Saturday 9 April 2022

Thoughts on Prayer - Brother Craig Driscoll - CTS Devotions and Prayers

Thoughts on Prayer
Brother Craig Driscoll 
ISBN 9781860828812
eISBN 9781784693091
CTS Booklet D764

This was the second volume from the pen of Brother Craig Driscoll that I have read. The first was Conversational Prayer: A Constant Friendship with Jesus, also part of the CTS Prayers and Devotions Series. I enjoyed that volume so much I picked up a few others from Brother Craig. This book was a good little read. He appears to have two others available from the CTS, and two from other publishers. This booklet was published by the CTS in 2013 and the eBook edition released in 2017.  Over the last several years I have read over 250 volumes from the Catholic Truth Society. As mentioned this is the second by Brother Craig Driscoll that I have encountered. The description of this volume is:

“This little anthology of powerful quotes offers thoughts on prayer from a wide variety of saints and writers, combined with commentary from Brother Craig to guide you in your journey of prayer.

Drawing from a rich understanding of the Christian tradition of prayer, this little anthology of powerful quotes offers thoughts on prayer from a wide variety of saints and writers. Arranged around three key themes of Understanding Prayer, How to Pray, and Suggestions for Prayer, these quotes are combined with commentary from Brother Craig to guide you in your journey of prayer.”

The chapters in the work are:

Understanding Prayer
How to Pray
Suggestions for Prayer
Index of authors quoted

This volume begins with these words in the introduction:

“I love to read. As a monk I love to read about prayer. During my reading, over many years, I have written down various quotations from numerous authors. Here I have collected quotations about prayer. Each short section begins with one of these. I have tried to do my best to comment on and explain them. In reading and pondering these quotations please adapt them to your own life.

It is my hope that these quotations and my little thoughts about them will help nourish and enrich your prayer life.

God bless you.”

What follows in each of the three chapters are a quote from a source then Brother Craig expanding on and explaining the quote. The list of authors quoted is:

Blessed John Paul II
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
C. S. Lewis
Catherine Ann Driscoll
Dom John Chapman, OSB
Dom Vitalis Lehodey, OCSO
Dorothy Day
Edith Schaeffer
Edward Okewood
Emily Dickinson
Evelyn Underhill
Jacques Maritain
John Climacus
Mary Perkins Ryan
Metropolitan Archbishop Anthony Bloom
Mgr Ronald Knox
Michael Hollings
Michael Scanlan, TOR
Mother Mary Francis, PCC
Pope Francis (Jorge Mario Bergoglio)
Pope Pius XII
Raissa Maritain
Ralph Martin
Sister Julie de St Esprit, SNDN
Sister Mary Madeleva, CSC
Søren Kierkegaard
St Augustine
St Benedict
St Bonaventure
St Catherine of Siena
St Gertrude the Great
St Gregory the Great
St Peter of Alcantara
St Thomas Aquinas
Venerable Edel Quinn

I left the names as they appeared in the volume, obviously thee first two are now canonized. I have also sorted the list alphabetically. Some of the sources are only quoted once, and some only in one section of the book. A few are drawn from repeatedly. A sampling of some examples from the book are:

““After all, it is those who have a deep and real inner life who are best able to deal with the irritating details of life.”
Evelyn Underhill

This is so true. There are sometimes “irritating details of life”, but the person with a deep inner or spiritual life is better able to handle them and is less bothered by them. By having a deep inner life, which is mainly obtained by prayer, one can be better prepared. Difficulties and problems will still occur but one will not be taken unawares.

But perhaps the main reason for the truth of this quotation is if you have a “deep and real inner life” when something goes wrong you will “turn in” and not act from the “surface”. You will not speak or act without thinking. Perhaps you will remain in silence for a moment; to pray, to think, to ask God for help. You will pray to God about what should be done, asking what should be done first and then so on. You will pray to God for a plan of action. Being a person with “a deep and real inner life” you will know, as much as you can know, if the plan is from God. All this will happen and you will become, “best able to deal with the irritating details of life.””

“Making a space in life for God and prayer radically changes the whole of that life, if it is lived out seriously.”
Fr Michael Hollings

When I was in London in 1984 1 wrote to this well-known priest and author and he wrote me a note and agreed to let me visit him. He was very kind to receive me and the visit was interesting.

When a person makes “a space in life for God and prayer” - that is, faithfully gives time to pray to God each day - what happens is after some time a radical change takes place in his or her life. Only God satisfies them.

Very simply, as your love of prayer and your time praying increases, you will lose interest in things you were interested in before. Good things, good interests but not related to holiness will gently (or suddenly) fall away. Not because they are wrong, but because now God has become your all.

But this will not just happen. It will not happen just because you pray. It will happen if you live out your prayer seriously. Then it will “radically change” your life.”

““If you keep on praying you will become a saint.”
Dorothy Day

Some people do not consider becoming a saint. It seems too lofty. But it is not. Everyone is called to be a saint! And the road to sanctity is travelled by prayer.
Becoming a saint is not something one does on one’s own. It is co-operating with God’s grace. It is being virtuous. It is striving to do what is right. It is opening up one’s heart to receive God’s love and to love others without measure. Becoming a saint is an inner transformation. This inner transformation and the increase of the virtues is helped by prayer.

But the quotation reads, “If you keep on praying” it will lead you to “become a saint.” You cannot just pray once in a while and become a saint. You need be faithful to prayer. Pray each day to live in a holy way, to give a good example, to increase in all the virtues. You would do well to pray each day for greater holiness. Pray to become a saint.

The very many apostolic works for the poor and for social justice that Dorothy Day spent her long life doing were very demanding. As an elderly woman she was arrested for peacefully protesting the ill treatment of migrant workers in California. She worked tirelessly to help those in need by her works and many writings. I met her once briefly and cherish the honour and memory, but those who knew her well tell of her daily attendance at Holy Mass and the large amount of time she spent in prayer and spiritual reading. All her good works and the strength to do them came from her praying. It has borne fruit, for the cause of Dorothy Day’s beatification has been opened.”

““Prayer feeds our lives.”
Michael Scanlan, TOR

Life makes many demands on one; demands of all kinds, physical, mental and emotional. Demands are made on one’s time. They often come unexpectedly, or they always seem to come unexpectedly. Then there are the daily expected demands which, even if small, being multiple and daily, are often the most draining. People are running themselves ragged. They are tired, not getting enough sleep and not eating healthily.

Like food feeds one’s body, prayer feeds one’s life. Always. It never fails. That does not mean that all your problems and difficulties will instantly go away, or that you will now cope with everything easily and smoothly. What it does mean is that by praying you will be given strength. You will receive strength to deal with problems. It may be greater physical strength. It may be the “strength” to think of a great way to solve a problem. It may be some other kind of strength. Whatever kind it is, it will be helpful strength. And the more you pray, the more strength you will receive.

Prayer feeds your soul. Prayer feeds your life. But this cannot be fully explained in words. You must experience prayer’s nourishing power fully to realize this truth.”

““We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us.”
C. S. Lewis

One must be truly oneself before God in prayer. No pretence, no masks, no acting. One should strive to be truly who one is before God.

“We must lay before” God “what is in us”. Sometimes sins, even already forgiven sins, hinder some people from praying. They feel unworthy. This is a trick of the devil! Just as he uses discouragement, the devil (who as St Teresa of Avila wrote will do anything to get people not to pray) will use this sense of unworthiness to try to convince people not to pray. Do not fall for it! Prayer is not about worthiness but your need to be in communion and communication with God.

When you approach God in prayer there is no need to put on a “holy” mask or try to impress him. God knows you completely and wants you to come to him just as you are. Perhaps you may find this difficult - if you do then pray to God for help, for help being yourself when you pray.”

““Retreat into an interior room and there wait upon God and feel his good presence.”
St Catherine of Siena

St Catherine of Siena led a very busy life helping people, travelling, writing letters and so on. She saw how busy life can be. The saint advised that one should have a “room” in one’s soul into which one can retreat. Anything this great saint advised should be followed.

So, throughout the day, stop, perhaps close your eyes, even for few minutes, and pray or “wait upon God and feel his good presence.” You can do this at work, on a bus or while having a cup of tea. Anywhere! It might help you to imagine a room and design it to your liking.

The more hectic or fast-paced your day is, the more you need to do this. This, of course, takes effort. You could have reminders: maybe a little note where you work. It could be one word, private to you - “STOP” or “NOW” or any word that reminds you. Or keep a sacred image on your desk; or you could use your watch or a clock as a reminder. At every hour or every half hour, retreat into your interior room. While there, “wait upon God” and “feel his good pleasure”.”

I hope those few samples give you a feel for the volume. This is a good little volume to read. It is a book I benefited from. And I am certain one that all who read will benefit from. The teachings are real and down to earth. And the quotes give us space to go deeper. This book feels like a little primer on prayer, and it gives many ways to incorporate prayer. I recommend this great resource by Brother Craig Driscoll and from the Catholic Truth Society.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Brother Craig Driscoll:
Of the Cross a Biography of Blessed Edith Stein
Our Lady, an Angel, and Sister Agnes: the story of the wondrous events at Akita, Japan
Thérèse - Teacher of Prayer
The Coming Chastisement

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