Archdiocese hosts gathering about different forms of prayer

By Michelle Martiin | Staff writer
Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Archdiocese hosts gathering about different forms of prayer

Following last fall's Archdiocesan Day of Renewal, the archdiocese hosted Encountering Christ in Daily Prayer on April 13, 2024 at St. Raymond de Pentafort Parish in Mount Prospect. The day, facilitated by Josh Danis, director of diocesan and parish engagement for Hallow engaged participants in addressing many forms of prayer both personally and in a parish community. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Josh Danis, director of diocesan and parish engagement for Hallow engaged participants in addressing many forms of prayer both personally and in a parish community. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Mary Jo Peterson listens to participants share stories about their daily prayer life during the opening presentation. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Participants discuss prayer in their daily lives during the workshop. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Peggy Bradley pairs up with a participant to discuss prayers. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Jill Heinking from St. Raymond de Pentafort Parish looks over a handout. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Peggy Friewer talks with Sarak Pekar, Vicariate II director of renewal, after praying for each other during an exercise. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Rick Landry prays with Jill Heinking from St. Raymond during an exercise. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Peggy Friewer looks over a prayer. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic
Tina Miller smiles during a story shared by the presenter. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic

Catholics from across the archdiocese gathered at St. Raymond de Penafort Parish April 13 to learn about different methods of prayer.

“Encountering Christ in Daily Prayer” featured Josh Danis, director of parish and diocesan engagement for the Hallow prayer app, and was aimed at helping parishioners improve their own prayer lives and encouraging a culture of prayer in parishes.

“As we have been working on, ‘What does spiritual renewal look like?’, we’ve always known that having a strong culture of prayer in parishes is really important, and helping people strengthen their prayer life is really important,” said Tim Weiske, director of the Department of Parish Vitality and Mission.

Many Catholics grew up learning traditional prayers, such as the Our Father and Hail Mary, but that’s not necessarily most effective or engaging form of prayer for everyone, Weiske said, recalling moving to Chicago as a young adult and having his first experience of being moved by Taizé prayer.

“Many Catholics have not been exposed to the variety of Catholic prayers that exist,” said Weiske, counting himself among that number. “And as the son of a deacon and brother of a priest, how many other people are the same? … As faithful Catholics, what are ways we might pray that really help connect us to Jesus Christ?”

Danis said that when people think about prayer, they should consider three questions: What do they do to pray, how do they do it, and why do they do it?

“Why we pray is the most important,” Danis said. “Why we pray should inform the technique and the methods we use.”

People should also choose ways that speak to them to pray, he said.

“Prayer should be engaging,” he said. “If we get our right methods down and get our techniques right, it’s going to be.”

Danis divided prayers into three categories for participants: vocal, meditative and contemplative.

Most formal prayers that Catholics are used to fall into the category of vocal prayer, including traditional prayers, the rosary, liturgical prayers such as the Liturgy of the Hours and the Mass, lectio divina and informal prayers with words, such as simply speaking to God from the heart or journaling.

Deacon Michael Ciciura, director of vicariate renewal for Vicariate V, led the group through a brief portion of the Liturgy of the Hours, which focuses on praying the psalms.

“The psalms can be considered the school of prayer,” Ciciura said.

Rick Landry, interim director of vicariate renewal for Vicariate VI, spoke about lectio divina, or praying with Scripture.

Landry led the group through reading a Scripture passage, stopping to absorb it and reflect on it, then reading it again to better understand what it is saying to the person praying, and expressing those thoughts to God.

It doesn’t matter what those thoughts are, Landry said: God wants to hear them.

“Your voice is a melody in God’s ears,” he said. “You are going to please God, whatever you say.”

Meditative prayers are more thought exercises, he said, including things like imaginative prayer, where the person praying puts themselves into the presence of Jesus in their minds, or praying by allowing themselves to be moved by music.

To practice imaginative prayer, Sara Pekar, director of vicariate renewal for Vicariate II, led participants in an exercise in which they were asked to imagine themselves as disciples in Capernaum when Jesus was sending them out two by two.

“Imaginative prayer is one of the ways to get to know Jesus,” Pekar said, noting that it’s important to let oneself relax into the prayer. “I find this very difficult. “I have quite an anxious mind, so I overthink this so much.”

The third category, contemplative prayer, is prayer of the heart that happens when the person praying simply basks in the presence of God, Danis said.

“A lot of time people will use the words ‘contemplation’ and ‘meditation’ interchangeably,” he said, “but in the tradition of the church, meditation is an activity of the mind and contemplation is an activity of the heart. It’s this place of deep peace that’s almost without emotion. … In contemplation, we are not the mover. It’s something God initiates in his own time.”

It’s not something people can practice, he said. What they can do is to pray regularly so as to be ready to enter a contemplative state.

“All of these styles of prayer are beautiful and good,” Danis said. “Maybe the only style that isn’t good is if you say this is the only way to do this.”

Peggy Bradley said she is planning to take what she learned back to her parish, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity on the Northwest Side, especially in religious education.

Shelley Benson, who chairs the pastoral council at St. John XXIII Parish in Evanston, said she loved the experience of learning about and trying different styles of prayer.

“It feels like a mini-retreat,” she said. “You come and learn something, and it feels like my time.”


  • prayer
  • spiritual renewal

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