Prayer—Public and Private
IT was to believers as a whole that St. Peter referred when he spoke of " a holy priesthood." As members of Christ's Mystical Body, we share in His priesthood. And this means that, in the Mass, we offer ourselves, soul and body, a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God." We do this in the
fellowship of His Church, a fellowship which is visible and tangible.
But this does not exclude private prayer or make such individual devotions of negligible value. In his recent encyclical, Mystici Corporls Christi, His Holiness explicitly condemns this view. There are those, he says, " who suggest that private prayers to God are to be accounted of little value, inasmuch as it it rather the public prayers offered in the name of the Church which have real worth. since they proceed from the mystical Body of Jesus Christ. This suggestion is quite untrue."
The very term " mystical" should be sufficient to refute the idea which the Pope condemns. Membership of this Body, unlike membership of a particular congregation at a particular time, is a permanent relationship. The holy priesthood which is ours cannot be put on for special occasions, nor can it be discarded when its obligations are in
convenient. When Pius XII referred to private devotions, he was not suggesting that we can, in our devotions, isolate ourselves from our fellow Catholics. However private our prayers may be, they will be the prayers of one who has been incorporated with the whole Church and who, therefore, can never permit himself, especially in his devotional life, to become self-centred. Moreover, it is in the liturgy of the Mass that we find the model and the inspiration which at all times should govern our intercourse with God. We shall have need to adapt it to our individual needs and to the requirements of special occasions. But, even though we never use its actual language or follow its order, we shall find, if it has made its due impression on us, that we are praying in the spirit of the liturgy. Its echoes will be still reverberating in our souls, and the sense of fellowship which those echoes awaken will fortify and console us in what otherwise would be a terrifying loneliness. The communion of saints is the background of even the most private prayers.
STANLEY B. 'Ames.