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Pope assures that teaching how to pray is an essential task of the Church

Pope Francis reflected on the Church as a teacher of prayer, and affirmed that "without faith, everything collapses; and without prayer, faith is extinguished." 

David Fernández Alonso-April 14, 2021-Reading time: 5 minutes
the pope at the audience

Photo: ©2021 Catholic News Service / U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

This morning's General Audience was held at 9:15 a.m., as usual, in the Library of the Vatican Apostolic Palace. We miss those audiences with the public, in which the Pope personally addresses the faithful gathered in the Paul VI Hall or in St. Peter's Square.

The Pope, continuing the cycle of catecheses on prayer, focused his meditation on the theme: "The Church, Teacher of Prayer". After summarizing his catechesis in the different languages, the Holy Father addressed special greetings to the faithful of different languages. The General Audience concluded with the recitation of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.

The Church is a teacher of prayer

"The Church is a great school of prayer," Francis began. "Many of us have learned to say our first prayers from the knees of our parents or grandparents. Perhaps we cherish the memory of our mother and father, who taught us to say our prayers before going to bed. Those moments of recollection are often those in which parents listen to some intimate confidences of their children and can give their Gospel-inspired advice. Then, along the path of growth, there are other encounters, with other witnesses and teachers of prayer (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2686-2687). It is good to remember them.

"The life of a parish and of every Christian community is marked by the times of liturgy and community prayer. That gift which we received in childhood with simplicity, we realize that it is a great patrimony, a very rich patrimony, and that it must be deepened in the experience of prayer more and more (cf. ibid., 2688). The garment of faith is not starched, it develops with us; it is not rigid, it grows, even through moments of crisis and resurrection; in fact, you cannot grow without moments of crisis, because crisis makes you grow: it is a necessary form of growth to enter into crisis".

Prayer is our strength

"And the breath of faith is prayer: we grow in faith as much as we learn to pray. After certain passages of life, we realize that without faith we would not have been able to move forward and that prayer has been our strength. Not only personal prayer, but also that of our brothers and sisters, and that of the community that has accompanied and supported us, that of the people who know us, that of the people we ask to pray for us".

Without faith, everything collapses; and without prayer, faith is extinguished. Faith and prayer, together. There is no other way. Therefore, the Church, which is the home and school of communion, is the home and school of faith and prayer.

Pope FrancisGeneral Audience of April 14, 2021

"For this reason too," the Pontiff continues, emphasizing the Church's teaching on prayer, "communities and groups dedicated to prayer are continually springing up in the Church. Some Christians even feel the call to make prayer the principal activity of their day. In the Church there are monasteries, convents and hermitages where people consecrated to God live and which often become centers of spiritual irradiation. They are communities of prayer that radiate spirituality. They are small oases where intense prayer is shared and fraternal communion is built day by day. They are vital cells, not only for the fabric of the Church, but also for society itself. Think, for example, of the role that monasticism has played in the birth and growth of European civilization, and in other cultures as well. Praying and working in community moves the world forward. It is a driving force.

Where is the prayer?

"Everything in the Church is born in prayer, and everything grows in prayer. When the Enemy, the Evil One, wants to fight against the Church, he does it first of all by trying to dry up her sources, by preventing her from praying. For example, we see it in certain groups that agree to carry out ecclesial reforms, changes in the life of the Church... There are all the organizations, there are the media that inform everyone... But prayer is not seen, it is not prayed. "We have to change this, we have to make this decision that is a bit strong...". It is interesting the proposal, it is interesting, only with the discussion, only with the media, but where is the prayer?"

"Prayer is what opens the door to the Holy Spirit, who inspires us to move forward. Changes in the Church without prayer are not changes in the Church, they are changes in the group. And when the Enemy - as I said - wants to fight the Church, he does it first of all by trying to dry up its sources, by preventing it from praying, and [by making it] make these other proposals. If prayer ceases, for a while it seems that everything can go on as usual - by inertia - but before long the Church realizes that it has become an empty shell, that it has lost its backbone, that it no longer possesses the source of warmth and love."

The Pope reflected on the life of the saints: "Holy men and women do not have an easier life than others; on the contrary, they also have their own problems to face and, what is more, they are often the object of opposition. But their strength is prayer, which they always draw from the inexhaustible "well" of Mother Church. With prayer they feed the flame of their faith, as was done with the oil of the lamps. And so they go forward, walking in faith and hope. The saints, who often count for little in the eyes of the world, are in reality those who sustain it, not with the weapons of money and power, of the media and so on, but with the weapons of prayer".

The oil of prayer

"The lamp of the Church's true faith will always be lit on earth as long as the oil of prayer exists. It is what carries the faith and carries our poor, weak and sinful life, but prayer carries it surely. It is a question we Christians must ask ourselves: do I pray? do we pray? how do I pray? like parrots or do I pray with my heart? how do I pray? do I pray sure that I am in the Church and do I pray with the Church, or do I pray a little according to my ideas and let my ideas become prayer? This is a pagan prayer, not a Christian prayer. I repeat: we can conclude that the lamp of faith will always be lit on earth as long as there is the oil of prayer".

Praying and teaching to pray

And almost in conclusion, Francis affirmed that "this is an essential task of the Church: to pray and to teach how to pray".

"Transmit from generation to generation the lamp of faith with the oil of prayer. The lamp of faith that illuminates, that really puts things right as they are, but that can only go on with the oil of prayer. If not, it goes out. Without the light of this lamp, we could not see the way to evangelize, indeed, we could not see the way to believe well; we could not see the brotherly faces to approach and serve; we could not illuminate the room where we gather in community... Without faith, everything collapses; and without prayer, faith is extinguished. Faith and prayer, together. There is no other way. Therefore, the Church, which is the home and school of communion, is the home and school of faith and prayer".

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