Essential Prayers and Catholic Devotions

A note on typography.


The Sign of the Cross

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son,
+ and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Signum Crucem

In nomine Patris, et Filii,
+ et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.

The "Christian salute" derives from the sacrament of baptism. It is the traditional beginning for every act of catholic worship.



The Lord's Prayer

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
in earth as it is in heaven.

Pater noster

Pater noster, qui es in coelis:
sanctificetur nomen tuum:
adveniat regnum tuum:
fiat voluntas tua,
sicut in coelo, et in terra.
Give us this day our daily bread. Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie:
And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; But deliver us from evil. et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem, sed libera nos a malo.

For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Quia tuum est regnum potentia et gloria: in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

The prayer that Christ taught his followers to pray is found in the sixth chapter of St. Matthew's gospel. The tradition estabilished by St Benedict dictates that Lord's Prayer should be said three times a day: morning, noon and night. The final doxology (italicised) is found in the King James version, but not in modern translations.



Glory be

Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Gloria Patri

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper: et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.

The most common doxology used by the church, the Gloria Patri is sung at the end of every psalm. Many hymn writers use a doxology in praise of the trinity to conclude their hymns.



Kyrie Eleison

Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

Kyrie Eleison

Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison
Kyrie eleison.

The Kyrie is one of the most ancient prayers of the Church, dating from the third century AD and has occupied a constant place in its liturgy since then. The piercing cry of the penitent soul.



The Nicene Creed

Credo in unum Deum

I believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And of all things visible and invisible: And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, Begotten of the Father before world, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God, Begotten, not made, Being of one substance with the Father, by Whom all things were made. Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven, Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipotentem, factorem coeli et terrae, visibilium omnium, et invisibilium. Et in unum Dominum Jesum Christum, Filium Dei unigenitum. Et ex Patre Natum ante omnia saecula. Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine, Deum verum de Deo vero. Genitum, non factum, consubstantialem Patri: per quem omnia facta sunt. Qui propter nos homines, et propter nostram salutem descendit de coelis.
And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man, And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, And ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And He shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead: Whose kingdom shall have no end. Et incarnatus est de spiritu sancto ex Maria Virgine: et homo factus est. Crucifixus etiam pro nobis: sub Pontio Pilato passus, et sepultus est. Et resurrexit tertia die, secundum Scripturas. Et ascendit in coelum: sedet ad dexteram Patris. Et iterum venturus est cum gloria judicare vivos et mortuos: cujus regni non erit finis.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and giver of life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son. Who, together with the Father and the Son, is worshipped and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets. Et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum et vivificantem: qui ex Patre Filioque procedit. Qui cum Patre, et Filio simul adoratur, et conglorificatur: qui locutus est per Prophetas.
And in one Catholic and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins. And I look for the Resurrection of the dead, + And the life of the world to come. Amen. Et unam catholicam est apostolicam Ecclesiam. Confiteor unum baptisma in remissionem peccatorum. Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum. + Et vitam venturi saeculi. Amen.
The Nicene Creed was formulated at the first council of Nicaea in AD 354. The creed is used at the sacrament of communion.



The Apostles Creed

I believe in God,
the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
Credo in Deum,
Patrem omnipotentem,
Creatorem coeli et terrae.
And in Jesus Christ
his only Son, our Lord:
who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary,
he suffered under Pontius Pilate,
crucified, dead, and buried :
He decended into Hell :
On the third day he rose again from the dead;
ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand
of God the Father almighty :
from thence he will come again
to judge the quick and the dead.
Et in Jesum Christum,
Filium ejus unicum, Dominum nostrum:
qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto,
natus ex Maria Virgine,
passus sub Pontio Pilato,
crucifixus, mortuus, et sepultus :
descendit ad infernos :
tertia die resurrexit a mortuis;
ascendit ad coelos;
sedet ad dexteram
Dei Patris omnipotentis:
inde venturus est
judicare vivos et mortuos.
I believe in the Holy Ghost,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the remission of sins,
the ressurection of the body,
and life everlasting. Amen.
Credo in Spiritum Sanctum,
sanctam Ecclesiam Catholicam,
sanctorum communionem,
remissionem peccatorum,
carnis resurrectionem,
vitam aeternam. Amen.
The Apostles' Creed is used only in the Western Church and only dates from the eighth century AD. It is called the Apostles' Creed because it encapsulates the apostolic faith, no because it was handed down to the church by the apostles. It is in form a baptismal creed and therefore forms every baptismal candidate's confession of faith. The Anglican church uses this creed regularly at morning and evening prayer.




+ My soul doth magnify the Lord,
and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

+ Magnificat anima mea Dominum.
Et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo.

For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden:
for, behold, from hence forth all generations shall call me blessed.
Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae,
ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes.
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things;
and holy is his name.
Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est,
et sanctum nomen ejus.
And his mercy is upon them that fear him from generation to generation. Et misericordia ejus a progenie in progenies timentibus eum.
He hath shewed strength with his arm;
he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
Fecit potentiam in brachio suo,
dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.
He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. Deposuit potentes de sede, et exaltavit humiles.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. Esurientes implerit bonis, et divites dimisit inanes.
He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
as he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
Suscepit Israel puerum suum, recordatus misericordiae suae.
Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros, Abraham et semini ejus in saecula.
The song of Mary is recorded in the first chapter of St. Luke's gospel. This hymn of praise is sung every evening by the Catholic Church at the office of Vespers, and at Evening Prayer by the Anglican Church.



Nunc Dimittis

+ Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel.

Nunc Dimittis

+ Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, Secundum verbum tuum in pace: Quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum, Quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum. Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuae Israel.

The song of Simeon is recorded in the second chapter of St. Luke's gospel. In it Simeon expresses his joy at being given the grace to behold the consolation of Israel. The Nunc Dimittis is sung by the church just before sleep. The Roman Catholic Church uses it in the office of Compline and the Anglican Church as the second canticle of Evening Prayer.



The Angelus

Salutatio Angelica

The angel of the Lord brought tidings to Mary,
and she conceived of the Holy Ghost.

Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae,
Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto.

Hail Mary, full of grace: the Lord is with thee, Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Ave, Maria, gratia plena: Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus. Sancta Maria, mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae.

Behold the handmaid of the Lord,
be it unto me according to your word. Hail Mary...

Ecce ancilla Domini,
Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum. Ave Maria...

And the word was made flesh
and dwelt among us. Hail Mary...

Et Verbum caro factum est,
Et habitavit in nobis. Ave Maria...

Pray for us, Holy Mother of God,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Ora pro nobis, Sancta Dei genitrix,
Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.

Pour thy grace into our heart, we beseech thee, O Lord; that, as we have known the incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an angel, so may we, by his cross and passion, be brought unto the glory of his resurrection. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen. Gratiam tuam quaesumus Domine, mentibus nostris infunde : ut qui, angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui incarnationem cognovimus, per passionem eius et crucem ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
The Angelus is recited at dawn, at midday and at dusk every day of the year. At each of the four versicles, the church bell is rung three times, except the last when it is rung nine times, for a total of eighteen. Everyone who hears the bell ringing, whether they are in church or not, stops whatever they are doing to recite it. The Angelus is the church's eternal memorial of the incarnation and the saving grace of God.



Agnus Dei

Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world,
have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world,
grant us peace.

Agnus Dei

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
dona nobis pacem.

Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world,
grant them rest.
Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world,
grant them rest eternal.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
dona eis requiem.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
dona eis requiem sempieternam.
This ancient communion devotion is recited immediately after the conclusion of the canon. It is based on John the Baptist's salutation of John i:29. The second form is used only at funerals and requiems.



Soul of Christ

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.

Anima Christi

Anima Christi, sanctifica me.
Corpus Christi, salva me.
Sanguis Christi, inebria me.
Aqua lateris Christi, lava me.
Passio Christi, conforta me.
O good Jesus, hear me. Within Thy wounds hide me. Suffer me not to be separated from Thee. From the malignant enemy defend me. In the hour of me death, call me, And bid me come to Thee, That, with Thy Saints, I may praise Thee, For ever and ever. Amen.

O bone Jesu, exaudi me. Intra tua vulnera absconde me. Ne permittas me separari a te. Ab hoste maligno defende me, In hora mortis meæ voca me, Et jube me venire ad te, Ut cum sanctis tuis laudem te In sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
This mediæval devotion is said silently by many catholics after communion.


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More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.
- Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809 - 1892)

My grandmother once told me of an Italian lady who could not pray without her prayerbook. She just did not know what words to use and did not feel that her own would do. Thankfully, the modern Roman Catholic church is not like that anymore: true religion is no longer submerged beneath a mass of ritual and empty words. Perhaps I was lucky to have been brought up an evangelical: never dependent on a prayerbook and always knowing that God is there to hear my words, that he does not care about how nice they sound but cares more about my thoughts and feelings. God wants us to love him as our father and to speak to him as we do our own natural fathers; why else did Jesus teach us to call God Our Father?

So we know how to pray, but How often? The answer to that is bound up in the question, What is prayer?

Becoming Christian is about giving your life over to God, it is knowing that God suffuses and infuses every part of your life. So how do you do this without committing your every action to God?

On Mt Kilimanjaro, my friends and I were approaching the most difficult part of the climb, when one of them said to me in encouragement, "At times like this, I find it good to pray." I've heard this before from him and from others, but never really know how to respond without sounding self-righteous or arrogant. "Don't you pray normally anyway? What do you mean 'at times like this'?"

St Paul tells us to "pray without ceasing", so clearly prayer is not just for church or for meal times.
If you see a beggar on the streetside, give him some of your sandwich but also remember to pray for him.
If an ambulance or fire engine passes you with its sirens wailing, pray for the people whose aid they are going to, but pray also for the paramedics and the firemen, that God will bless them and their work to his greater glory.
Pray for any downcast or grim faces you see on the street: just say "Lord God, bless him/her," and that is enough.
Walk into the supermarket and realise that the girl working at the checkout needs your prayer, too.
When you go to work, pray for your boss and for your fellow workers.
If you read a book that uplifts you and inspires you, pray and thank God for the work of the author.
And don't forget to pray for your enemies.

I think prayer at its most primitive level is silent communion with God, and in private personal devotion nothing more is required. Remember that God came to Elijah not in wind, or fire, or earthquake, but in the quietest of whispers.

But in all the ages of man, God's people have also made vocal prayer. This is because prayer is not always only God-ward but to Man-ward as well. God himself sometimes causes his servants to "speak in tongues", causing his worshippers to spontaneously cry out in ecstatic utterances. This is what the Bible calls glossolalia and its purpose is to teach and to convert. The other reason Christians pray out loud (which is more relevant to our discussion here), is that God encourages us to pray together as the Body of Christ.

At Holy Communion, the priest says, "We are the Body of Christ: in the one Spirit, we were all baptised into one body." What does he mean by We? It is an error to think that he means only those people present in the congregation. No, he means We the Church. And this Church is even wider than the community present here on earth. For there are two parts to the Church: the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant. The Church Militant are those of the faithful still here, fighting the forces of Satan. The Church Triumphant are those who have passed on to receive their final reward in heaven. So when we pray as they body of Christ, we pray as one with every Christian now living, every Christian who has ever lived, and every Christian who will ever live. We are the Body of Christ.

Roman Catholics like to define catholic to mean all those Christians in communion with the Bishop of Rome. I think the best definition of catholic is that given by St Vincent de Lerins in the 5th century AD: quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus creditum est, "that which has been believed in all times, in all places, by all." When I say "The Catholic Church", I mean "The Universal Church", as defined by St Vincent. So I say I am catholic without meaning Roman Catholic, and that those prayers are catholic which have been prayed by the Body of Christ since the earliest times.

So comes our strongest argument for the use of set prayers. What is wrong with extemporaneous prayer? Nothing, but do not say that God hates prayers read from pieces of paper, because set prayers allow his church to pray together. Jesus took regular part in the worship of the synagogues and never complained of it, despite the fact that even in his day their worship was extremely ritualistic. When Jesus blessed the bread and the wine at the Last Supper, what words did he use? We know precisely what words he used, because as a Jew he would have used the same words as are today used by every Orthodox Jew when blessing bread and wine: Baruch ata adonai, eloheynu, melech ha-olam... "Blessed are you, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe..." And if Jesus was not afraid to use a set form of words, why should we be? The crux of the matter is that we should use the words and mean them.

The saints are those Christians who have gone before us. They were mortal just as we are and they experienced much the same trials as we now face. Small wonder then that so much of what they wrote is relevant to us today. Use their words as recorded for us by history, or modify them to suit your personal situation. But when you pray them, make it your own prayer that speaks to God from the depth of your heart. Remember that the words are merely a channel for your thoughts and emotions which are the true prayer that reaches the Throne of Grace.

© 1998 Gavin Koh

This page last updated 19 August, 1999.

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