By Fr. Bill Kneemiller
For The Catholic Messenger
Some priests wear gold wedding rings on their left hand, and I like this practice. I wear one with a gold cross on it. I reflect that the promises I made as a transitional deacon and as an ordained priest had many similarities to a marriage. Only my “spouse” is Jesus Christ and his church! The following is the prayer promise that I made:
“Are you resolved to maintain and deepen a spirit of prayer appropriate to your way of life and, in keeping with what is required of you, to celebrate faithfully the Liturgy of the Hours for the Church and for the whole world?” (cf. Roman Pontifical, Rite of the Ordination). This is confirmed by Canon 276, §2.3, of the Code of Canon Law.
In the past two years, this promise to pray daily has come to life more than ever, and I continue to live out my experience in Jordan, my last military deployment. In this “Land of the Bible” I carried the travel version of the Liturgy of the Hours with me, “The Shorter Christian Prayer” book, and experienced it as being a companion. To this day, I carry the gold-leaf version with me everywhere. I insist on the gold-leaf version because “The decrees of the Lord are truth. More to be desired than gold, than the purest of gold (Ps 19).” So, if I happen to leave my apartment without this book, it would be like leaving and forgetting to put my shirt on!
Nearly every day I am reaffirmed by the power and beauty of God’s word alive in my life. One example stems from a mission to share God’s word with the students of St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School in Davenport. Tonight at supper here at the Kahl home, I stopped by a table of a grandparent and aunt of students at St. Paul. I asked the aunt to call the fifth- and second-graders and ask them to recite Psalm 117 to us. The aunt called, and both students recited from memory the morning psalm that their principal, Julie Delaney, has been reading to them in the morning announcements.
We told the children we were very proud of them. The fifth-grader mentioned that praying helps her to feel “refreshed and joyful.” Also, the grandparent told me that every morning as she drives her granddaughter to St. Paul’s they recite Psalm 117 together!
More than 2,000 years ago, the Jewish leaders at the temple in Jerusalem considered it very important to praise God — morning, midday and evening — with the psalms. The Catholic Church has continued this devotion of prayer of the psalms and Gospel canticles, and I have a mission to share this with lay Catholics. I am endeared to the “Shorter Christian Prayer” because it not only fits in my back pocket, but contains the key prayer times of Morning, Evening and Night Prayer, prayed around the world.I am convinced that since I experience the “Shorter Christian Prayer” book as a companion, then many lay people may also have this experience of the comfort of God’s Word coming alive in their life. If you have lost a spouse, then I believe that praying with the universal church around the world will be a support and comfort! Anyone who is searching for a spiritual discipline will be attracted to the Liturgy of the Hours. And, what about families who are working two jobs, and have little free time to pray?
I encourage busy families to at least do a “short version” of a psalm in the morning, and Night Prayer, which only take five minutes or less. Plus, if you gather your family a couple nights a week for the Night Prayer, “The family that prays together, stays together!”
(Fr. Kneemiller is parochial vicar at St. Paul the Apostle Parish and chaplain at the Kahl Home, both in Davenport.)