HENRITZE: Answering the universal call to prayer

January 23, 2024

The tabernacle is seen at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Houston. (Photo by James Ramos/Herald)

A coworker recently mentioned that Pope Francis had called for 2024 to be a year of prayer in preparation for the Jubilee year of 2025. I was taken aback because I had not heard of this. The irony is not lost on me that a call from the Holy Father for the universal Church to focus on a year of prayer was lost amidst the cacophony of other messages flooding my inbox and vying for my attention. How easy it is to push prayer aside when there are “more important” things to be done.

As a father of five, there is always more than enough to fill my days. Often, I feel stretched and pulled until my nerves are frayed, and my patience is thin. Although I seek to maintain a routine of prayer in my life, there is one error I constantly fall into. I treat prayer as an initiative that begins with me rather than a response to a call that originates in the eternity of God.

The Catechism, in its section on the “Revelation of prayer,” chooses to remind us that we as human beings are constantly searching for God because we were created out of His unfathomable love and goodness. Even though we sin and fall short of that love and goodness, we have written into our essence a desire to search for God. Through that very essence of what it means to be human, God tirelessly calls each of us to the encounter of prayer. The first step of prayer always begins with God; our own first step is merely a response to His divine revelation.

I remember several years ago sharing with my spiritual director that I did not feel the same passion and zeal I had in my youth when I first began to actively live out my faith. I am still unpacking his Spirit-filled response to my restlessness, which was this simple question: “Are you wanting God to reveal Himself to you in the same way He did back then, or are you open to God revealing Himself to you in new ways here and now?”

Over the years, God has continued to reveal Himself to me. However, I have not always been as willing to respond to His ever-deepening revelation as I was when I first came to know Christ Jesus. You see, the more God reveals Himself to man, the more He reveals man to himself. As God shares more of His heart with us, He calls us to respond by surrendering more of our hearts to Him. This is the core of answering the universal call to prayer. During this year of prayer, I encourage you to be open to the gradual ways in which God is revealing Himself to you, and I want to provide three practical ways that can help you and others in your life encounter God in prayer.

First, encounter God through His Word. Pick a book from the Bible that you’ve never read or haven’t read in a long time, and prayerfully read through it, asking God to reveal Himself to you.

Second, encounter God through the Liturgy. Be open to experiencing the Liturgy of the Church in a new way, pick a new Mass time, or attend Mass at a different parish, and be open to how God wants to encounter you there.

Third and finally, encounter God through prayerful service. This can be as grand as an immersive mission trip or as simple as doing small acts of service with great love. The important aspects are to approach service as a form of prayer and be open to encountering Christ in those you serve. 

Brian Henritze is an associate director with the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.