Pro Orantibus: World Day of Cloistered Life

Since 1953, when Pius XII first instituted this day under the title Pro Orantibus, Catholics have been encouraged to give thanks to God for ‘those who pray’ and give spiritual and material support to monks, nuns and hermits who live what is called the cloistered life, i.e. whose main work is prayer rather than other forms of service such as teaching or nursing. For Benedictines, however, the feast of the Presentation of Our Lady has additional resonances. For example, in the English Benedictine Congregation it is celebrated as the Dies Memorabilis, the day when the pre-Reformation Congregation’s privileges were conferred on its post-Reformation successor. For me, personally, its is the anniversary of my Clothing, of my formal entrance into monastic life.

Having said that, I wonder what impact, if any, this day makes on the average church-goer? Some have registered the enormous shake-up for cloistered nuns that Cor Orans represents. Others will be at pains to show their love and support for the communities with which they have a personal connection. But for the vast majority, I suspect, the day will pass by without any special awareness or acknowledgement. Perhaps that is in itself a clue to the origins of the malaise that many have identified in the Church. Put very simply, and I hope non-polemically, if we do not pray, everything goes wrong. It is tempting to lay the blame for abuse and all the other wrongs we identify in the Church on this group or that, on individual or organisational failures and infidelity to the Church’s teaching, etc, etc. I am by no means suggesting that we spiritualize away responsibility, but I think there is something fundamental we ALL need to remember. We are called to holiness. No matter how wonderful our good works, no matter how virtuous our conduct, we can do nothing without God’s grace. It is being close to him that makes us holy, and we cannot be close if we do not pray.

So, today is not just a reminder to be thankful for the cloistered life. It is a day to be aware of the importance of prayer in the life of every one of us; and if we have become a little careless or perfunctory in our prayer, to resolve to do better — to become like Mary ‘full of grace’.


7 thoughts on “Pro Orantibus: World Day of Cloistered Life”

  1. Dear Sister Catherine may you be as glad (or even more so) on your anniversary as on the day of your clothing! I am thankful for all in cloistered life and their work of prayer.I note your last paragraph and last sentence of previous paragraph, especially as this morning ‘careless’ and ‘perfunctory’ are apt words for me.

  2. The Church and the whole world are so very, very blessed by God’s gift of the contemplative life. I’m grateful for each and every one of those generous souls who give every day of their life in prayer and penance for the world. I’m especially grateful for you, Sister, for your ministry, and for all religious who use the internet wisely for the glory of Christ and His gospel. I pray for your perseverance in God’s grace and for many, many more vocations to that beautiful life. Thanks be to God.

  3. Dearest Benedictine Nuns; Monks ; Priests and Oblates … from my heart one Our Father and Three Hail Marys daily before Our Lady of Fatima Shrine for your intentions… Thank you for your

  4. Happy anniversary, and wishing you many more.

    Especially appreciated your advice on prayer as not how we see it but how God sees it and it being a gift from Him. So often I’ve thought the moment wasn’t ideal and would wait to pray when I could do so “properly” but then decided to have a quick chat of a prayer to tide me over and those prayers, made while stirring a pot, cleaning, waiting in a lineup have been the most grace filled and insightful. Almost as though God has wished me to hear Him as much as I’ve needed to draw closer, sooner rather than later.

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