The Catechism of the Catholic Church #23
March 9, 1997
Brother John Raymond
In our modern world some people seek guides in the way of prayer. Some turn to eastern religions in search of a prayer guru. But the Catechism of the Catholic Church is our sure guide in prayer. It tells us to turn to the Saints who have gone before us. The Saints "share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings and their prayer today." (CCC #2683) In union with the Saints many and varied spiritualities have developed. Personal charisms of certain individuals who were witnesses of God's love have been passed on. For example, the spirit of Elijah was passed on to his disciple Elisha and to St. John the Baptist. Another example would be the followers of Franciscan spirituality. Some people feel drawn to a certain spirituality, so much so that they join a Third Order that shares in the religious community's life of prayer. Because of this many communities have Third Orders or associations for those who want to share their spirituality but who are not called to Religious Life (since Third Orders don't take vows.) The great St. Catherine of Siena was a Third Order Dominican. It is very beneficial to join a Third Order. One meets with people who share the same spirituality. These groups usually has one member of the religious order who guides it.
Spiritualities have arisen from other sources. Sometimes certain theological ideas and the pious customs of the people have spawned new ones. These have taken place within specific cultures and times. For instance, the elevation of the Sacred Host after the priest says, "This is My Body" at Mass came about as a result of a greater defense of the mystery of the Holy Eucharist in the Middle Ages. At this time is was more clearly defined when the bread became the Body of Christ at Mass. How this took place was discussed by such great minds as St. Thomas Aquinas. Also, people wanted to see the Sacred Host after the Words of the Lord were pronounced changing the bread into His Body. In large churches the only way for the people to see was for the priest to elevate the Sacred Host. This idea of seeing the Sacred Host and expressing one's adoration became a widespread practice. Around this time the first known exposition of the Blessed Sacrament took place. The Order founded by St. Bridget of Sweden used a glass ciborium for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on the altar. All these theological and liturgical movements of the Middle Ages are still having their effects on our Eucharistic spirituality today.
There are other guides other than these in the spiritual life. The first place has to be the Christian family. The family has been referred to as the domestic church. Here children learn to pray as the Church teaches and to persevere in it. For young children family prayer is the first contact with the living tradition of the Church. In the light of the Sacrament of Marriage parents have the primary duty to see that their children are schooled in the Christian life. For some this is understood as sending them to a parochial school. This is fine but the primary responsibility still rests with the parents. Daily family prayer is very important, especially in today's world.
Our spirituality is more than this prayer or that, it affects our whole life. Guides are important. The Saints, along with the various traditions within the Church, will always guide us along safe paths.