Posted June 19, 2009
Book: The Sant’Egidio Book of Prayer
Authors: Andrea Riccardi and the Community of Sant’Egidio
Ave Maria Press. Notre Dame, IN. 2009. Pp. 207
An Excerpt from the Foreword:
I am very pleased to introduce this prayer book of the Community of Sant’Egidio, an ecclesial movement that I have known for many years. I have participated in the evening prayer of the community in the Basilica of Saint Mary in Trastevere in Rome, and have been moved by the deep spirituality that one senses among the great number of people who take part in that prayer every evening.
I have come to know the founder of this community, Professor Andrea Riccardi, and have had the pleasure of speaking with him on various occasions. In particular, he and I shared the important mission bestowed on us by Pope John Paul II of bringing to the Church of Moscow the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan, which had been in the Vatican’s custody for several years. This contact with Professor Riccardi gave me the opportunity to understand more fully the spirit of mission and prayer of Sant’Egidio.
Prayer is truly at the heart of the community. From it flows the love and concrete concern for the poor that characterizes the life of the community, such as the work on behalf of peace, resolving conflicts, and the dedication to interreligious dialogue. I have come to see that without this foundation of prayer, the valuable work of the community could not have given the Church and the world the fruits that are so evident today. Sant’Egidio is now a movement that embraces more than seventy nations in the world, including the United States. In every community prayer is at the center, whether in well-known churches or in more modest settings. In every case, prayer guides the life of the community of laypeople who have generously dedicated part of their lives and their time to the poor and to the Gospel.
This book is an attempt to introduce us to this amazing community and help us pray with them as we listen to the word of God. It gives an answer to the question of how we are to pray. The confusion and the rapid pace of life today makes it so much more difficult to find space for reflection and prayer, and even then it sometimes seems impossible to find the right words to speak to the Lord. Nonetheless, Jesus said to his disciples: “Be alert at all times, praying” and the apostle Paul insists, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
An Excerpt from the book:
Sometimes the community can be shaken. Sometimes each single brother or sister can feel shaken. These things happened to the first disciples as well. It still happens wherever there is Christian life. Jesus was once on a boat together with his disciples. A violent storm arose and it seemed that the boat was about to sink. Everybody was scared. The Lord seemed to be absent, for he was sleeping. They feared he was indifferent to their difficulties. So they starte to cry out. They turned to the Lord and said, “Lord save us, we are perishing!” He answered “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?”
Oftentimes fear comes from little faith. Jesus listens to the invocation his friends address to him in fear. He stands up and rebukes the winds and the sea. Then, as we read in Matthew’s Gospel, the disciples are amazed. Amazement is stronger than fear. There is amazement among the family of the communities of Sant’Egidio, Communities that are like many boats sailing on a sometimes stormy sea. There is amazement when faith dissolves the fears of the brothers and sisters of Sant’Egidio. There is amazement when we note that many women and men have learned how to love others. There is amazement that the boat of the community can sail on so many different seas. The Lord is stronger than any storm. He is stronger than any storm that arises in the heart of each one of us. There are, in fact, serious storms of the heart. Paul says:
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The Lord speaks, and the storm calms. Be anxious for nothing, but let your requests be made known to God, for he guards our hearts and minds! The Lord is stronger than any storm that might arise in our communities. We trust the Lord. We read in the Letter of St. Peter, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.
The words of Jesus calm any storm. It is truly amazing that a word can be so concrete and so effective. The word of God is able to give birth to and nurture a life that is able to open hearts, defeat violence, produce generosity and love. God so loved men and women that he came to dwell among them. He is their peace, the peace that calms the storm.
Table of Contents:
Introduction: The Community of Sant’Egidio
Dialogue with Jesus
The joy of being Christian today
The Community that gathers
The Community among the people: the poor
Conclusion: A life for everybody
Part Two: The Prayer of the Community
“Lord, teach us to pray”
Prayer for the days of the week
Prayer for special occasions
Hymns, songs, and prayers of the community
Papal address on the 40th anniversary of Sant’Egidio
For further information