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Here is an Aleteia translation of Pope Francis’ preface to a book published January 23, Cardinal Angelo Comastri’s “Praying Today: A Challenge to Be Overcome.” The book is the first of the Vatican’s releases for the Year of Prayer.
Prayer is the breath of faith; it is its most proper expression. Like a silent cry that comes out of the heart of those who believe and trust in God. It is not easy to find words to express this mystery. How many definitions of prayer we can gather from saints and teachers of spirituality, as well as from the reflections of theologians! And yet, it can only ever be described in the simplicity of those who live it. The Lord, on the other hand, has warned us that when we pray we should not waste words, deluding ourselves that we will be heard because of this. Rather, he taught us to prefer silence and to entrust ourselves to the Father, who knows what things we need even before we ask him (cf. Mt. 6:7-8).
The Ordinary Jubilee of 2025 is now just around the corner. How can we prepare for this event, so important for the life of the Church, if not through prayer? The year 2023 was set aside for the rediscovery of the conciliar teachings, contained especially in the four Constitutions of Vatican II. This is a way to keep alive the task that the fathers who gathered in the Council wanted to place in our hands, so that, through its implementation, the Church could rejuvenate its face and proclaim in a suitable language the beauty of the faith to the men and women of our time.
Now is the time to prepare for the year 2024, which will be devoted entirely to prayer. Indeed, in our time the need is being felt more and more strongly for a true spirituality, capable of responding to the great questions that arise every day in our lives, provoked also by a world scenario that is certainly not serene. The ecological-economic-social crisis aggravated by the recent pandemic; the wars, especially the one in Ukraine, that sow death, destruction and poverty; the culture of indifference and discard tends to suffocate aspirations for peace and solidarity and to marginalize God from personal and social life… These phenomena combine to create a heavy atmosphere that prevents many people from living with joy and serenity.
Therefore, we need our prayer to rise with greater insistence toward the Father, so that he may hear the voice of those who turn to him with the confidence that they will be answered. This year dedicated to prayer should in no way detract from the initiatives that each particular Church feels it must plan for its daily pastoral efforts. On the contrary, it harkens back to the foundation on which the various pastoral plans should be drawn up and find consistency. It is a time, both personally and in community form, for being able to rediscover the joy of prayer in its variety of forms and expressions. A significant time to increase the certainty of our faith and trust in the intercession of the Virgin Mary and the saints. In short, its a year in which to experience something like a “school of prayer,” without taking anything for obvious or for granted, especially regarding our way of praying, but making our own every day the words of the disciples when they asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).
In this year we are invited to become more humble and to make room for the prayer that flows from the Holy Spirit. It is he who knows how to put in our hearts and on our lips the right words to be heard by the Father. Prayer in the Holy Spirit is the kind that unites us with Jesus and enables us to adhere to the Father’s will. The Spirit is the inner Teacher who shows the way forward; thanks to Him, the prayer of even one person can become the prayer of the whole Church, and vice versa. Nothing like prayer according to the Holy Spirit makes Christians feel united as the family of God, who knows how to recognize the needs of each one and make them become the invocation and intercession of all. I am sure that bishops, priests, deacons, and catechists will find in this year the most suitable ways to place prayer at the basis of the proclamation of hope that Jubilee 2025 intends to make resonate in this troubled time. The contribution of consecrated persons, especially communities of contemplative life, will be very valuable for this.
I hope that at all the shrines of the world, privileged places for prayer, initiatives will increase so that every pilgrim may find an oasis of serenity and depart with a heart filled with consolation. May personal and communal prayer become unceasing, without interruption, according to the will of the Lord Jesus (cf. Lk. 18:1), so that the Kingdom of God may grow and the Gospel may reach every person who asks for love and forgiveness. To facilitate this Year of Prayer, a number of short texts have been produced which, in the simplicity of their language, will help to enter into the various dimensions of prayer. I thank the authors for their contribution and gladly place these “Notes” in your hands, so that everyone may rediscover the beauty of entrusting oneself to the Lord with humility and joy. And do not forget to pray for me as well.