The Secret Effect of Rote Prayer
One of the deep treasures of the Catholic Church is the heritage of prayers that have been handed down from those who have gone before us. When we are uncertain how to pray, they give us the words. When we seek to form our consciences, they provide guidance. When we feel alone in our position, they provide sustenance. Amongst a group, they establish fellowship and unity. They also provide real, tangible proof of the deep life of faith and prayer that our ancestors in faith have held. We make common practice of praying both free prayer and rote prayer daily, committing to memory our favorites. There are quite a few that we love, which we have linked to this blog as a handy resource. (You can access them by hovering over the Prayer tab above and clicking the title of the prayer in the drop down menu.)
But there is another, secret benefit to rote prayer that I have experienced regularly since my conversion. Have you ever woken in the middle of the night with a song, word, or phrase in your mind? When I am praying the Liturgy of the Hours regularly, especially in its chanted form, it is not unusual for me to wake with a Psalm when I am tending babies in the night. Other times it will be a snip of a hymn or praise song, or a piece of memorized prayer.
Last night, oddly enough, I woke with the Sanctus line repeating over and over in my mind: “Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua.” Waaay back in our homeschooling days, at least five years ago, we memorized the Sanctus in Latin. We have not prayed it commonly, except when attending Mass at the shrine, which uses the Novus Ordo with the Sanctus and Agnus Dei in Latin. So I have prayed it recently, but not terribly regularly. Stranger yet, I couldn’t find the English translation without struggle, yet the Latin flowed easily through my mind. “The heavens and earth are full of your glory.” I focused my sleep-weary mind and found both the English and Latin, repeating the whole prayer. Usually, in Mass, it is the other way around as I struggle to recall the Latin phrases.
As I pray for protection over my vulnerable sleeping mind, perhaps this is one way my guardian angel seeks to protect me, by whispering prayers to me in the night. It is, for sure, a much better way to awake (if one must awake in the wee hours) than to an inflicted dream of torment.