One of the most meaningful expressions I’ve ever heard of the importance of communal prayer came from St. Louis de Montfort’s Secret of the Rosary. In the section on common recitation of the Rosary, he says, “Somebody who says his Rosary alone only gains the merit of one Rosary, but if he says it together with thirty other people he gains the merit of thirty Rosaries. This is the law of public prayer. How profitable, how advantageous this is!”
Now, we have to remember that the ‘merit’ of one rosary is incalculable. But imagine the spiritual power that comes from thirty people praying the rosary together! And know that this is a reality every Friday at St. Dominic Priory in St. Louis.
We can take with complete confidence what St. Louis de Montfort says: that communal prayer is more powerful than the prayer of any one member of a community could ever hope to give. He only echoes the words of Jesus, who says, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of you.” Community prayer is a witness to the reality of Christ’s body, and a witness the the solidarity that we share with one another.
In a Dominican context, the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours play a central role. And just like the rosary, when they are prayed with fervor and faithfulness together, there’s so much more power than there could ever be praying fervently and faithfully on one’s own.
Community prayer has so many graces associated with it because it’s difficult! It makes sense that there would be such a multiplier applied to community prayer, because it is exponentially harder to schedule a time for two people to pray together than for one person, for three to pray together than two and so on. And if that was not enough, there is a tradition in our Order of dispensing a preaching friar from community prayer when there is apostolic ministry to be done; in that way, we are not monks.
I hope that you can see the vibrant balance that is called for: we need to preach, we need to have community prayer, our ministry is fed by our community prayer. It’s demanding, and sometimes stressful to arrange, but our rich history speaks eloquently about the fruits that community prayer brings.