St. Gregory’s Prayer Book: A Primer for Holiness From the English Patrimony
BOOK PICK: St. Gregory’s Prayer Book
ST. GREGORY’S PRAYER BOOK
A Primer of Catholic Devotions From the English Patrimony
Editor Clinton Brand, KSG
A collaborative venture of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, and the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society
Imprimatur: Most Rev. Steven J. Lopes, STD, bishop of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter
Ignatius Press, 2019
448 pages, leatherette softcover; $21.21 (online); Ignatius also offers an e-book edition.
To order: ignatius.com
Every Catholic should have four books as the mainstay of their spiritual life: the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Daily Office of the Liturgy of the Hours and a hornbook of Catholic devotions. In an age beset by “cheap grace,” the new St. Gregory’s Prayer Book from Ignatius Press is one such primer. It is a beautiful volume of devotions meant to help nourish the Catholic who seeks the costly grace of living as a disciple in fellowship with Jesus.
St. Gregory’s Prayer Book draws from English Christianity’s spiritual patrimony across 1,500 years that is fully reintegrated thanks to the ordinariates established by Benedict XVI with Anglicanorum Coetibus in 2009. This primer of Catholics devotions is the fruit of the collaborative work of the Ordinariates of the Chair of St. Peter in North America, Our Lady of Walsingham in England and Wales, and Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia and Asia, along with the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society. As this international effort suggests, the book truly reflects the “shared treasure” from the English patrimony that Benedict XVI envisioned. These Catholic devotions are meant for the day to day and through the seasons of life and the liturgical year.
At the outset, Catholics will find a poetic recollection of the Christian life and Blessed John Henry Newman’s reflection on the unique vocation that God has called each of us to undertake. An introductory section, “An Outline of the Duties of the Christian Life,” covers the Ten Commandments, the beatitudes, the sacraments, the theological and cardinal virtues, the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, the Four Last Things, the precepts of the Church, and a section that addresses “What Is Prayer?” Catholics who want to better know or teach the basics of the Catholic faith will find this summary useful because each section is cross-referenced with the Bible and the Catechism.
St. Gregory’s Prayer Book reflects centuries of Catholic devotions that developed before and after the English Reformation but are truly Catholic in content and nourish life in Christ. These prayers have a legacy of making fervent Catholics out of men and women, as Blessed John Henry Newman, G.K. and Frances Chesterton, and others could attest. Cardinal Newman’s prayers and reflections are spread throughout this devotional, including his Stations of the Cross, and one sees clearly the English landscape of spirituality that formed him.
The language of the prayers is rich, beautiful, but intimate in the style of the English prayer books. The poetry of the prayers and Psalms helps instill them in memory and enliven the religious imagination. This remedies a great weakness in Catholic prayers written in English today, which tend to be unpoetic and difficult to recall.
“I will lift mine eyes unto the hills; from whence cometh my help? My help cometh even from the Lord, who hath made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).
“My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:46, from Mary’s Magnificat).
“Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.”
“O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done; then in thy mercy grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
This primer has a rich number of litanies, novenas and chaplet devotions, including the Rosary, sourced from the English patrimony. Some of these devotions may be a discovery for the first time to many Catholics, such as the “Pleading of the Passion,” “Devotions on the Five Wounds,” or the “15 Oes of St. Brigit.”
All Catholics will find St. Gregory’s Prayer Book valuable for their Eucharistic devotions, both at Holy Mass and before the Blessed Sacrament.
The book also includes a basic people’s Order for Divine Worship, the missal for Catholic Mass in the ordinariates, promulgated by Pope Francis in 2015. But Catholics who attend either the ordinary or extraordinary form of the Mass can easily say these prayers privately: Both the “Prayer of Humble Access” and “General Post-Communion Prayer” are beautiful ways to prepare for and give thanks for the Holy Eucharist.
We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy. Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his Blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen. — Prayer of Humble Access
Almighty and ever-living God, we most heartily thank thee for that thou dost feed us, in these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ; and dost assure us thereby of thy favour and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, the blessed company of all faithful people; and are also heirs, through hope, of thy everlasting kingdom, by the merits of the most precious death and passion of thy dear Son. And we humbly beseech thee, O heavenly Father, so to assist us with thy grace, that we may continue in that holy fellowship, and do all such good works as thou hast prepared for us to walk in; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen. — General Post-Communion Prayer
Most beautifully, however, this book can help Catholics gather with family and friends around the table or during outings to pray together. The book has a devotional order for morning, midday and evening prayer, as well as Compline from the ordinariate’s Daily Office, and it provides an opportunity for reading from the Bible or praying any of the selected Psalms in the prayer book. St. Gregory’s Prayer Book also includes both short and beautifully composed prayers to use throughout the day, including intercessions for various needs and occasions, collects for Sunday and feast days.
The beautiful strength of this primer is that families and friends can live through the Church’s seasons and celebrate in a special way the Sundays, feasts and solemnities across the liturgical calendar. St. Gregory’s Prayer Book contains many such unique devotions throughout the Church year from Advent to the Solemnity of Christ the King.
“Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.” — Collect for the Second Sunday of Advent
A family may discover the “Visit to the Christmas Crib” is their beautiful new tradition, or pray together the “Seven Last Words From the Cross” to prepare together for the Lord’s passion during Holy Week, or have family liturgy celebrating feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Another valuable contribution of this book are the prayers through the various seasons and needs of life, drawn from the Books of Common Prayer, such as for family, personal life, the Church, the civil order, etc. But I think this book renders a great service for times when we face sickness, suffering and death. Our American society cuts mourning far too short, and we Catholics need more than the wake and the funeral rites. “The Litany of the Dying,” the “Commendatory Prayers at Death” and then the “Nine Days’ Prayer for One Deceased” in St. Gregory’s Prayer Book can help Catholics prepare for, meet or grieve death, and condole together with manifest hope in Christ.
The primer’s text clearly stands out against the paper and has a burgundy leatherette cover with gold outlining and a silk ribbon. It fits nicely in a coat pocket or woman’s purse. However, I would recommend a larger edition of St. Gregory’s Prayer Book with an enlarged font for the vision-impaired to make it more widely accessible.
Altogether, St. Gregory’s Prayer Book provides English-speaking Catholics with an excellent means to nurture their spiritual fellowship with Jesus Christ. Many Catholics will doubtless find the St. Gregory’s Prayer Book an aid to living a life conformed to Jesus Christ as described by Cardinal Newman: “Yet have I a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do his work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep his commandments and serve him in my calling.”
Peter Jesserer Smith is a Register staff writer.
1. An Outline of Duties of the Christian Life
2. Common Forms of Prayer & Professions of Faith
3. Various Prayers & Intercessions
4. Devotions for Days of the Week & Hours of the Day
5. Devotions for the Morning
6. Devotions for Midday
7. Devotions for the Evening
8. A Selection of Psalms
9. Divine Worship Collects
10. Devotions for the Church Year
11. Penitential Devotions & the Sacrament of Penance
12. Devotions for Holy Communion: Prayers Before & After Mass
13. Prayers at Mass: People’s Order of Mass – Divine Worship: The Missal
14. Eucharistic Devotions & Visits to the Blessed Sacrament
15. Devotions to the Holy Trinity
16. Devotions to Our Lord Jesus Christ
17. Devotions to the Holy Spirit
18. Devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary
19. Devotions to the Saints & Angels
20. Devotions for the Sanctification of Sickness & Death
21. Devotions for the Faithful Departed
22. Prayers for Various Occasions & Intentions
23. Emergency Baptism