Is it okay to pray out of a Jewish prayer book?

I was received into the Church about six years ago, but before that I practiced Orthodox Judaism and very nearly converted (I was not raised Jewish and so am not halachically Jewish). I have more or less left that part of my life behind because I am not ethnically Jewish and believe very much in Christ and His Church–so why do anything Jewish when I am not Jewish by faith or family?

BUT…My wife and I are expecting our first child in December and we plan on raising her to speak both English and another language–likely Hebrew because I know it reasonably well (as well as French and some Spanish). I have come to the realization that my Jewish identity is still a deep part of who I am and how I relate to God. I have spent time in Israel and we have talked about one day even moving there.

None of this is to say that I wish to be Jewish. I love my Catholic faith. But I just feel like I come at it Jewishly, if that makes sense. But what can I do with that? I know about Hebrew Catholics, but I am not even ethnically Jewish. I actually feel more like an Israeli living the Catholic faith. What can I do without improperly blurring boundaries? Can I use a Jewish prayer book to pray? Can I observe Jewish holidays? Should we raise our kids speaking Hebrew at all? It is a little sticky because unlike Hebrew Catholics, I am not Jewish. But all if the years I spent in shul, the trips to Israel, and the devout Jewish life I lived has imprinted itself, in a way, on my heart, and I don’t know what to do about it.

Interesting question. I don’t see a problem with most of it per se. I am a devout Catholic and occasionally say the Shema Israel. A Catholic can (I think), attend Passover Seders. However, I would avoid anything that would symbolically turn back anything Christ has fullfilled. Remember. Christianity is Judaism taken to its zenith.

Yes, it’s fine for Hebrew Catholics to maintain their Jewish prayers and traditions. At least that is what I was told in RCIA.

I think its better to stick with established Christian prayers, though perhaps if you christianise the jewish prayers it might be okay.

If you do continue with Jewish prayers, you should avoid those that pray for the coming of the Messiah or the Servant or the Prophet, as that implicitly denies the coming of Christ.

Since most of the Jewish prayer books are based on either the Torah or the Prophets, which is our Old Testament, I see nothing intrinsically wrong in using it, but I would include some specifically Catholic prayers as well – such as a daily family Rosary. I too, studied Judaism, just to learn more about the OT and Hebrew, and still occasionally say the “Shema”, but usually AFTER my Catholic prayers or Rosary.

  1. I don’t see anything wrong with praying out of a Jewish book. I would suggest pre-reading the prayers you plan to use, just to make sure that they don’t contradict the things fulfilled in Christ or any Catholic teaching.

  2. I am not extremely knowledgable about modern Jewish practice, but I’m pretty sure from discussions with my Jewish friends that many holidays involve ceremonies of atonement. We must keep in mind that all need for sacrifice was ended by Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice. I would suggest, if you feel extremely attached to these holidays, that you apply the same criteria mentioned in #1, and very carefully at that.

  3. The beauty of the Church is that it is universal. God’s people is no longer a single, chosen nation, it is a worldwide Church, of which someone of any gender, ethnicity, background, etc can be a member. I see no issue with raising your children as ethnically Hebrew as you wish, as long as you raise them within the faith.

Please keep in mind that this is just my extremely fallible understanding, based in study of the Church and her teachings. A dialogue with a priest or bishop may also be helpful in finding the answers.

What do you think we’re doing when we pray the psalms at Mass :stuck_out_tongue:

Prayer is our talking to God – 1Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus.” The Lord’s Prayer is in Matthew 6:9 -13. And in Ephesians 6:18 – the context is putting on the whole armor of God. " praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints."

You said you were received into the Church about six years ago. I would increase my faith by reading Catholic material. I think it is better to follow the teachings and practice one faith. Yes, you have a background in the Jewish, but your decision to join the Catholic Church tells me that is where your priority should be. God accepts any prayers, so praying from other books honoring our God, and Jesus, to me seems to be ok. Just my opinion, no fact. God bless.

You should contact

They are a ministry of the Catholic Church and I think the Archbishop of St. Louis and Partrich of The Holy Land keeps watch over them.

The church has been praying the psalms for two centuries. Mary, Joseph and Jesus were all faithful practicing Jews; you might be saying some of the same prayers which they recited. Let us not forget that Jesus said, "Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. " Matthew 5:17

Jewish Prayer Book question.

Hi Colorad007.

Consider Brant Pitre’s Jewish Roots of the Mass series and you will see that in many respects we ARE praying Jewish prayers in the Catholic Mass and in the Liturgy of the Hours. This is no surprise as we as Catholics are Fulfilled Temple Jews.

But your question pertained to prayers out of a “Jewish prayer book”. Presumably from Rabbinic Jews.

If you choose to do so, I would refuse to curse fellow Jews–even apostate Jews.

In other words, I would NOT recite the birkat ha-Minim which is NOT a benediction but a malediction, or a curse.

I’ll try to post the Pitre audio series link later.

I think you meant two millennium :smiley:


The Church has authorized the use of liturgical Jewish prayers in many circumstances. With full ecclesiastical approval, the Catholic Book Publishing Company has released the New Saint Joseph People’s Prayer Book which contains many official Jewish prayers. A Roman Catholic resource, the prayers in this book can be used and recited by anyone whether of Jewish heritage or not.

In many circumstances the Church allows for the use of Jewish prayers. She incorporates them into the Liturgy such as in the Mass and the Divine Office. Therefore in instances where the prayer does not go against Catholic teachings, they are generally allowed.

However, their use should be made with more than a proper sensitivity to Christian theology. For example, Jewish prayer books like the haggadah can be used if Catholics of any heritage choose to hold and participate in a Seder during Passover.

But Church authority has advised that “it is wrong, however, to ‘baptize’ the Seder by ending it with New Testament readings about the Last Supper or, worse, turn it into a prologue to the Eucharist…When Christians celebrate this sacred feast among themselves, the rites of the haggadah for the seder should be respected in all their integrity.” (Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy Newsletter, March 1980, p. 12).–God’s Mercy Endures Forever: Guidelines on the Presentation of Jews and Judaism in Catholic Preaching, Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, September, 1988.

Because their misuse can be considered acts of disrespect by the Jews and even viewed as an act of Anti-semitism, taking it upon ourselves to add a New Testament “slant” to these or any Jewish prayers is not recommended by the Church.

“I’ve said it other times and I would like to repeat it now: It’s a contradiction that a Christian is anti-Semitic: His roots are Jewish,” Pope Francis has recently stated. "Let Anti-Semitism be banished from the heart and life of every man and every woman!”

Should you have a question about the proper use of any particular Jewish prayer, as there are too many to mention here, you should make inquiry with your Catholic priest.

It saddens me greatly to read many of the responses of fellow Catholics. Indeed, many have been misinformed on the teaching of the Church in this regard. Instead of simply giving opinions on whether or not Catholic people should use Jewish rites, I am sure that all would agree it is good to see what the Church has taught historically.

The Fourth Lateran Council, Canon 70:
“Some (Jews), we understand, who voluntarily approached the waters of holy baptism, do not entirely cast off the old man that they may more perfectly put on the new one, because, retaining remnants of the former rite, they obscure by such a mixture the beauty of the Christian religion. But since it is written: “Accursed is the man that goeth on the two ways” (Ecclus. 2:14), and “a garment that is woven together of woolen and linen” (Deut. 22: ii) ought not to be put on, we decree that such persons be in every way restrained by the prelates from the observance of the former rite, that, having given themselves of their own free will to the Christian religion, salutary coercive action may preserve them in its observance, since not to know the way of the Lord is a lesser evil than to retrace one’s steps after it is known.”

With the understanding of a rite being a “religious or other solemn ceremony or act” (dictionary), it’s pretty safe to assume that this includes celebrating religious holidays and prayers. The canon seems to imply that not knowing the way of the Lord (i.e. practicing the Jewish faith) is a lesser evil than coming to Catholicism and then retracing steps to the Jewish rites.

Of course, this only technically speaks of those who were previously involved with Judaism and then later converted, but it seems to make sense to even apply this to those who were not previously of the Jewish faith. Perhaps the assumption at the time was that those not of Jewish origins would never have any reason to desire participation in rites deemed not part of “the way of the Lord.” Times have changed in that regard, but I do not think that is reason to believe the universal and timeless Church now approves participation in rites which were deemed outside of the way of the Lord.

That being said, there is absolutely no problem with teaching them Hebrew. It would even be laudable to teach Hebrew by praying the Old Testament scriptures with your children. Past that, however, the Church has historically been clear that you take risk of committing evils.

The information provided by a Church council cannot be taken out of context. Neither does the Church take an unbending approach to their application, especially in the face of developments in Catholic teachings over the centuries.

Since Vatican II and the release of *Nostra Aetate *the Church has changed the way it handles its relationship with other religions, most especially the Jews and Judaism. All previous statements the Church has made must now be read in light of this and all following pronouncements on the subject.

Especially since the time of Blessed (soon to be Saint) Pope John Paul II, the Church has come to recognize its connection to Judaism in practice and spirituality, It was during his time that the Vatican came to light its first Chanukah lights, and since then it has been the practice for bishops around the world to do the same, even by our current Pope Francis when he was a bishop.

As the above information I recently posted pointed out, God’s Mercy Endures Forever: Guidelines on the Presentation of Jews and Judaism in Catholic Preaching, was published by the Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in September of 1988. This information as well as many other statements made by the Church at large since recognize that today’s Catholic may indeed participate in Jewish liturgical actions in their proper context.

Fortunately, this quote is not taken out of context. It is the entire Canon, and the surrounding canons do nothing to change the context, except perhaps further support my interpretation. I highly suggest you read all of the documents of the Fourth Lateran Council to see this.

As to your suggestion that “all previous statements the Church has made must now be read in light of this and all following pronouncements on the subject,” this could not be more untrue. New councils should be viewed and interpreted in the light of the Church’s longstanding tradition, not the other way around. It would be foolish to suggest that we interpret the Church Fathers based on Vatican II, and it is nearly just as foolish to suggest that the Fourth Lateran Council, or any other council for that mater, be interpreted based on Vatican II.

Additionally, it is important to read the text of Nostra Aetate concerning Jews. If, in fact, it contradicted the Fourth Lateran Council, your argument may have some weight. It does not, however–it only address that they should be treated with fairness and that there should be a fraternal dialogue, not that Catholics should disobey longstanding teaching and engage in Jewish rites. Even if many Bishops have acted against the church’s teaching, this doesn’t make it true. After all, the widespread sin of simony did not become just simply because Popes and Bishops made use of it for centuries.

The text of Nostra Aetate concerning Jews:

Since the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews is thus so great, this sacred synod wants to foster and recommend that mutual understanding and respect which is the fruit, above all, of biblical and theological studies as well as of fraternal dialogues.

True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ;(13) still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures. All should see to it, then, that in catechetical work or in the preaching of the word of God they do not teach anything that does not conform to the truth of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ.

Furthermore, in her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel’s spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.

I have firsthand experience about this subject because I am a Catholic of Jewish heritage, of the tribe of Judah, and have had direct approval and even encouragement by the Church to keep my heritage alive.

There is even a Catholic apostolate with eccleciastical approval known as the Association of Hebrew Catholics, the members of which do keep their heritage customs alive. (See also the Wikipedia article about them.)

The Catholic Church in Israel has clergy that also observe many Jewish customs, like going to temple on Shabbot. This is the way things are now in the Church.

I suggest you approach one of the forum’s moderators or apologists on this matter if you believe the above information is in error. You should also speak with your local priest.

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