I received my first prayer book on the day of my First Communion in 1958, and don’t know where it is now, but can see it as clearly as if it was yesterday, it had a white cover and I was so proud of it. I have many old prayer books in my house now and when occasionally I try to declutter I cannot part with these. To me, they remind me of some family members who passed many years ago and I can see from the worn condition of some of these that they were precious to the owner, so I keep them out of respect for these family members who have long since gone to their eternal home.
“To Mother, From Charlie Sept. 1928”. This is the hand written message on the first page of one prayer book, it’s pages have faded, and the name of the outside is “Treasury of the Sacred Heart” and it was bought in Charles Eason, Middle Abbey Street Dublin. Back in 1928 we had no internet, television, or in many parts of Ireland no radio. The Newspapers and the Church on Sundays and Holy Days were our only contact with the outside world. Times were tough then, and there was a lot of poverty in many parts of Ireland. Most of the population back then were Catholic, and had great devotion to the church and their local priests.
This prayer book had many little Holy Pictures and Memorial Cards dating back to people who had died in the 1920 and 30s. It had 422 pages in the first part, and an additional 137 pages which contained “The Epistles and Gospels” The main contents in the first part started with “Acts of Divine Praise, of “Faith, Hope and Charity” the Act of Contrition (St Gertrude), then several prayers before Communion, and Confession, then Death: meditation on death, and prayer for a happy death.
Devotions: To our Guardian Angel, to the Blessed Virgin, to St. Joseph, Devout Exercise for the Souls in Purgatory.
Hymns: “Adeste Fideles”, “Ava Maris Stella”, “Tantum Ergo”, and 15 more.
Indulgences: Instruction and Explanation.
Litany: of the “Blessed Virgin”, of “St. Bridget”, of “The Passion” of the “Sacred Heart”.
Then a section on Mass Prayers, prayers, before Communion and after.
Novenas to the Blessed Virgin, to St. Dominic to St. Joseph, St, Patrick and to St. the Sacred Heart.
Prayers. Prayers “Before a Crucifex” “For the Pope” to our “Guardian Angel”. Morning Prayers and Night Prayers.
Novenas: In honour of the name of Jesus, to the Blessed Virgin, to St. Dominic, to St. Joseph, to St. Patrick, to The Sacred Heart.
Prayers: Before a Crucifix, For the Pope, In times of Calamity, to St. Aloysius, to Jesus, to St. Joseph and many more.
The second part of the book had all the “Epistles and Gospels”.
Back then people prayed for everything. If you mislaid something you prayed to St. Anthony, if you had a difficult pregnancy you prayed to St Gerard, St. Camillus, for Exams to St. Joseph of Cupertino. You prayed for health in times of illness, for fine weather, for a sick cow, for a safe journey if someone was travelling abroad, for peace in the world. For any crisis in a person’s life prayer was the answer and the Prayer Book was such a precious book to have. Lots of old prayer books had Relics which were a piece of cloth reputed to have touched the body attached to a small card that also had a prayer to that person who was on his/her way to be proclaimed a saint. These were carefully guarded, and in times of illness were brought to the house of the sick person, blessed with it and brought home again, if the person recovered it was considered a miracle. Relics of Oliver Plunket, Padre Pio, Fr. John Sullivan and many more. Charlie’s Prayer book had a holy picture of Mother Mary Aikenhead and a prayer for her Beatification and the date on it was August 1931. When I looked her up I see she was made “Venerable” by Pope Francis in 2015. She had founded the Sisters of Charity in Cork for the poor and was responsible for the founding of St.Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin.
When I was 12 and started secondary school I had a new prayer book called the Roman Missal.