This morning I received a Christmas card from the Centre for Catholic Studies & the Ushaw Project at Durham University. I am on their mailing list because we hosted Dr Paul Murray (the ecumenist, NOT the Irish Dominican) some years back. On the back cover was a prayer that struck me as very appropriate for our present times in the Catholic Church – and perhaps a good “New Year” prayer for everyone:
if this be not your will, frustrate it:
frustrate it fully and frustrate it quickly,
and move our heart’s desire
closer to the heart of your desire for us.
But if it be of your will,
then continue to open for us
the generosity of heart, mind, and means
that are needed,
and may this generosity begin with us.
I thought it a beautiful prayer – containing similar sentiments to the traditional “Prayer for Serenity” – but I loved the strength of the word “frustrate”, and the request for “generosity”. Think of any single issue, debate, proposal, plan or trend in the Church today – one, perhaps, that really gets under your skin and up your nose and hot under the collar – and slowly and with great conviction pray this prayer. By the end of it, I think you will find yourself in a different place.
Liking the prayer so much, I went online to try to find who had authored it. And thus I made a second happy discovery for the day. My google search threw up this:
The Heart in Pilgrimage: a Prayerbook for Catholic Christians (Google Books link – for Amazon, click here).
Yes, now I am intrigued. First, my search took me to the page on which the prayer above was included. And the author is Paul Murray himself. So (a) Big thank you, Paul!
But the other surprise is this excellent little prayerbook itself.
First: it is edited by Eamon Duffy, he of “The Stripping of the Altars” fame. This is a bloke with good liturgical and historical sensitivity.
Secondly – what was a cause of attraction to me but may not be for all readers – the Foreword and Preface are written by Rowan Williams (“the Right Reverend and Right Honourable the Lord Williams of Oystermouth” as he is now styled) and by Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP. So while the title says “Catholic Christians”, it is not written solely for Roman Catholics. Included prayers are taken from the traditional Anglican and Eastern Patrimonies as well. This ecumenical approach has a plus side: the prayers are aimed at a truly Catholic sensibility, something with which not all Roman Catholic prayerbooks (or Roman Catholics for that matter) are endowed. Nevertheless, there is nothing here that an orthodox Roman Catholic will find doctrinally or spiritually foreign, and it is clear that the book as a whole is mainly intended for use by Roman Catholics, as evidenced by the inclusion of the full ordinary of the new translation of the Roman Mass.
Thirdly, the language of the prayers is dignified and natural – sometimes employing the more traditional forms of English (“O God, make speed to save us”) or sometimes more modern forms. Either way, nothing I have read thus far “jars”. For someone brought up on the Revised Standard Version of the Bible as I was, the language is “just right”. And indeed, other than the Psalms (Grail) and the Benedicite, all biblical quotations come from the Catholic RSV. Bits of Latin are included when appropriate.
This may well be the best Catholic prayerbook out there, folks. I recommend it wholeheartedly. Thank you, Paul Murray and The Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham for leading me to it.