I was pleased to land in a parish that had a long tradition of parishioners composing the Sunday prayers of the faithful. The pastor handed me a list and said I was now in charge of recruiting students, couples, and/or committees to take a handful of Sundays–usually a month–and write away.
In the era of electronic communication, this is made very easy. I give my writer a noon deadline on Saturday, and we get the prayers into the hands of lector number three at Saturday Mass in a very timely way.
While I’m squeamish about using a practice like lectio divina in such a pragmatic way, I do suggest our writers use some sort of prayerful method to engage the Sunday Scriptures and arrive at appropriate prayers for the Sunday assembly. Here it is:
- A few days in advance from the weekend, find a place and time free from distraction, preferably fifteen minutes minimum. Set the coming weekend’s Gospel passage and be seated in a relaxed way. You may want to have a journal at hand. After a few moments to catch your breath, begin with a prayer. Ask God for insight and grace.
- Read the Gospel passage to yourself aloud–slowly, quietly to yourself. Pause for fifteen to sixty seconds. Perhaps a word, phrase, or an idea will come to mind. Write it down, but don’t try to analyze or justify it in any way.
- Read the passage a second time, slowly and aloud. Perhaps something will strike you. Pause during the reading, when this happens. Perhaps for up to a minute. Consider this question: what may God be saying to you in this Scripture passage? Write down one or two sentences.
- Look over the passage again, reading it aloud again if you wish. At the end, ponder what God may be telling the parish through this reading? What prayers are suggested in the lives of our parishioners, through these readings, and in the world this week?
- If you are committed to this process, you could repeat on other days for the other two readings or even the psalm. The Gospel and the words of Jesus especially are what most people listen for at Mass and make their connections, so make that your minimum aim.
- Write out the prayers, using the reflections from your prayer time with the Gospel and other readings.
- Conclude with a personal prayer of thanksgiving.