Maria Anna led a busy life imbued with the depth of love for her God. Prayer was a part of the family’s day. She attended Mass daily whenever possible and received Holy Communion frequently, contrary to the custom of the times. Maria Anna also had a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She made frequent pilgrimages to the many Marian shrines that dotted Switzerland’s landscape.
—A Kaleidoscope of Precious Blood Prayer
Just as our Community’s foundress Maria Anna Brunner enjoyed many different ways of praying, so, too, do Sisters of the Precious Blood. In liturgy or in private moments; at home or somewhere new to us; regardless of time, place, language or culture — prayer is at the very core of our being.
Mother Brunner was known for her faithful devotion to prayer, especially Eucharistic adoration, as well as for her care of the poor. Our roots in Eucharistic prayer and service to our neighbors continue to sustain us as we endeavor to live our mission in our daily lives and promote Precious Blood spirituality to the world.
Here, we share just a few of the countless ways we pray.
The Ministry of the Praying Assembly
How many ways are there to pray? As many ways as there are people who pray! Even when we pray traditional prayers such as the Our Father, each of us is praying differently. Not necessarily by the way we say the words, perhaps emphasizing a word or phrase, but rather by how our heart is praying. Each of us must grow into our own individual way to pray, and that continues a whole lifetime. Prayer is an open heart growing into the very Presence of God.
Prayer is essentially an encounter with God, whether we pray verbally, through various images or symbols, by entering into the quiet of silence with mind and body, by ourselves or in community with others, devotionally or liturgically. Whatever the circumstances, prayer helps us to become more aware of God’s Presence in our lives, to long to come even closer to God, to experience God’s overwhelming love. One condition for any fruitful prayer is to surrender ourselves to the praying event. This surrender is especially indispensable if we wish to embrace fully the ministry of the praying assembly.
The Praying Assembly
The kind of assembly we are addressing here is much more than a simple gathering of people. In our context, an assembly is a gathering of people for the purpose of worshiping God during the celebration of a liturgy. Liturgical praying makes demands on us that other forms of praying do not. While liturgical prayer is an interwoven combination of communal prayer (such as singing the Gloria or praying psalms) and personal prayer (such as adding our own special intentions during intercessions), the structure of liturgical prayer is predictable, comfortable, and unchanging in its essential elements. Liturgical prayer has grown organically through the long Tradition of the Body of Christ gathering to make present and encounter the depths of the saving mystery of Christ. At liturgy we celebrate Christ’s ongoing Presence and self-giving which transforms us into being more perfect members of the Body of Christ into which we were baptized. During liturgical prayer we give ourselves over to something bigger than ourselves: Christ and his saving mystery.
Liturgical prayer requires those gathered to surrender themselves to the liturgical action to be more than ourselves. We come to liturgy as individual members of the Body of Christ, but in order to pray as a unified assembly, we must surrender being individual members to becoming the one, visible Body of Christ. This is especially true when we gather for the Eucharistic liturgy; the ordained priest is in the midst of the assembly as the visible presence of Christ, the Head of the Body. Essentially, the ministry of the praying assembly is to be Church made visible; it is to surrender ourselves to being a communion of minds and hearts.
The Ministering Assembly
Ministry is a faithful response to a call from God. The ministry of the assembly makes visible both who the assembly is and what the assembly does.
Simply being together at liturgy is a ministry in itself. When we think of liturgical ministry, we usually think of the various ministries for which people volunteer, such as altar servers, lectors, or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. Few of us regard our very assembling as a ministry. In fact, coming together for liturgy is an essential ministry, because during liturgy we are Church made visible continuing Christ’s saving mission. The assembly prays themselves into their being, into who they are, the Body of Christ. Moreover, our being an assembly is always for the sake of others, even though we ourselves personally benefit (grow in holiness). Our being an assembly effects just and righteous relationships with each other and God. It is an acknowledgment of the inherent dignity of all in our surrender to each other during the liturgical event.
It is much more natural for us to think about what an assembly does than who an assembly is. One part of what the assembly does is visible and quite easy to identify. Together we sit, stand, kneel, respond and sing, confess our weaknesses, say prayers. We listen to God’s Word and reflect on its meaning for our lives. We profess our faith and intercede to God for our needs. We offer each other a sign of the peace of Christ, and we process to receive the Body and Blood of the risen Christ. We are dismissed to live what we have done together as the praying assembly. All of this external doing takes conscious effort on our part. But it is not enough.
The assembly does more than this external doing during liturgy; the “more” is not quite so easy to recognize. This more vital kind of doing is to foster within ourselves an openness to God’s transforming us into being more perfect presences of the risen Christ during liturgy and in daily life. Liturgy calls us to live each day building up all those we meet to be God’s beloved people. The earnestness of our external doing during liturgy fosters our surrender to the internal doing of receiving God’s Presence and grace. This internal doing is the most profound ministry of the praying assembly.
The Dismissed Assembly
We are dismissed from the liturgy to live who we are as members of the Body of Christ. A praying assembly is permeated with other-centeredness: openness to God and fruitful presence to each other. Our ministry is to accept that we affect others in our very praying and living, and they affect us. Together we surrender our hearts — our very selves — to the mystery we celebrate and live. Through this mystery God reaches us in divine encounter. God’s encounter calls us to be the risen Christ whom we receive and give to others. We are to be a life-giving presence for our redeemed world, continuing the risen Christ’s saving mission.
Story by Sister Joyce Ann Zimmerman
Praised and blessed be the Sacred Heart and the Precious Blood of Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar
As a young eighth grader, I was invited by my teacher, Sister M. Georgiana Pahl, to accompany her with a group of girls to Dayton, Ohio, for a Vocation Day visit at the newly built prep school, Fatima Hall. The highlight of the weekend was my visit to the Motherhouse Chapel, where I felt I witnessed a “vision of heaven.” The Blessed Sacrament was exposed in a large monstrance high above the altar, decked with many lit candles. On the other side of the communion rail knelt two white-veiled novices reciting the prayers of the Holy Hour. This was where I felt the Lord calling me!
My grade school days exposed me to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament: during Lent after the Stations of the Cross and during 40 Hours. I remember Dad waking up during the middle of the night to drive to church to spend his hour before the Blessed Sacrament. Little did I know how important adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was in the lives of the Sisters of the Precious Blood. Eventually I learned how the practice I witnessed of the novices was followed by other members of the community all through the day and night. They were following the practice of Mother Maria Anna Brunner, who spent many hours before the Blessed Sacrament and encouraged other women to join her. Not only did they pray; they also took the Lord’s command to do unto others, and supplied food and clothing for the neighboring poor. Their actions eventually fostered the beginning of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Precious Blood.
After I left the novitiate to work in His vineyard, I always felt strengthened by the prayers of our Sisters in Dayton, kneeling day and night before the Blessed Sacrament. Through the years, I grew in my understanding of the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Pope Pius XII reminded us that “Christ had indeed left this world in visible form at his Ascension; but He is emphatically still on earth, the Jesus of History, in the Sacrament of His Love.”
Due to diminishment in numbers and elderly health issues, we Sisters were eventually no longer able to keep perpetual adoration. Our Sisters are still faithful to our devotion to Christ in the Eucharist by their daily visits to the Blessed Sacrament chapel. On certain times we are privileged to have Holy Hour before the Eucharist exposed in the monstrance.
Pope Paul VI reminded us: “As long as the Eucharist is kept in our churches and oratories, Christ is truly the Emmanuel, that is, God with us. Day and night, He is in our midst, He dwells with us, full of grace and truth. He restores morality, nourishes virtues, consoles the afflicted and strengthens the weak.” Paul VI adds a final touch to his teaching. “Anyone who approaches the august Sacrament with special devotion, and endeavors to return generous love for Christ’s own infinite love will experience and fully understand how great is the converse with Christ. For there is nothing more consoling on earth, nothing more efficacious for advancing along the road of holiness” (Paul VI in Mysterium Fidei).
Story by Sister Beverly Bodnar
Seven Offerings of the Precious Blood
Eternal Father, we offer you the Precious Blood of Jesus, poured out on the cross and offered daily on the altar, for the glory of your name, for the revelation of your kingdom and for the salvation of all people.
Glory Be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Praise and thanksgiving be evermore to Jesus, Who with his Blood has saved us.
Eternal Father, we offer you the Precious Blood of Jesus, poured out on the cross and offered daily on the altar, for fidelity to the mission of Jesus entrusted to the Church, for those who minister to your people, for our servant leaders, Pope _______ and all bishops, and for all those devoted to the Precious Blood of Jesus.
Praise and thanksgiving…
Eternal Father, we offer you the Precious Blood of Jesus, poured out on the cross and offered daily on the altar, for loving acceptance of your Word, for the conversion of sinners and for the union of all believers.
Praise and thanksgiving…
Eternal Father, we offer you the Precious Blood of Jesus, poured out on the cross and offered daily on the altar, for peace and justice among nations, for wise leaders and civil authorities and for reverence for the human person, the common good and all of creation.
Praise and thanksgiving…
Eternal Father, we offer you the Precious Blood of Jesus, poured out on the cross and offered daily on the altar, for those who suffer from abuse, poverty or oppression, or from any affliction of body, mind or spirit, and for all who rely on our prayers.
Praise and thanksgiving…
Eternal Father, we offer you the Precious Blood of Jesus, poured out on the cross and offered daily on the altar, for the spiritual and temporal needs of our family, our friends, our benefactors and our enemies, and for our own needs both known and unknown.
Praise and thanksgiving…
Eternal Father, we offer you the Precious Blood of Jesus, poured out on the cross and offered daily on the altar, for those who desire to be with you, for those who will die today, for all those who have gone before us in death and for our final union with you in glory.
Praise and thanksgiving…
Adapted by Sister Joyce Lehman from the traditional Seven Offerings of the Precious Blood devotional prayer
Prayer to Our Lady of the Precious Blood
Mary, our sister, our mother, you stand silently at the base of the cross.
Draw us to you in your gaze of union of hearts,
in this moment of shared agony and shared surrender.
Give us the strength of love to accompany the suffering Jesus, to get close enough to touch his heart and be covered by his blood.
Let our eyes not stray from his gaze but bring us into union with Him in suffering transformed, in loving surrender.
Mary, our sister, our mother, you stand silently
at the base of every cross.
Receive and mix our bloodshed with the blood of Jesus.
Unite our sufferings in the cup of joy and love shared in Eucharist, where all is transformed in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer by Sister Terry Walter
United in Prayer
What a powerhouse of prayer there is at Salem Heights here in Dayton, Ohio. Most of our retired Sisters live here, so one of our primary works of mercy is the Gift of Prayer in response to the many requests that we receive. There is a prominent prayer board in the hall that leads to Chapel. A theme for the week, based on the Sunday Scripture readings, highlights this space. The artwork was designed by two of our Sisters, Barbara Jean Backs and Mary Anne Schiller. Each week, Sister Mary Ann Mozser or Martha Eckstein, OSF, posts the proper theme.
We receive many requests from our families, relatives, friends and staff. This past year we received many intentions related to COVID-19, to the most urgent needs learned from national and world news and, presently, for peace from the Russian aggression in Ukraine. A general intention for all these prayer requests is included in the intercessions at our daily Mass, and in our Communal and private prayer.
Each Sunday, I have the responsibility of coordinating all the prayer requests and printing them on our prayer board. New ones are added, some are updated, and others are shown with a gracious note of thanks. Throughout the week, several Sisters will be gathered at the prayer board, reading a new entry, or an update on a surgery or a Sister’s relative who has died. Since there are Sisters who do not live at Salem Heights, I also send the list from the prayer board to our CPPS office and it is emailed to all our Sisters. This listing, titled Monday Moments, is an invitation to take a few moments to pray for those requests. Words of appreciation are also contained in this notice.
It is heartwarming to realize how our prayers have touched so many persons, and we, too, have certainly benefited from the prayers. May the Precious Blood of Jesus continue to bring solace and hope to all who turn to God in their need.
Story by Sister Rosemary Goubeaux