Opening prayer: Loving God, with your daughter Saint Angela Merici I pray light up the darkness of my heart. Wait. Do I really mean that? If you light up the darkness, I will have to change. As we reflect on “Creating a deeper spiritual and personal prayer life”, give me the ability to see my darkness and the courage to change what needs changing. Amen.
Leader: Associates and Sisters Day 2018 called us to “Explore Personal Growth in the Spirit of Angela Merici.” This session focuses on “Creating a deeper spiritual and personal prayer life.”
Reader 1: “And moreover I assure you that every grace you ask from God will infallibly be granted to you. And I shall always be in your midst, helping your prayers.” Saint Angela Merici, Ninth Counsel.
Reader 2: A female jail inmate spoke up during a ministry session with Ursuline Sisters and Associates. It was clear she wanted to change her life filled with bad decisions. “I don’t really know how to pray,” she said. “All I know to say is, ‘Lord, let me do your will and not my own.’”
Reader 3: The prayers of our childhood are wonderful companions – “Our Father,” “Hail Mary” – but to achieve a personal prayer life with Jesus takes more than rote prayer. Jesus wants a relationship with each of us. Perhaps you are like the young woman above, who thought she didn’t know how to pray. She allowed herself to be open to how Jesus wanted to move her and found the most beautiful prayer. Remember, God’s first language is silence.
Leader: Discuss these questions with your group.
- Do you make time to be silent with God? If not, what is your obstacle?
- What is drowning out that divine whisper in your daily life?
Reader 4: “And let your principal recourse be to gather at the feet of Jesus Christ. And there, all of you, with all your daughters, to offer most fervent prayers. For in this way, without doubt, Jesus Christ will be in your midst, and as a true and good master, he will enlighten and teach you what you have to do.” Saint Angela Merici, Last Legacy
Reader 5: Find how you are moved by the Holy Spirit – what heightens your awareness of God’s presence – and you will get insight into the best ways to pray. Some people are moved by beauty in nature or art. Others are touched by music or language or architecture. Others may be moved more by spoken sermons or devotions. There is no one “right” way to pray.
Leader: Here are some differing prayer styles you may want to consider.
- Centering prayer involves sitting quietly, focusing on a prayer word and “basking in God.” There is no goal other than to be with God. It derives from the “desert fathers and mothers,” who fled to the Middle East in the third century to live a life of monasticism.
- Lectio Divina is “divine reading” used by the followers of Saint Benedict. It involves reading Scripture, letting go of our own agenda and opening ourselves to what God wants to say to us through a few words or phrases. It involves these steps:
- Choose a Scripture passage. What word or phrase captures my attention?
- Read the passage again. What do I hear God saying to me?
- Read the passage again. What is my response?
- Read the passage again. Be in God’s transforming presence.
- As a result of the encounter with God in Scripture, be called to action.
Other prayer forms may arise from a better understanding of different spiritualities.
- If you are moved by nature, learn more about the Franciscans, who like their founder, Saint Francis of Assisi, believe that we meet God in creation.
- If doing small acts of kindness is where you find God, learn more about Salesian spirituality. Inspired by Saint Francis de Sales and Saint Jane de Chantal, it emphasizes the power of doing ordinary things for others with great passion and love.
- If you want to combine a contemplative life with an active life – much the way Saint Angela did – learn more about the Dominicans, who are motivated by Saint Dominic’s “fearless search for the truth.” You may also learn more about the Carmelites, such as Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross.
Leader: Discuss these questions with your group.
- Where do you feel most comfortable finding the Holy Spirit?
- Do any of these differing ways to pray intrigue you enough to pursue?
Reader 6: “One needs always to pray in spirit and mind, given the continuous need one has of God’s help, which is why Truth says: ‘Oportet semper orare,’ that is, ‘one must always pray.’” Saint Angela Merici, The Rule, Chapter V
Reader 7: Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, taught that God is found in all things. He urged us to talk to Jesus like a friend, in the spirit of gratitude. He gave us the Daily Examen, listed below. When you are home this evening, consider walking through these steps.
- Thanksgiving: Lord, I realize that all, even myself, is a gift from you. Today, for what things am I most grateful?
- Intention: Lord, open my eyes and ears to be more honest with myself. Today, what do I really want for myself?
- Examination: Lord, show me what has been happening to me and in me this day. Today, in what ways have I experienced your love?
- Contrition: Lord, I am still learning to grow in your love. Today, what choices have been inadequate responses to your love?
- Hope: Lord, let me look with longing toward the future. Today, how will I let you lead me to a brighter tomorrow?
Closing prayer: Loving God, you have told us that you are present in everything and through your daughter, Saint Therese of Lisieux, that “all is grace.” Help me to see you in each encounter I have with another person and in nature and to know it is grace. I ask this in the name of Jesus, the lover of us all. Amen.