This app and the book, Inspirational Daily Prayer; Following in the Footsteps of Female Saints and Holy Women were born of my efforts to send a daily prayer to a friend who was being treated for breast cancer. I sought prayers and Bible portions that might uplift and strengthen her, and help her come closer to God. After sending a prayer a day for about 9 months, I could no longer easily find suitable prayers.
In many prayers, there was an emphasis on sin and the unworthiness of the supplicant that I feared might weaken rather than strengthen my friend. A woman already humbled by illness does not need to be preached to about humility; she needs to be raised up. A woman already suffering is not consoled by being told that suffering is a virtue. A woman already supporting her family physically, emotionally, and materially does not need to be told to be selfless. Yet these are the themes often found in devotional materials.
Most prayers refer to the supplicant as a man, and humanity as men. Most of the holy people held up as models are men. During my many years in the church as a catechist working almost entirely with women, and formed and supported by eminent, holy women, the constant references to men grated on me. There seems to be little recognition of women beyond devotion to Mary, the mother of God, and the qualities attributed to her make her seem far beyond the realities of women’s daily life.
Where is the word that will speak to women? I heard it in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, an approach to religious formation for children ages 3 to 12, and their adult catechists. Over 50 years ago, Dr. Sofia Cavalletti, a Catholic Hebrew scholar, and her collaborator, Montessorian Gianna Gobbi, discovered that the child’s way of going to God is different than that of the adult. Rather than the “royal Way of the Holy Cross” the child points out to us the “royal Way of Holy Joy.” This path resembles that desired by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who observed how often we turn to God only when our own resources fail. Bonhoeffer wished “to speak to God, not on the boundaries but at the center, not in weakness but in strength; and therefore not in death and guilt but in… life and goodness.” 1
The Catechesis nurtures our relationship with God, who desires our friendship love. Deep within each of us lies the heart of the 3-year-old child who waits, unknowingly, to hear God’s words of love and who responds with her whole being. This is the reality I wanted to support in my friend. It is the reality I present here, the result of over 20 years of working with children in the Catechesis, years of prayer, thought, and study.
The dynamic in the kingdom of God is this: God invites and we respond. Christ, the Good Shepherd, constantly seeks us, his sheep, to live in loving relationship with him. When we respond to his call, we experience life to the full. Jesus said, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (Jn 15:11) Joy in relationship with God is the goal of these prayers.