Lex Orandi Lex Credendi
Br. John Raymond
Jan. 22, 1995
There is an old saying in Latin, "Lex Orandi Lex Credendi." If
your Latin is like mine you probably don't have the slightest idea what
that means! Fortunately I heard someone use this expression who gave its
translation - we pray as we believe. Now, this may not seem like an
earth-shattering revelation but many times such short, simple and concise
expressions can really help us. How? Let me give an example.
Once I was invited to attend a prayer session where a woman was
going to teach everybody a "new" way to pray. I thought this would prove
interesting and I was not let down. First, it is important to point out
that everyone at the meeting was Catholic. The woman began to teach
Buddhist techniques of praying with the closing one's eyes, breathing
slowly, relaxing the body and emptying the mind by concentrating on a
mantra (A short phrase or word which one repeats over and over again.) I
asked the woman what the mantra meant, as it was definitely not a word in
English. The word was in a language, which I have now forgotten, but the
lady did not know what it meant so I definitely did not like her answer.
Some of the other people there were also worried - and rightly so.
She was teaching a Buddhist form of prayer which may be good for Buddhists
but not for Christians. It could be a wonderful technique for relaxing but
not for praying. Also, it does not follow the Lex Orandi Lex Lex Credendi. It was totally devoid of the Christian Faith.
I emphasize this little expression because in our present age we
have people going around teaching Buddhist and Hindu forms of prayer to
Christians - and some are swallowing it. There is a great fascination now
with Eastern spiritualities in the West. I once met a young man who should
have been Christian, given his background. Yet, when I talked with him it
turned out that Our Lord for him was only a great guru or teacher and not
the Son of God. He had totally lost his faith and had become a Hindu.
A great inspiration to be Eastern, among Catholics, is the famous
Trappist monk, Thomas Merton. Yet the story is told that when he was a
young college student he had a question but the answer he received from a
guru was to read the works of St. John of the Cross, the great Doctor of
the Church on prayer. Many searchers in Eastern spirituality do not know
about the rich spiritual heritage contained in their own Catholic Faith
- the writings of the Desert Fathers and the saints, especially St. John
of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese of Lisieux.
The Church has the fullness of the truth. Other religions have only
a part of the truth, some a very small part, as the Second Vatican Council
reminds us. Let us pray for those who have become mixed up in other
religions and their forms of prayer. With so much New Age out there, some
of which is taken from Eastern spiritualities, we must be careful. We can
learn all we need from our own Catholic Tradition. Let us remember for our
own rule of discernment regarding books and techniques of prayer Lex
Orandi Lex Credendi.