For Those Who Pray

Proorantibus2013-color2Tomorrow is the Feast of the Presentation of Mary. It was also designated a day to pray for cloistered religious – Pro Orantibus Day, meaning “for those who pray.” Here are some thoughts on this special opportunity we have to offer prayers, encouragement and material support to those who give their lives in contemplation as a hidden sacrifice.

“The primary purpose of Pro Orantibus Day (“For Those Who Pray”) is to thank God for the tremendous gift of the cloistered and monastic vocation in the Church’s life,” noted Rev. Thomas Nelson, O. Praem., National Director of the Institute on Religious Life. He added, “Since the lives of these women and men religious dedicated to prayer and sacrifice is often hidden, this annual celebration reminds us of the need to support their unique mission within the Body of Christ.”

This special mission consists in laying down their lives in prayer for the needs of the Church, and for obtaining the graces needed by all people. Recognizing the tremendous importance of this, Pope John Paul II asked that this ecclesial event be observed worldwide each year on the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Presentation in the Temple. It is a special day on which to thank those in the cloistered and monastic life, and to remind ourselves of the need to provide spiritual and material support “for those who pray.”

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, addressing a group of cloistered Dominican nuns in Rome, referred to such religious as “the heart” which provides blood to the rest of the Body of Christ. Pope Francis has also demonstrated his love and support for cloistered religious by visiting with them during his trip to Brazil for World Youth Day.

So what can we do? Here are several ideas:

  • Participate in a novena
  • Offer up Masses
  • Write letters and cards to contemplative communities
  • Visit monasteries in your area or while traveling
  • Make a special point of teaching your family, religious education classes, youth groups, and others about the great value of the contemplative life
  • Volunteer a couple hours in service of a contemplative community, often an extra hand is needed to take care of the exterior chapel, exterior grounds or other projects
  • Adopt a contemplative community as a family, CCD class, or parish and ask the community what their needs are (labor, financial support, other needs – stationery for letter-writing, yarn for knitting or crafts (I know several older sisters who spend their time making baby blankets to donate to shelters for abused women and children)
  • Adopt an aspirant or novice to a contemplative community and encourage and support them in their vocation – this could be giving to an organization like The Labouré Society in his or her honor so they may enter formation, or offering prayers for new vocations.
  • Make a point of buying from contemplative communities. Most contemplative communities are independent (they do not receive income/financial support from the Church, their local diocese, or their religious order) and rely on the work of their hands to support themselves. You can find monasteries that make high quality candies, chocolates, fruitcake, breads, cheeses, soaps and lotions, coffee and teas, calendars, Christmas and special occasion cards, candles, beer, wine and spirits, and many other products. A number of religious communities have recently released excellent music recordings. Other contemplative communities provide services such as bookbinding. Others make and/or distribute altar breads and liturgical vestments and linens. Because they are smaller shops, they can often accommodate custom orders at a more reasonable cost, whereas the larger companies cannot. Where does your parish order its altar breads? Do you know a young man who will be ordained and will need a stole or vestment set in the Spring?

These are just a few ideas – pray and talk with your friends, family, and a contemplative community you’d like to support and see what other ideas the Holy Spirit brings to mind.  In Pope Benedict XVI’s words, “Let us thank the Lord for the sisters and brothers who have embraced this mission, dedicating themselves entirely to prayer and living on what they receive from Providence. Let us pray in our turn for them and for new vocations, and let us work to support monasteries in their material needs.”

Eternal Father,

We praise and thank you for those sisters and brothers who have embraced the gift of the cloistered and monastic life. Their prayerful presence is indispensable to the Church’s life and mission, and is the foundation of the New Evangelization.

As we celebrate Pro Orantibus Day, let us honor the holiness and glory of the Blessed Virgin. May she, who was presented in the Temple, intercede so that many young people might dedicate themselves entirely to Your divine service by hidden lives of contemplative prayer and selfless sacrifice.

May all of us be mindful of the spiritual and material needs of those who commit their lives to seeking God by fixing their gaze on those things which are eternal.
We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Visit CloisteredLife.com for more resources on Pro Orantibus Day and information about the cloistered and monastic life.

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