Catechesis on prayer 16. The prayer of the nascent Church

In this catecheses on prayer, Pope Francis notes how the apostolic writings and the Acts of the Apostles give us the image of a Church which is missionary, active, and on the move. However, it is in prayer the early church finds the basis and impulse for action. The community persevered in prayer: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

In this statement of Luke, we can see four essential characteristics of ecclesial life:

  1. listening to the apostles’ teaching,
  2. safeguarding of communion,
  3. the breaking of the bread,
  4. and prayer.

In other words, the Church must be firmly united to Christ: through His word, in the community, in the Eucharist, and in prayer. Pope Francis notes the role of the Mass in the Church’s prayer, “the breaking of the bread fulfils the sacrament of Jesus’ presence among us. He will never be absent; it is really him in the Eucharist. He lives and walks with us.

Indeed, if a situation lacks any of these four characteristics — preaching, charity, Eucharistic life, and prayer — then it lacks ecclesiality, it is outside the Church. Because the Church is founded by God, not by man and not by our efforts, it is the work of the Holy Spirit and requires Jesus word, the life of the community, the Eucharist, and prayer… always.

Thus Pope Francis notes: “I feel tremendous sadness when I see a community that has good will, but takes the wrong path because it thinks that the Church is built up in meetings…” The church is NOT a political party, a business, a synod, a humanitarian charitable organization, a friendship club, even an ecclesial party.

Let us never forget the word of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI: “The Church does not grow through proselytizing, she grows by attraction.”

Thus in reading the Acts of the Apostles we discover the powerful driving force behind the Church’s evangelization: the prayer gatherings, where those who participate actually experience Jesus’ presence and are touched by the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who attracts people to Jesus, as Pope Francis says, “Prayer infuses light and warmth: the gift of the Spirit endowed them with fervor.”

The members of the first community experienced something we must remember still today: that the encounter with Jesus did not stop at the moment of the Ascension, but continued in their life. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, moving us to remember Jesus while making him present once more. The Catechism puts it this way:

“The Holy Spirit … keeps the memory of Christ alive in his Church at prayer, also leads her toward the fullness of truth, to the whole truth, and inspires new formulations expressing the unfathomable mystery of Christ at work in his Church’s life, sacraments, and mission” (CCC 2625).

Prayer is the mystical root of the believer’s entire life, it inspires everything, it grants courage and strength.

You are invited to meditate on Acts 2:42-47, the Fellowship of the Believers.

Only in the silence of adoration do we experience the whole truth… We must recapture this sense of adoration. To adore, to adore God, to adore Jesus, to adore the Spirit. The Father, the Son and the Spirit: to adore. In silence. The prayer of adoration is the prayer that makes us recognize God as the beginning and the end of all of History. And this prayer is the living flame of the Spirit that gives strength to witness and to mission.

Read Catechesis 16 on The prayer of the nascent Church