Pope Francis reminded the Catholic faithful this week of the role of the Church as “a great school of prayer.”
The pontiff continued his catechesis on Christian prayer during his general audience at the Vatican on April 14.
“The Church is a great school of prayer,” said Pope Francis, reminding everyone how they would have learned their first prayers “on our parents’ or grandparents’ laps.”
“We might, perhaps, cherish the memory of our mommy and daddy who taught us to say our prayers before going to bed,” he said.
The pope said that as people grow older “there are other encounters, with other witnesses and teachers of prayer” that are “good to remember.”
He said prayer belongs to the very essence of the Church that without it the Church cannot carry out its mission of evangelization and service to others.
“The breath of faith is prayer — we grow in faith as much as we learn to pray,” said Pope Francis.
He said everyone is aware that without faith “we could not have made it through and that our strength was prayer.”
“We realize that not only personal prayer, but also that of our brothers, sisters and the community, whom we requested, also accompanied and supported us,” said the pope.
He said the importance of prayer is the reason why communities and groups dedicated to prayer flourish in the Church, such as monasteries, convents, and hermitages.
“They are cells that are vital not only for the ecclesial fabric, but that of society itself,” he said.
The pope said everything in the Church “originates in prayer and everything grows thanks to prayer.” He said prayer “opens the door to the Holy Spirit, which is what inspires us to go forward.”
“Changes in the Church without prayer are not Church changes, they are group changes,” he said.
He urged the faithful to continue to pray but warned against praying “like a parrot.”
“Do I pray feeling part of the Church and praying for its needs, or do I pray a little according to my needs, letting my ideas become prayer,” he said. “This is pagan prayer, not Christian prayer,” added the pope.
He said the essential task of the Church is to pray and to teach how to pray, transmitting “the lamp of faith and the oil of prayer from generation to generation.”
Without prayer, evangelization would not be possible and we would not be able to draw near and serve our brothers and sisters, he said.
“The Church, as the house and school of communion, is the house and school of prayer,” said the pope.