Preparing for the Holy Year of 2025

Anticipating Pope Francis' decree of May 9, 2024, in last week's column, we announced the Holy Year of 2025 with its title Pilgrims of Hope.

Before the solemn announcement, the pope and the Holy Year office invited the whole church to a period of preparation leading up to the inauguration of the Holy Year on Dec. 24, 2024.

The focus of this period is prayer; prayer in all its forms: liturgical -- public and personal; personal -- common and individual, biblical, ecumenical, inter-religious, musical, and silent.

Harkening back to seminary days, I recall that every class started with a prayer, mostly led by the professor, but as often, a particular professor rotated the "opening" prayer among the students.

Father (now Bishop) Robert J. Banks was the professor of canon law and the rector of the seminary. He was a fine teacher and had a tough subject, principally because canon law was in flux between the "old" code and the "new one," which didn't come out until five years following our ordination. He alternated between himself and the students. Every once in a while, he'd call out a name to start class with prayer and intentionally call someone who may have been inexplicably absent. Following a brief period of uncomfortable silence, he would pick up and begin with his fall-back prayer -- the "Dirige"

"Direct, we beseech you O Lord, all our actions by your holy inspiration and carry them on by your gracious assistance, that every prayer and work of ours may begin always in you and by you be happily ended through Christ our Lord. Amen."

This is one of the older prayers in the church's collection of prayers. Notice how concisely the words of the prayer tie together the request for God's assistance, the confession that we rely on God for everything, and we can ask for his help in all things, classically ending as all Christian prayer does "through Christ our Lord."

In one class, I recall being called upon at random to lead the prayer. I was not then and am not now an even adequate ad libber on prayers, so I jumped to the "Dirige," thinking, if it's good enough for the rector, it should be okay here. We all assented with the "Amen." The professor never again asked me to lead the prayer. I did not know why (though I had my suspicions) and did not ask. It's better to be thought the fool than to remove all doubt, as the warning goes.

You might have a prayer that you memorized for one reason or another. We have many of them in our vast treasury of prayers -- some old, others new. It is that treasury that the pope invites us to open as we prepare for Jubilee 2025.

It's always good to have the Mother of the Lord praying with us. The Holy Father is quite clear about his devotion to the Blessed Virgin. Here is the oldest known prayer to Mary, the "Sub tuum praesidium": "We fly to thy protection, O Holy Mother of God; do not despise our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O Glorious and Blessed Virgin."

Since we're on the way to the Jubilee 2025, there are prayers that are more specific to that preparation period.

The special website for the Jubilee has pages dedicated to the preparatory phase. Here is the English version for the 2024 Year of Prayer:

On that page, you'll see links to download "Teach Us to Pray" -- available there in multiple languages -- an excellent resource for dioceses, parishes, women and men religious, and everyone who both wants to pray better and wants to prepare for the Jubilee.

The Holy Father's prayer for Jubilee 2025 might be added to our treasury of prayers.

The Jubilee Prayer

Father in heaven,

may the faith you have given us

in your son, Jesus Christ, our brother,

and the flame of charity enkindled

in our hearts by the Holy Spirit,

reawaken in us the blessed hope

for the coming of your Kingdom.

May your grace transform us

into tireless cultivators of the seeds of the Gospel.

May those seeds transform from within

both humanity and the whole cosmos

in the sure expectation

of a new heaven and a new earth,

when, with the powers of Evil vanquished,

your glory will shine eternally.

May the grace of the Jubilee

reawaken in us, Pilgrims of Hope,

a yearning for the treasures of heaven.

May that same grace spread

the joy and peace of our Redeemer

throughout the earth.

To you our God, eternally blessed,

be glory and praise for ever.


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