Engaged as we priests are in priestly ministry, or else in teaching, or around our dear poor ones, let us see, nevertheless, that we do not forget about prayer.
Above all, let us want always to keep in mind, and display it in all our actions, those three blessed years of the public life of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amid the great fatigue He bore, in His evangelization of the crowds, Jesus never forgot about prayer. The image of the Divine Teacher Who, in the middle of preaching, withdrew to the hillside to pray, should be our favorite image.
Let us remember, dear brothers, that though we are working in an active life, the obligation of prayer does not cease for us. It is prayer which raises us up to God, which allows us to speak to God, unites us to God, sanctifies us in God. The better part is the only part necessary: the duty to pray. It was Pope Innocent I who wrote: ‘It is the duty of the priest to pray and to offer sacrifice’.
Many dangers surround us! In Catholic action too, and even in the confessional, we find dangers. And much dissipation is caused for us by external occupations! ‘Do you know’, wrote St. Bernard to Pope Eugene III, his pupil, ‘do you know where external occupations will lead you? If through them you neglect prayer and pious practices, external activities will lead to a hardening of your hearts, and then... and then...’.
By our very priesthood, we priests are made men of prayer. The Church is ‘domus orationis’ [house of prayer]; the priest must be ‘homo orationis’ [a man of prayer].
Oh, if only we priests were all men of prayer, the world, my dear brothers, the whole world would be converted. ‘omnipotens est oratio’ [prayer is all-powerful]. The pure hands of the priest of Jesus Christ are never raised towards Heaven without bringing down graces. Graces are lacking because the prayers of priests are lacking.
Do we have the spirit of prayer? This spirit is extremely necessary for us priests, and besides for Religious. St. Paul says that the Holy Spirit prays in the hearts of the saints, gemitibus inenarrabilibus. [groaning without words] Such is the spirit of prayer. It prays in the depths of the soul.
A sign of having the spirit of prayer is to have our breast and heart ablaze, burning with love for God and neighbour; to have our thoughts always and generally inclined towards good and heavenly things, and to be zealous for the glory of God.
Keep a habitual recollection of the spirit. Do not have a taste, but a distaste for earthly things. Find peace and delight in holy and divine things, in the Church and in the particular works of the priestly ministry.
Finally, enjoy saying prayers, meditation, the Divine Office, the Mass and praying.
The first way of obtaining the spirit of prayer is certainly that of praying, and asking God for the grace of it. It will be also very useful, too, that each one diligently and often examines himself on his purity of intention in all that he does: whether what he seeks is always the glory of God, or not; whether what he seeks is from God, or whether he seeks himself, his own things and self-love, and not the love of the Lord. As long as we seek ourselves we will never have the spirit of prayer. As long as we seek our own satisfaction, our own well-being, our personal advantage, esteem, honor and special positions, our hearts are already filled, and there is no longer any room or space there to receive the spirit of God, which is the spirit of prayer. The spirit of prayer is that spirit which draws us out of ourselves, destroying all earthly and finite things, and allows God alone to reign.
The saints found their delight in praying; the grace of graces: if we ask God incessantly for this, whole-heartedly, it will be given to us, and we will become saints.
Praying teaches us the way to become men of prayer. It certainly is costly to give ourselves to a life of prayer, but the more we practice this exercise, the easier and nicer it becomes: it becomes an exercise of the sweetest piety.
From a letter of 4-1-1938,