Director of Pueblo Missionary Disciple Explains ‘How to Pray a Church’

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Recently I was in one of our parish churches praying in church. I was paying particular attention to the stained glass windows and was going to meditate a bit on each of them when I came across two that surprised me. It was about the agony in the garden and the crucifixion.

Now, it’s no wonder that the Agony in the Garden or the Crucifixion are the subject of stained glass, but what struck me was that while all the other windows were full of stained glass, the space just around Jesus in the Agony in the Garden and the Crucifixion were plain, transparent glass. I thought, “Did they run out of money for the stained glass, or did the artist make a mistake?” But then I thought, “What if it was intentional? Why here? Why these two topics?

And I looked at the windows again. In agony in the garden, Jesus is kneeling and praying, and the words “Thy will be done” appear at the bottom of the window. As I watched this I could see past the figure of Jesus in the neighborhood beyond and I could see Jesus praying for them in His agony, praying for me in His agony, that the will of God be made in our lives.

Likewise, during the Crucifixion, the space around the crucified Christ drew me into the neighborhood and into myself, and associated with the words “Father, forgive them”, I was once again struck by my need for forgiveness and how that is accomplished through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

What is praying the church?

One of my favorite things to do once in a while is “pray the church”.

I find it gets me out of any rut I’m in in my way of praying, it brings me closer to the parish and intercession for the people in the parish, and it gives the Lord a little more space for me. surprise with new insight or closeness to Him. The way our churches are designed, their architecture, their stained glass windows, their statues and other works of art are intentional.

They are meant to draw us into prayer, into contemplation, deeper into our relationship with Jesus. That’s why I like to do what I call “praying church.” Spending time with the actual rooms in a particular church and how they relate to each other is something I find very helpful in my prayer life.

How to pray to a church?

There is no one way to pray to a church, and it can be helpful to pray to the same church multiple times in different ways, but some common things to pay attention to are:

Stained glass: is there a motif or theme that associates them? are there any symbols in them, and what do they mean? what are the details of how something is represented and what does it mean? – receive what the window says, listen to the Lord speak to you through art, say a prayer based on your meditation

Statuettes: who is it? what are they patrons of? why are they here in this church? – pray for the intercession of the saint, for yourself, for the parish and for others Architecture: what type of architecture is the building of the church? what does that point to with the way it’s designed? how does this design help in the worship of God? – pray on the basis of these ideas

Any other cool feature: what is it? why is he there? how can he bring me closer to God?

Dr. Seth Wright is the Director of Missionary Discipleship for the Diocese of Pueblo

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