It goes without saying that a Catholic university that does not pray has forgotten its mission. At the very heart of any university’s mission, whether Catholic or not, is the continuous quest for truth through rigorous research, and as well as sharing that knowledge, for the good of society, through teaching. Only through prayer can the unity of faith and reason be achieved, and only by prayer can we come to fully understand the world and ourselves. Prayer animates the very life of a Catholic university, transforming the search for knowledge into a search for wisdom.
In a world where information is accessible at the click of a button, this transcendental search for wisdom distinguishes Catholic universities from other educational institutions. Just as the chapels are at the centre of each of our campuses, so too is prayer a source of inspiration for the mission of the university.
Early last month the ACU Book of Prayer was launched on the Brisbane Campus by Archbishop Mark Coleridge, President of ACU Corporation, and The Hon Martin Daubney AM, Chancellor of ACU. The idea for a university prayer book is one that I have had for many years. My hope was that we could publish a prayer book comprised of a wide variety of prayers drawing from an array of traditions, that would unite the ACU community and serve as a reminder of the importance of prayer in the lives of all, irrespective of background or belief. It was critical that the prayer book reflected the geographical and cultural diversity of the ACU community.
To that end, the ACU Book of Prayer contains prayers written by students and staff from all our campuses, including some Italian prayers representing our Rome Campus. It is a prayer book by the community, for the community. In launching the book Archbishop Coleridge encouraged all of us to listen for the voice of Christ on our campuses, who is the ultimate teacher.
For young people in particular, a life of prayer is increasingly countercultural. We live in a ‘quick-fix culture’ of instantaneous results and widespread restlessness. The influence of social media and technology also tends to discourage the slow cultivation of the interior life, which is far more important than the flurry of busy tasks we manage to complete each day. Prayer, which calls us into a deep, lasting communion with God, is the antidote to this ache of unfulfillment which we cannot satisfy on our own.
As St Augustine said, “our hearts are restless until they rest in You”. In a world that tells young people they can do anything, be anything and have anything, why not choose to be in conversation with the creator of all things? We cannot underestimate the transformative power of prayer, which is needed more than ever.
Although the ACU Book of Prayer is little, I hope that its impact is large. As is it spread far and wide across our community and beyond, may we be reminded to return to God in prayer, who alone satisfies.
Fr Anthony Casamento CSMA is the Vice-President and Director of Mission and Identity at Australian Catholic University. He is the Regional Superior for the Congregation of St Michael the Archangel (the Michaelite Fathers) in Australia. He holds a number of undergraduate and graduate degrees in psychology, history and theology.