In the Catholic spiritual life, There exists a treasury of short, succinct, 10-seconds-or-less prayers that can place us in on a pathway to holiness. Some example include:
Glory Be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit (3.39 seconds)
Come Holy Spirit (1.51)
Thy will be done (1.21)
Domine non sum dignus (2.51)
O God, have mercy on me, a sinner (3.03)
Blessed be the name of the Lord (2.21)
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen (4.41)
St. ______ pray for us (2.10-2.98)
God, come to my assistance. Lord, make haste to help me (3.34)
Bless us, o Lord, for these thy gifts, which we are about to receive, through thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord, Amen (6.85)
Holy Spirit, guide my thoughts, words, and deeds (3.49)
(Just saying the name of) Jesus (0.83)
There are an infinite amount of others, of course. Every thought is a prayer. Therefore every utterance of goodness, truth, and beauty that crosses our minds has its start and end in God.
But the average Joe Catholic can get lost in the whirlwind of worldly words that overtake our thoughts and, consequently, our actions. In the end, they inundate our passions with temptations toward sin can potentially take over our lives. Like castaways after a shipwreck, we find ourselves floating in the ocean of God love not knowing if we are swimming with the current toward holiness or drifting away into vice.
All we know is that we’re lost.
I’d like to propose another short prayer, one that casts a life preserver to the soul who desires not only to be saved by God’s grace, but to be guided by it to perfect holiness.
The Holy Longing Prayer
Silence, recollection, prayer, love, & holiness.
All holiness begins with silence. The world is noisy, the spiritual life is not. Cardinal Sarah, in his powerful book, The Power of Silence, writes, “Through silence, we return to our heavenly origin, where there is nothing but calm, peace, repose, silent contemplation, and adoration of the radiant face of God.” Jesus himself spent the first thiry years of his life in silence prior to beginning his ministry. St. Paul retreated into silence for three years before he became an apostle of Christ. Mary, our holy Mother, received the angel Gabriel’s annunciation during silent prayer, and during many moments in her Son’s mission, she pondered His actions in the silence of her heart.
Silence is the necessary first step towards true holiness.
After silence comes the examination of self. Too often, we barrel through our to-lists and five-year plans without regard to who exactly we are (or are becoming). The business of our day-to-day clouds our identity with thoughts on who we “should” be as opposed to who God calls us to be. Recollection reorients our souls toward the latter while simultaneously casting off the darkness caused by the former. Again, Cardinal Sarah emphasizes this point: “Sounds and emotions detach us from ourselves, whereas silence always forces man to reflect upon his own life” (The Power of Silence).
Once a soul is oriented toward God, there is no other option than to convene with Him in prayer. Sometimes, these meetings consist of words. Other times, actions. And still others, the continued silence of adoration between God and His beloved son/daughter. Regardless of which form prayer takes, it is the essential center of holiness (hence the center of this prayer). When we align our will with God’s, he gives us His grace which, as the Divine Office tells us, “If you hunger for holiness, God will satisfy your longing, good measure, and flowing over.”
Once a soul has met God, who is love, it demands an outward expression of love. Love goes by many names– charity, acts of kindness, the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, etc. In the same way that each soul is unique, so too are the manifestations of love that each soul produces. The one thing they all have in common is a mystical drive to serve both God and neighbor.
During his discourse in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his disciples to “be perfect,* just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). Later, in the Garden of Gethsemane, He pleaded with God the Father on behalf of humanity saying, “I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one” (Jn. 17:22). At these commands, we journey through life with a constant yearning to be united in Christ so that it is no longer we who live, but Christ Who lives within us (Gal. 2:20).
Indeed, Polonius was correct when he said “brevity is the soul of wit,” but if we can place a Catholic lens atop this visionary quote we might see a truer interpretation, mainly that brevity in prayer provides the soul grit.
Short prayers, especially The Holy Longing Prayer described in this article, provide us with the roadmap, encouragement, and motivation to pursue our holiness with great zeal. While they’ll never carry the full impact of a holy Mass or the Divine Office, they supply us with the quick hits of holiness we need to keep our souls strong in this valley of tears.
Silence, recollection, prayer, love, and holiness (3.57 seconds).