What is it like to use the psalms for prayer every day and many times a day? By God’s grace, my experience of praying the psalms daily now stretches over nearly four decades. I shall try to say a little about what I have learned during this time.
For me, the psalms are one of the chief means by which I’m able to fulfil the call I received from God so many years ago. How is this so?
Some personal background seems necessary here: I was a “cradle Catholic”, who was taught her faith and who received the Sacraments in the way that was customary at the time. I went to Mass and said my prayers, but without much grasp of what was behind all this. And had any choice been available to me, I am sure I’d have chosen to leave the Church sometime in my teens.
It came, then, as a huge re-ordering of my existence when, in early adulthood, some seeds of belief that had been dormant in me began to put forth shoots. Circumstances at that time conspired to give me a desire to explore my faith – and I did. This exploration marked the beginning of my serious practice of Catholicism. I received the gift of faith in God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit; also the gift of faith in the Church as bearer of truth for humanity. And people! People were very much part of this conversion – humanity loomed large. I developed a hunger to be present to suffering humanity in a deeper way than was possible to me within the constraints of what was then a career in classical ballet. How could I bring Christ to birth in the world? I had received the grace of conversion, and I longed to be instrumental in that grace reaching others. I wanted to be everywhere and present to everyone, on the deepest possible level.
I began to look at religious orders. I gradually realised that it was through prayer that my intense desire to be everywhere and present to everyone could be fulfilled. This faith in the power of prayer was another great gift from this period in my life. Eventually, monastic life, with its strong emphasis on the apostolate of prayer, seemed the way forward for me.
Now, having been a nun for close to forty years, how have my aspirations to be present to suffering humanity panned out? There are many aspects to a monastic vocation, but I’ve found that it is chiefly within the Opus Dei – the Divine Office – that I find that I can be everywhere and with everyone. That is because of the prayer book that’s used – which is the Psalter.