Living the Year of Prayer 2024 in the footsteps of Saint Alphonsus


(From the Blog of the Alphonsian Academy )

On the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, January 21, 2024, Pope Francis officially began the Year of Prayer. The next few months will lead us to the  Jubilee of 2025, and it is necessary to prepare for this special year of Grace with intense, fervent, true, and sincere prayer. An entire year dedicated not only to praying but also to rediscovering the value of personal prayer and its absolute need in the life of each one, of the Church and of the entire world. When we talk about prayer,  Saint Alphonsus is also called into question. For two things in particular, he is known everywhere: the song ” Tu scendi dalle stelle” and the aphorism: “He who prays is saved, he who does not pray is damned.” Today, as in Alphonsus’ time, we cannot deny the need for prayer for every believer. Lukewarm souls can cite many reasons to justify their lack of commitment to prayer, such as: I don’t know how to pray, I don’t have the charism of prayer, I don’t have time, praying is reciting formulas by heart…and so on.

Alphonsus, as a wise man and knowledgeable of the fragility of the human soul, composed a work entitled  “Prayer: Great Means of Salvation and Perfection” to encourage prayer. Here he writes that: «Prayer is a safe anchor for those who are in danger of shipwreck; it is an immense treasure of riches for those who are poor, it is a very effective medicine for those who are sick, and it is a certain protection for those who want to preserve themselves in holiness. » [1]; it allows you to open yourself to Grace to daily carry out the will of God and achieve your own sanctification; it makes friends of God; it is an internal dialogue with Him, a source of fortitude and creativity indispensable for moral life.

For Saint Alphonsus, praying must be a continuous and familiar conversation with God. Not a prayer made of fear, shame, fright or, even worse, made with sadness or bitterness. Praying is holding oneself with love, confidence, and familiarity with God. The image it offers is that of dialogue between friends, or rather with the closest friend [2]. To be familiar, prayer must be frequent and intense. Conversing with God cannot be rushed or marginal in a day. At least the beginning and end of the day must be dedicated to this. «We shouldn’t let ourselves be blocked by the difficulty of finding time. If we are convinced of the need for prayer, we will be able to “invent” time for it, recovering what we risk wasting” [3]. Prayer does not escape the dynamism of gradualness. It is a path of growth towards perfection whose culmination is the love of God. Living prayer from mediocre will become fervent; from rare, it will become frequent, habitual because, if God is always present in man, man must also always be present to God;  over time,  from a discursive and tormented prayer, it will become a prayer of a simple gaze of quiet, from dark to luminous, until it reaches the peaks of contemplation. The conclusion of every prayer is the appeal to Mary. We do not have access to the Father except through the Son, who is the mediator of justice, but we do not have access to the Son except through the Mother, who is the mediator of graces and obtains for us with her intercession the merits that Jesus obtained for us [ 4].

Wanting to summarize Alphonsus’ thoughts on prayer, we can say praying is breathing; it is certainly a vital need, but it is also natural; there is no need for anyone to teach us to breathe; we are already qualified for this. So, if you pray and talk face to face with God, no one has to teach it; it doesn’t take time apart. We need to learn to make every moment of our life a prayer, a constant thought turned to God. From thanks for the gift of the new day to thanks for the day you gave me to trust in sleep, there are many thoughts to address to God, and they are all prayers. And when we close our eyes to fall asleep? May the beating of our hearts continue to give the rhythm of praise to the God of Love.

Prof. Filomena Sacco

[1]  Alfonso Maria de Liguori,  On the Great Means of Prayer,  in  Ascetic Works,  vol. II, Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, Rome 1962, 5-178, here 36.

[2] Id,  Way of conversing continuously and familiarly with God, in  Ascetic Works,  vol. I, Collegio S. Alfonso, Rome 1933, 313-334, here n. 6, 316.

[3]  S. Majorano,  Being Church with the abandoned. Alphonsian perspectives of Christian life , Editrice San Gerardo, Materdomini (AV) 1997 ,  103).

[4]  G. Velocci,  Sant’Alfonso de Liguori. A master of Christian life , Edizioni San Paolo, Cinisello Balsamo 1994, 117.

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