For the 15th installment of The Liturgy Series, I am going to take things on a little bit of a different route. We have talked about albs, breviary covers, missals and even a paschal stylus… all sorts of liturgical items for use in a reverent celebration of the Mass. However, I want in this installment to go back to the basics. What is beautiful about the liturgy is that no matter where you are in the world, the structure of the celebration of the liturgy (i.e. Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, sacraments and other rites prescribed in the liturgical books) are the same. The only difference is the use of language in which after the Second Vatican Council, the vernacular can be used so to foster an “active” and “conscious” participation in the Sacred Rites. As travel picks back up in the next couple months for North Americans and Europeans at least, I thought it would be fitting to feature some “prayer tools” that I carry with me to ensure that I can actively pray and take part in the liturgy of the Church wherever I am at, whether it be at a church celebrating Mass in a language I do not know, and some sacramentals that I think would help one “stay fit” spiritually, especially on vacation, pilgrimage or retreat. I have featured some of these items on our blog throughout the years, but never managed to compile them – so here they are!
1. A Good Backpack – Starting with my journey to Europe in 2019, I began using a High Sierra Overtime Fly-By Laptop Backpack. When I think of a “pilgrimage,” an image that comes up in my mind is that of a personal with a backpack. Oftentimes, we come on a pilgrimage and a retreat at a certain point in our lives where we would be carrying with us much “baggage.” It may be physical (a.k.a. overpacking), but moreso, I speak of here in a spiritual sense – we come with our worries, concerns and even our sins on a pilgrimage or retreat. The backpack that I have used throughout pilgrimages and retreats bears sentimental value to me because I am reminded of this reality of a pilgrimage. I find moments of consolation when reminded of these pilgrimage or retreat moments because I am reminded that only in God can I let go of all this baggage that is weighing me down, the baggage that prevents me from having a sincere relationship with Our Lord.
On more practical terms, a good backpack (especially on flights) allows for ease in carrying your necessities both physical and spiritually. On flights, I would often bring a laptop to get work done, so a backpack with an accessible laptop compartment is the most ideal. However, I care the most about the many compartments to compartmentalize be toiletries, shirts, socks… and spiritual tools that I will outline further.
2. Crucifix – When I was a part-time sacristan at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica, I remember seeing a prayerful woman who was there often, both weekends and weekdays in the first pew of the Cathedral, near the Blessed Sacrament. She often had many prayer cards laid out in front of her but what stood out for me was a large crucifix which she would often carry in her arms.
The crucifix is the sign of salvation. The cross that was once a symbol of shame, of death, through the death and resurrection of Jesus became for us a sign of victory and life. Therefore, I think it is important for one to have a crucifix with them wherever they go. It does not need to be a big one – there are many high quality crucifixes from reputable Catholic shops. Some you might want to consider is the indulgenced pardon crucifix. I personally carry a simple crucifix that has a depiction of Mary at the back. I bought it some time ago at the Liturgical Centre in Toronto but unable to locate it online. Interesting fact: this crucifix has served as an altar cross twice for a camping retreat, in which unfortunately the liturgical team failed to prepare an altar cross. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) no. 297 states that, “The celebration of the Eucharist in a sacred place is to take place on an altar; however, outside a sacred place, it may take place on a suitable table, always with the use of a cloth, a corporal, a cross, and candles.” (emphasis added)
In brief, the cross with the crucified Lord is a symbol of our faith, and let yourself be reminded of this sign of salvation always.
3. Rosary – a sacramental that helps with travelling on long roads is the rosary. I remember sitting on the bus one Sunday travelling from Barcelona, Spain to Nice, France. I remember praying with the scenery as the bus was passing by mountains and cities. Praying is not an act to pass time, but rather, a connection with God at a certain moment in time. You can bring any rosary, a ten-decade or a five-decade rosary. I have many but have a few that I use frequently. Throughout my time in Europe, I used a Pocket Rosary from Catholic Milestones which I often carry with me on travel. I do recommend Rugged Rosaries as well, which provides rosaries in all shapes and sizes, including pocket rosaries. I recently bought their Catholic Gentleman Rosary and highly recommend that one, especially if you don’t mind the little bit of extra weight.
4. Breviary – pilgrimage and retreats allow one to immerse further into prayer and if you have a breviary, I highly recommend you bring it along. I have mentioned countless times on the blog that I can not recommend enough the use of a paper, hard-copy for breviaries, missals and prayer books. May I recommend a breviary cover as well? This protects your breviary and even missals, from wear and tear. Have not been able to purchase a breviary? I highly recommend Universalis or the free-alternative, iBreviary or Divine Office.
5. Missal – pray with the Mass readings on your journey and at Mass with a hand missal such as the Daily Roman Missal. Along with that, I highly recommend if you are going to another country and have the chance to participate in Mass in a foreign language, The Order of Mass in Nine Languages by Liturgical Press which includes the Order of Mass in English, Spanish, French, Italian, Latin, Polish, Portuguese, Tagalog and Vietnamese. (Note the new Order of Mass in Italian with minor revisions in the new edition has not been reflected in this current publication.)
6. Journal – it is a noteworthy practice particular on retreats and pilgrimages is to have a journal. It is also a worthy practice to do spiritual journaling everyday in which one would be able to record the ways in which you see God working in your life. On pilgrimage or retreat, you may find yourself in a thought and mode to jot down a prayer from the heart. Journals as one may know, come in all shapes and sizes, but choose the one that fits you. Personally, I prefer a small sized, passport-sized journal. Some people may prefer larger. One journal I would recommend is a leather cover traveller’s notebook. I purchase mine from an AliExpress vendor, IPBEN which has very affordable styles and even free customization for their traveller’s notebooks. I was somewhat skeptical at first, but the purchase proved to be very smooth and the item is of good quality. I have also used pocket composition notebooks throughout the years which have proved to be a fine companion as well.
7. Bible – especially on a pilgrimage, you want to have a bible with you. I have reviewed a variety of bibles on our blog, and if you have read through the various reviews, there are various bibles of different formats and sizes that will suit your needs. For on-the-go Catholics, I recommend the The New American Bible Revised Edition – Black Zipper Duradera Compact Edition from Oxford University Press or the feature-filled New American Bible Personal Size Gift Edition. If you are leaning towards the New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, I would recommend either the NRSV Catholic Bible Personal Size Standard Edition or Thinline Edition (to be reviewed soon on our blog) both from Catholic Bible Press. You can even bring only the Gospels with you if you think that is sufficient for you in a particular point in time. I have seen the paperback New American Bible translation Pocket Gospels and Acts of the Apostles published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Recently, I just bought from Amazon a leather copy of Ignatius Press’ pocket New Testament and Psalms of the Revised Standard Version, Second Edition translation. I have seen Cardinal Collins’ copy and admired it and therefore, recently, decided to get a copy for myself and may hopefully review it on this blog in the near future.
8. Prayer Book – it is in the moments of silence in a church that I have had the opportunity to flip through my prayer books. While the Mass and Liturgy of the Hours are the prayers of the Church, there are countless litanies, prayers of the saints that speak to your heart in a specific moment. A beautiful traditional prayer book is the Manual of Prayers published by the North American Pontifical College in collaboration with Midwest Theological Forum. A prayer book that I have brought with me so many places is the Handbook of Prayers – Student Edition published by Midwest Theological Forum, edited by Fr. James Socias, the figure who was also behind the Daily Roman Missal. I have that copy stuffed with prayer cards. For a truly portable prayer book, I recommend the beautifully illustrated St. Joseph Pocket Prayer Book from Catholic Book Publishing Corporation. I often keep the two – Handbook of Prayers and St. Joseph Pocket Prayer Book together when travelling.
Am I missing anything from the list? Maybe? Each person is different and may bring along with them other items that will aid their spiritual life, that will help them become connected with the liturgy and prayer life of the Church. Which other “prayer-tools” do you bring along when on-the-go? Put them in the comments below! I would love to know.
2 thoughts on “The Liturgy Series: Prayer Tools On-the-Go”
Thank you for this list. I would add:
– a small icon or other image of Our Lady
– a small electric votive candle with holder to provide a devotional lamp in a hotel or other room
– a compass – if possible I prefer to face East, especially for the invitatory
Thank you William for your suggestions!
A compass was something I did not think of at all when compiling this list, but now that I think of it, would be quite useful in facing the east.