Participation in prayer, ritual and liturgy
“What each one is interiorly, face to face with God, unknown to anyone, is of vital consequence to all. And every act of love, every act of faith and adoration, every silent uplifting of the heart, raises the whole world nearer to God. From everyone who is in union with God there breaches a spiritual vitality, light, strength, and joy, which reach from ened to end of the universe; a source of grace to those least worthy of it, even to those least conscious of it, and who know nothing of how and whence it comes.” (Cardinal Martini)
How can we listen to the Word in today’s busy schools? Opportunities abound at Villanova to provide a role model for students in liturgy and in prayer. The College participates in and draws from the wider prayer resources and structures of the Church, for example to express gratitude or pray for those in need. The following are opportunities at Villa through which staff and students can be refreshed and assisted in their daily journey:
Morning prayer occurs in the morning pastoral period and is printed on the Daily Notices. Afternoon prayer concludes the day and usually we pray the Evening Prayer of St Augustine (attached). Most meetings of staff or students begin with a simple call and response prayer, based on a famous insight of St Augustine: a leader says, “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord,” and the response is “and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
Morning Mass is offered for all members of the community in the Chapel on Tuesday and Thursday at 8 am.
There are four full College Masses each year – one each term – which each staff member is expected to attend and all community members are warmly invited. There are three liturgies for the whole college: the Lenten Liturgy, ANZAC Service and Advent Liturgy.
Each year staff, parents and students are invited and welcome to assist in the preparation of liturgies, for example through undertaking the Eucharistic Minister course, or through technical support or taking on other roles such as assisting with music or readings.
Sacramental and sacred spaces exist around the campus and staff are invited to make use of these spaces as well as modelling and insisting on respectful behaviour in these areas. Most prominent is the Chapel, which is open in school hours. There are a number of statues, including prominent statues of St Augustine and St Thomas, servant of the poor. Most recently, a reconciliation garden has been created, led by an indigenous student and featuring an original artwork representing the stories of various students and staff using western and central desert iconography. It is important that these spaces are seen as special.
Initiatives for the Year of Mercy: A print of Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son will hang in the Chapel as an encouragement to private prayer. (The same print hangs in the reconciliation side chapel of St Stephen’s Cathedral.
Teachers are urged to begin each class with the call and response that begins the daily prayer of the worldwide church. The leader says, “O God come to our aid,” and the response is, “O Lord make haste to help us.”
A reflection and discussion group will run during Lent called “Leaving home, returning home.”
Does prayer and sacrament make a difference?
This is a hard question to answer in terms of objective measurement. At a broad level research about “happiness” seems to bear out the adage that “the family that prays together stays together.” Prayer at Villanova is based on a truth claim, however, namely that our lives find their meaning and potential in and through Jesus Christ, the son of God. This is the “rock” upon which our lives stand fast – to quote the College anthem – and the “Truth” warmly given (offered) to all who pass through the College.
If these claims are true, Augustine argues that it is only faith which increases understanding of their truth. An equal circularity seems to exist in denying these claims: all the faith experiences of people through the centuries – including the poorest and the least – are a tragic delusion.
All community members are invited to consider the deeper questions in life from their own starting point in a climate of dialogue based on respect. Each staff member is expected to participate in the prayer life of the College, creating permission for faith to grow in our students.