As members of the Redemptorist Congregation, our community life at the Monastery is largely shaped by the inspiration of St Alphonsus, our founder. In particular, we are constantly aware of his profound teaching on prayer, which shaped his whole life and ours too. It is our pastoral duty to help those in our parishes to also come to recognise the need for daily prayer, in order to achieve the holiness that is God’s will for us.
In his writings St. Alphonsus coined a famous, very elementary maxim, which states: “He who prays is saved. He who prays not is damned. To save one’s soul without prayer is most difficult, and even impossible, but by praying our salvation is made secure, and very easy.” And he goes on to say: “If we do not pray, we have no excuse, for the grace of prayer is given to everyone … if we are not saved, the whole fault will be ours, because we did not pray”.
In saying that prayer is a necessary means, St. Alphonsus wanted us to understand that in every situation in life, we cannot manage without praying, especially in times of trial and difficulty. We must always knock at the Lord’s door with trust, knowing that in all things He takes care of His children, of us. We are invited, therefore, not to be afraid of turning to Him and of presenting our requests to Him with trust, in the certainty of obtaining what we need.
More than anything else, we need His liberating presence, which truly makes our lives fully human and therefore full of joy. And it is only through prayer that we are able to welcome Him and His grace, which by enlightening us in each situation, enables us to discern the true good, and by strengthening us, makes our will effective; that is, it enables it to do the good that is known. Often, we recognize the good, but we are unable to do it. Through prayer, we arrive at the point of being able to carry it out.
In another passage, St. Alphonsus says: “We are so poor that we have nothing; but if we pray we are no longer poor” (II, 4). And he invites every Christian to not be afraid of obtaining from God, through prayer, the strength he does not possess and that he needs to do the good, in the certainty that the Lord does not withhold His help from whoever prays with humility.
St. Alphonsus reminds us that our relationship with God is essential for our lives. Without a relationship with God, our fundamental relationship is missing. And a relationship with God develops by talking with God in daily personal prayer, and by participating in the Sacraments; and so it is that this relationship can grow in us, and that the divine presence that directs our path, enlightens it and makes it secure and serene can also grow in us, even amid difficulty and danger.
Let us consider these wise words of St Alphonsus and ask for the grace to make prayer a more central reality in our daily lives.
Fr Gerard, CSsR