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Questions & Answers About Prayer, Fasting & Blessings

What is the prayer book from which priests and religious read?

Called the Liturgy of the Hours or the Breviary, it is one of the principal ways, along with the Mass, that the Church seeks to pray unceasingly throughout the world. Priests and religious use the Breviary as a staple in their prayer life. It is a form of prayer mandated for them and optional for the laity. It structures prayer during the day: Office of the Readings, Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline.

What constitutes this book?

It consists of Scripture lessons, readings from the Church fathers and saints, prayers composed by the Church, and most prominently, the psalms. The psalms are recited and chanted because they were the prayers Jesus would have known by heart and prayed daily. The psalms consecrate the Breviary as the prayer book of Christ. There are also hymns in the book. Several editions and translations exist. In the United States there is both an edited one volume and a complete four volume set.

What is the purpose?

It insures prayer and gives unity to the Church’s prayer all over the world. When used by priests, it allows them to imitate Christ in rendering constant intercession for the people.

What is the origin of the Angelus prayer?

Churches would call people to prayer three times a day by ringing the church bell. This was introduced by Pope Urban II in 1095 AD to invoke Mary’s protection upon the crusaders. After the conflict, it was retained as a special way to thank God three times a day for the blessings of redemption merited through Christ.

What is the Rosary?

What is it not? The Rosary is a collection of many prayers into one; and yet, it is a simple prayer, introduced by St. Dominic in the thirteenth century and highly approved by the Church. It is called the Rosary because it is composed of a series of beautiful prayers and meditations about the principal stages in Christ’s life, which are strung together one after the other like a garland, in other words, like so many beautiful and fragrant roses. Christ’s life is divided into the joyful, sorrowful, glorious and luminous mysteries.

Why do Catholics repeat the same prayers in the Rosary? Is it not vain repetition?

Is it vain repetition to breathe one breath after another? Does a lover ever tire of telling his beloved, “I love you”? No, there is nothing vain here. Like the angels who eternally praise God as “Holy, Holy, Holy,” we say certain holy prayers and praises over and over. The core prayer is the HAIL MARY, sandwiched between an OUR FATHER at the beginning of each decade and closed with a GLORY BE and an optional FATIMA ASPIRATION. There are five events recalled and meditated upon. The opening prayer is the APOSTLES’ CREED and after an OUR FATHER, three HAIL MARYs are said (for an increase of faith, hope, and charity). The Rosary concludes with the HAIL HOLY QUEEN.

Outside the Rosary, other prayers of importance for the Catholic would be the ACT OF CONTRITION, the REGINA CAELI (substituted for the Angelus during the Easter season), GRACE BEFORE & AFTER MEALS, the STATIONS OF THE CROSS, and various novenas and litanies, etc.

Why do Catholics also do things like fast?

Actually, there is far less of it than there used to be. Fasting and abstinence (avoiding meat) was once much more strictly regulated. Unfortunately, many people have misunderstood the change regarding Friday abstinence. It was not utterly revoked. Rather, one could substitute another form of penance or mortification. Many people either did not know this or simply failed to sacrifice something else. Catholics fast because Jesus fasted (Matthew 4:12). Indeed, he told us to fast (Matthew 1:16,18). Also, St. Paul fasted (2 Corinthians 4:10) and the other apostles did so too (2 Corinthians 6:5). Good people under both the old and the new dispensation have fasted as a sacrifice to God, to firm up their discipline, and to prolong their life (1 Corinthians 9:27).

Why do Catholics abstain from meat on the Fridays of Lent and are asked to render some similar penance on Fridays throughout the year?

It is not because meat is bad, but precisely because it is good. We abstain as a small sacrifice in remembrance of the death of our Lord on a Friday. Today, the Church requires that Catholics abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Catholics are both to abstain from meat and to fast.

What is a blessing?

It is a holy action whereby the priest invokes the divine blessing on persons or things, just as Jesus did when he blessed children, bread, fish, and other objects.

What does the Church bless through her ministers?

The Church blesses houses, fields, persons, and about any object that can benefit people.

Why does the Church use holy water?

It is a suitable substance, reminding us of our baptism and faith, to bless people and things. It is a wonderful symbol (sacramental) to wash us from venial sin and to protect us against the evil spirit.

When do Catholics use holy water?

Catholic Christians sign themselves with the water upon entering and leaving the church. They also use it at home: upon rising and retiring, before prayer time, upon going out, etc.

Why are people sometimes sprinkled with holy water at Mass?

It is because we should be cleansed and sanctified when we enter into God’s house and his abiding presence there. We also recall our baptism.

For more such material, contact me about getting my book, CATHOLIC QUESTIONS & ANSWERS.

One Response

  1. Is it ok to host an engagement dinner on good Friday? (A dinner for the two families to meet.)

    FATHER JOE: No, it is not okay. It is a day of both fast and abstinence. It is a day that commemorates Christ’s death on the Cross. There can be no parties. Catholics would have to refrain from attending. I would argue that such a party is sinful for Catholics.

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