The Catechism of the Catholic Church #25
March 30, 1997
Brother John Raymond
The Catechism of the Catholic Church discusses places favorable to prayer. Certainly the first one we are familiar with is our parish church. This Easter Sunday we will gather there to celebrate the Lord's Resurrection. "The church, the house of God, is the proper place for the liturgical prayer of the parish community. It is also the privileged place for adoration of the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. The choice of a favorable place (for prayer) is not a matter of indifference for true prayer." (CCC #2691) The community gathering at a particular place for prayer goes back to the Old Testament. Certainly people went up to Jerusalem to pray at the Temple as a community on special feast days. The Jews also gathered at the local synagogue on the Sabbath for prayer and the reading of Sacred Scripture. Once the early Christians were no longer under persecution they built churches for communal worship. Before this they would set aside a particular part of a person's house to meet for worship. We belong to a community of believers and form one Body in Christ. At church we gather to worship God as a community.
The church, however, is not only for community prayer. We must remember that in our churches Christ is present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the tabernacle. Praying before Him in the Blessed Sacrament makes a difference in our prayer and also makes a difference to Jesus. Just as we like another person's company so does Jesus like ours. He is not indifferent to our presence even though we, unfortunately, are sometimes indifferent to His. Jesus is not present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity everywhere as He is in the Holy Eucharist. Of course God is present to us everywhere. But God became Man to meet us on more familiar terms to our human nature, with a physical Person-to-person encounter. He continues His Presence in our tabernacles out of love for us.
Some people remain at home on Sundays claiming they can just as well pray at home. The Catechism reminds us that this is not true. Praying with our brethren-in-Christ and being in the Presence of Christ is not the same as praying in our home. Praying in the home has never been understood this way even from earliest times. Early Christians gathered on Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist as a community. They knew something was wrong if someone absented themselves from the Sunday Eucharist. Certainly Jesus gathered with His Apostles for communal prayer. He valued community prayer so much that He instituted His Eucharistic Presence within a setting of communal prayer. So, to stay at home on Sunday to pray, when not a case of necessity, is not a Christian attitude.
Now, with all that said, we can also pray at home. To foster prayer in our home it is a good idea to set up a prayer corner. "In the Christian family, this kind of little oratory fosters prayer in common." (CCC #2691)
Monasteries have also traditionally been places for people to gather to pray. They are places that further the participation of the faithful in the Liturgy of the Hours. They also provide the faithful with the necessary solitude for more intense personal prayer.
Finally, pilgrimages to shrines have traditionally been special occasions for renewal in prayer. I will never forget my pilgrimage to the Holy Land. One couple on pilgrimage with me had been there over ten times. They just felt drawn to return every year. Shrines can be places of special graces for us. There are plenty here in the United States maybe one nearby to you.
Being human and not angels we are affected by where we pray. Not all places of prayer are equal, as we have seen. Now is the time for us to make space for that prayer place in our lives.