Way back in 1959, St. Paul Editions, as our publishing house was then called, compiled and printed a marvelous book: the Queen of Apostles Manual of Prayer. It wasn’t just another prayer book—at that time there were hundreds of those on the market—but literally a manual, a how-to, of conversation with God, learned by…praying.
It was reprinted and revised more than once. By the time it received a new title, Queen of Apostles Prayer Book, it contained over 400 prayers and novenas. At least that’s how we promoted it. I don’t know if anyone ever checked up on that number, including us. But people responded.
So it seems did God. Stories of healings, conversions, of insight received and of prayers answered flooded our book and media centers, as well as our publishing house mail box. Gradually, though, with demands for other material on spirituality and Liturgy, as well as the loss of interest in prayer books in general, we let it go out of print.
In recent years that trend has reversed itself. People no longer assume that their loved ones know even the basic prayers, much less the rich treasury of the Catholic Christian tradition. In addition, many feel the need to face with grace and fresh insight new challenges like addictions, terrorism, and general economic instability. Where do they turn if not to God? How do they turn to God with such deep personal and social need? From every one of our PBM Centers the request was the same: Redo the Queen of Apostles Prayer Book.
So last month we finally came out with a completely new edition. And we threw a party! On Twitter and Facebook I gave a nod to tradition by offering to pray the Rosary for anyone in cyberspace who could guess how many prayers this edition contains. The answer—drum roll, please—235. A caveat: It counts the Way of the Cross, the Rosary, litanies, and novenas as one prayer each, even though, technically, they consist of several prayers. If we counted those separately, they would probably double the number. Besides, how do you count the suggestions for meditation, the celebration of the sacraments, and Eucharistic adoration? The scores of prayers to the saints, as well as dozens by the saints, was easy enough, but calculating the Litany of the Saints as dozens of individual prayers was a bit of stretch. Oh, yes, and the Latin translation of the basic prayers already there in English? Tallying those twice just wouldn’t be fair.
The Queen of Apostles Prayer Book. You’d think that with a title like that, it would be a book of prayers only to Mary. It does have a lot asking for her intercession: the Rosary, novenas, the Angelus, litanies, and various favorites, like the “Untier of Knots.” But there’s another reason for that title.
An apostle gives Jesus to others. Mary gave Jesus to us—and still does—in her own unique way. God’s invitation and her “yes” at the Annunciation were the opening scene in the final act of the drama called salvation history. At that moment she was anointed Queen of Apostles. She bore Jesus in order to give him…to us. Then she kept on giving Jesus: to the shepherds of Bethlehem, to the Magi, in the Temple, at Cana when he began his ministry and at the foot of the cross. So it made sense that she would be in the Upper Room with the other Apostles when the Holy Spirit descended on her again and, through her prayers, brought Jesus’ Body, the Church, to birth. Sinless, Mary’s heart had always been in communion with God, even when her mind was on preparing meals, keeping an eye on the child Jesus, or planning her neighbors’ wedding. Her support of the Apostles flowed out from that union.
This prayer book is designed to help us pray-ers do the same, growing in our relationship with God through every aspect of our lives. These may be ordinary, but there’s nothing pedestrian about them. Our salvation and that of our world is a drama that showcases us as “actors in a supporting role.” If, like Mary, we’re Jesus’ disciples, we are also his apostles. May Mary, Queen of Apostles, make “prayer apostles” out of us all!
Sr. Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP