered contemplative Religious, including their seculars, tertiaries and oblates. Together let us thank God for all who pray.

Happy Pro-Orantibus Day 2012!


Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. J.M.J.

How Lovely The King’s Daughter As She Enters, Her Raiment Arrayed in Gold.

St. Anne and The Blessed Virgin ©, 2011. EA photographer

St. Anne and The Blessed Virgin ©, 2011. EA photographer

Happy Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple! This feast is of ancient lineage, and has its roots in the dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary the New in Jerusalem,, near the site of the ancient Temple. The Basilica was constructed by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in 543 A.D., and later destroyed in the year 614 during the siege of Jerusalem. While the Basilica was destroyed, the Feast in honor of Our Lady blossomed and spread. Through the early centuries it was preserved in the monasteries, and introduced into the Papal Chapel by Pope Gregory XI in 1372. Eventually the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary into the Temple became part of the Roman Missal.

This ancient feast commemorates a pivotal event in the life of the young Virgin Mary. According to Sacred Tradition, Mary was the only child of Anna and Joachim. In thanksgiving to God for the gift of Mary, Anna and Joachim brought the young girl to the Temple, and consecrated her to God. The Blessed Virgin remained at the temple – close to God-  to be raised and educated in the manner fitting of her high calling. From her youth, the Blessed Virgin lived a life of prayer, contemplation, sacrifice, and deep union with her Beloved.

One of the beauties of this feast is that it is universally celebrated by both the Eastern and Western arms of the Church. Indeed, to this day it is liturgically celebrated as the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Roman Catholics in  the Western Church, and the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple by Eastern Rite Catholics and Orthodox Churches.

In 1997, Blessed Pope John Paul II enhanced the beauty of this Feast with the inauguration of a new facet: Pro Orantibus Day. Beginning in 1997, Blessed Pope John Paul the Great set aside November 21 as a day of prayer for contemplative religious. As Mary’s young life was one set aside in deep union with God through prayer, how fitting that the Universal Church celebrates Her Consecration with a day of prayer for those who pray. Pro Orantibus Day is meant to be a celebration of gratitude for those in monastic and religious communities who support the church through the essential work of prayer. Without these dedicated men and women the rest of us could not survive.

My son is discerning a call to the contemplative life- he aspires to become a Carmelite priest. Several months ago we were in the car, driving home from Holy Hill, and having a chat about his aspired choice of vocations. I asked why he seemed to be drawn to life as a Carmelite instead of as a parish priest. He said, “Mom, the parish priests are the hands; without them we – as the Body of Christ – would be lost. We need the hands to function. But, the contemplative priests, they are the heart. Without the hands, the body bleeds out; without the heart there is no life’s blood. Mom, I choose to be the heart.” I remember choking back tears, silently thanking God for my son, and praying hard that he achieve the calling of his heart. (Please pray too, for not  only for my son, but for all the young men who are discerning vocations). While I recognize (as does he) that “Who can know the Mind of God?” and  God might very well have other plans for his future, I still loved his analogy.

With it, I have reflected on all the religious (both contemplative and active). who have enriched my life so abundantly. Digging way back into the memory bank, as a third-grader I recall  the tremendous respect I had for Sister Julliet, O.P. Likewise, with fondness I remember the Springfield Dominicans  who shaped my adolescent years. These industrious women of prayer instilled faith, while teaching  Algebra, Chemistry, Biology, Literature, and Music. I remember Sr. Mary Imelda standing as hall monitor, with her fifteen decade rosary slipping through her fingers as her lips moved in soundless  prayer. Her silent witness spoke volumes. Last year when Sr. Imelda finally reached her eternal reward at 101, I hoped and prayed she knew the gratitude that I felt for all those prayers that she, and Sr. Marilyn Brennan, Sr. Theophane, Sr. Patricia Burke, Sr. Catherine Marie, Sr. Mary Paul, Sr. Margaret Mary, Sr. Regina, Sr. Joseph and their community uttered on our behalf.

In college it was the prayers of the School Sisters of Notre Dame- Sr. Joselma, Sr. Carol Marie Wildt, Sr. Patricia Anne Obremski, Sr. Joan Penzenstadler, Sr. Isaac Jogues, Sr. Rose Bast, and many others that wove the tapestry of ora et labora. While in graduate school, I relied upon  the prayers and rigorous academic discipline of  the Jesuit Fathers.

 Now, as my little girls become young ladies- the prayers and guidance of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary: Sr. Marie, Sr. Ericka, Sr. Andre Marie, Sr. Anitza Marie, the effervescent Sr. Maria Faustina,  and their incredible community,  mean so much to our family. We are equally appreciative of the friendship and prayers of Mary Clare Stevens as she begins her new order: The Missionary Servants of the Holy Family, and our Franciscan song-bird (former choir director), Sr. Lorraine De Febbo.

 Most especially, today I pray with appreciation for the Carmelite Friars whose daily presence in our lives is such a tremendous source of grace.  Two of my dear friends, Fr. Redemptus Short, OCD  and Fr. Matthias Montgomery OCD, are celebrating this Feast on the other side of eternity this year, Through the Communion of Saints, I know they continue to pray for us. On August 22, the Feast of the Queenship of  Mary-we had the privilege to be present at Holy Hill as our friend Fr. Cyril Guise OCD celebrated his Diamond Jubilee- his sixtieth year as a Carmelite. How does one adequately say, “Thank you,” for sixty years of prayer? For these, and all the Carmelites, we are so grateful. On this the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple and Pro Orantibus Day,  let us praise God for the blessing of the heart- those who offer their lives in prayer for us.

Blessings, Ad Jesum Per Mariam,  MA JMJ