Catholic Prayer

The Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the Doxology

Course Description

No other prayer enjoys the endorsement of Jesus himself. The Lord's Prayer in the Gospel of Luke and of Matthew comes from Jesus. The Christian Church cherishes the Lord's Prayer as the pre-eminent and paradigmatic prayer among all possible prayers. Yet, most recite the prayer without much reflection upon its meaning.

No other prayer enjoys the devotion to the mother of God that the Hail Mary enjoys. It is prayed innumerable times in the saying of the decades of the rosary, and indeed, it is the most memorized of prayers, the prayer most likely to be on the lips of the dying. More prayed in the Catholic Church than throughout Christendom, the Hail Mary remains alongside the Lord's Prayer as twined prayers, the sun and the moon, the father and the mother of all prayer.

Rev. Ayo’s thoughtful discourses offer the student deep insight into the most popular prayers in Catholicism. In addition, he shares rich reflections on Morning and Evening Prayer and Doxology. Below is an excerpt from Rev. Ayo’s Unit 5 lecture entitled The Meaning of Prayer:

In the mystery of prayer, there remains a conviction on my part that two prayers predominate after the most crucial and holy of prayers, which is our Eucharistic Prayer. Those two prayers are morning prayer and evening prayer. Those two prayers comprise the beginning and ending of our days lived in faith, hope, and love. Those two prayers are like the bookends of the Eucharist itself, its overture and its finale. We must never neglect our morning conversation with God and our evening conversation as well. Each day we are born anew in daylight from the death of the night of sleep. Each day we enter the darkness of unconsciousness from which we may not return in this life. The mystery of our life from birth to death and the mystery of God's love for us from Christmas to Easter are mirrored every day and most clearly in whatever morning prayer and evening prayer we may be able to offer. It is our life breath. Ever we breathe in air, warm and color that air, and we breathe out. We receive our life from God in the morning, warm and color our world, and breathe forth our spirit in the evening of our life on earth.

Course Content

Unit 1

Morning and Evening Prayer

Unit 2

The Lord’s Prayer

Unit 3

The Hail Mary

Unit 4


Unit 5

The Meaning of Prayer

Course Format

  • Created by Notre Dame Professor.
  • Six weeks in duration, with one week for orientation.
  • Typically 15-20 students in each course.
  • Material delivered by video player.
  • All lecture text available online in course.
  • Supplemental readings are provided to encourage further exploration of topic, internet links provided for all readings.
  • Written assignments (150-200 words) required.
  • Facilitator moderated chat sessions with students in course.

Required Texts

  • All course materials are available online in the course.

Participation Requirements

  • View or read the lecture for each unit.
  • Read assigned texts; keep notes, questions, and comments for class discussion.
  • Participate in the class discussion using the Forums area: post at least 2 comments, questions, or responses per unit.
  • Write 150-200 words in response to the assignment in each unit.
  • Participate in at least 3 scheduled chat sessions throughout the course.
  • Complete the course evaluation.

Time Expectations

3 to 5 hours per week, depending on your learning style and schedule.

Course Certificate

A certificate of completion awarding 25 contact hours will be sent upon completion of all course requirements.

Meet the Developer

Rev. Nicholas Ayo, C.S.C.

Rev. Nicholas Ayo, C.S.C.

Nicholas Ayo is a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross. He holds the S.T.L. degree in theology from the Gregorian University in Rome (1960) and the Ph.D. in literature from Duke University (1966). After many years teaching literature at the University of Portland in Oregon, Father Ayo became the Director of Novices for the Congregation of Holy Cross in North America (1974-1980). He then taught in the Great Books Program at the University of Notre Dame from 1981 to 2004, when he retired to Professor Emeritus status. Among his books are several published by Notre Dame Press: The Sermon-Conferences of St. Thomas Aquinas (1988); The Creed as Symbol (1989); The Lord's Prayer (1992) and The Hail Mary: A Verbal Icon (1994). The Sacred Marriage: The Wisdom of the Song of Songsappeared in November of 1997 from Continuum Press. Where Joy and Sorrow Meet, a book on the Stations of the Cross, was published by Ave Maria Press in 1998. Signs of Grace: Meditations on the Notre Dame Campus was published by Rowman and Littlefield in the autumn of 2001, and Times of Grace: Spiritual Rhythms of the Year at the University of Notre Dame was published by Rowman and Littlefield in 2004. Saint Nicholas in America: Christmas Holy Day and Holiday was published by Corby Books in 2006. Gloria Patri: The History and Theology of the Lesser Doxology is scheduled for publication by the University of Notre Dame Press in 2007.

S.T.L., 1960, Gregorian University; Ph.D., 1966, Duke University