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Because we can’t be happy on our own: Prayer as communal

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Jeffrey Bruno

Fr. Peter John Cameron, OP - published on 09/10/23

Have you noted this surprising line in the Catechism? God wills to make humans holy, but not as individuals ...

The Catechism states something we may find surprising: God wills to make human beings holy and to save them, but “not as individuals without any bond or link between them, but rather to make them into a people who might acknowledge him and serve him in holiness” (781—emphasis added).

This is the reason, St. Thomas Aquinas tells us, that we say “Our Father” and not “My Father” when praying the Lord’s Prayer. “God’s love for us is not a private affair, but a communal reality.”

Prayer is meant to be an antidote to our alienation. Servant of God Luigi Giussani reflects on a common problem: “The more we discover our needs, the more we become aware that we cannot resolve them on our own.” He says that true solitariness “does not come from being physically alone but from the discovery that a fundamental problem of ours cannot find its solution in us. The discovery of our powerlessness to achieve happiness is also the discovery of what we have most in common with others: This powerlessness is what is most human in each of us.”

Is this, then, a reason to despair? No! It is an occasion of grace: 

One who truly discovers and lives the experience of powerlessness and solitude does not remain alone. Only one who has experienced powerlessness to its depths, and hence personal solitude, feels close to others and is easily drawn to them. Prayer is a plea made together, in common.

It is important to make the habit of praying with another or praying as part of a prayer group an integral element of our life of faith. 

Prayer is abandoning ourselves to the belonging which is the life of God. When we — together — give ourselves over to this holy belonging — this holy communion — our powerlessness recedes, for “belonging is the ultimate criterion for facing all reality. Belonging to the Mystery means that the Mystery penetrates all our flesh and bones and all we do.” It saves us from the trap of individualism. And it forms our hearts and minds to appreciate with greater thankfulness the blessings that flow from our union with the Sacred Assembly at Mass on Sunday.

~

Follow Fr. Cameron’s series on prayer here.

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