“When I pray, God breathes in me.” This is the opening phrase of the 40-page prayer book signed by Francis and handed out to the faithful present in St. Peter’s Square during the Sunday, December 14 Angelus in Rome, which included the traditional “Bambinelli Blessing” or blessing of images of the Baby Jesus. The cover of the booklet, published by the Vatican Press, entitled Prayers, features a 3rd century fresco from the Catacombs of Priscilla, depicting a man who is praying with his arms widespread and pointing toward the sky.
The prayer book is a collection of the most important, popular and easily memorizable prayers of the Christian tradition. It can be used for day-to-day prayer, but also helps remind the faithful to pray for special situations and needs, ensuring that no one is forgotten. Pages 32 and 33 contain a drawing of a hand outlining some prayer intentions suggested by Pope Francis and how to pray for various individuals using our five fingers as an aid.
The thumb, which is “the finger nearest to us,” helps us think of and pray for those who are closest to us, he said. “These are the people that come most easily to mind,” he continued. “Praying for our loved ones is a pleasant duty.”
The index finger reminds us to pray for those who instruct and guide us. “Those who teach and care for others — teachers, professors, doctors and priests — fit into this category,” he said.
The middle finger, the longest, reminds us of our “leaders,” the people “who hold the fate of our country in their hands and influence public opinion… They need God’s guidance.”
The fourth finger is the ring finger. “This is our weakest finger, as any piano teacher will tell you.” It is there to remind you to pray for the weak, for those who face trying situations and for the sick” who need “our prayers day and night.” He also urged the faithful to pray for married couples.
Finally, the little finger reminds us that “we must feel little before God and our neighbors” and that we should pray for ourselves. “Once you have prayed for everyone else, you will be able to better understand what your needs are, looking at them from the right perspective,” he said.
The prayer book begins with the Christian prayer par excellence, the Lord’s Prayer. It also includes Biblical prayers and some verses from Psalm 51, Psalm 130 and Psalm 139, as well as the Mysteries of the Rosary and the Loreto litanies.
There are some simple prayers to be recited before and after meals, as well as some brief texts by St. Francis, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Blesseds J.H Newman, Charles de Foucauld and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. It also contains the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and prayers to be recited before Confession and after Communion, as well as prayers parents can say to ask for their children’s blessing.
Other prayers include prayers for married and engaged couples and invocations against evil.
This is not the first gift Francis has given the faithful present at the Angelus prayer. In recent months he also gave them the gift of “misericordina” and a pocket-sized copy of the Gospel.
The Pope has often reminded the faithful of the importance of always having a copy of the Gospel handy so they can read a passage or two whenever they get a spare moment in line or on the tram. By giving them this easy-to-read, pocket-sized prayer book, Francis aims to continue offering them simple advice for their daily lives, drawing inspiration from the rich Christian tradition.