Ongoing Formation Session 1

Believe

Opening prayer: Saint Angela urged her daughters, “Learn from our Lord who, while he was in this world, was as a servant, obeying the Eternal Father even unto death.” Please open our hearts to learn where the Lord is leading us. Amen.

Leader: Our ongoing formation sessions in 2021-22 will incorporate Sister Larraine Lauter’s talk at Associates and Sisters Day, “Claiming Our Identity: Angela Merici and Her Original Vision for the Ursuline Family,” reminding us that Saint Angela called the laity to play an important role. These sessions will focus on one of Angela’s most well-known directions from her Introduction to the Counsels – “Act, move, believe, strive, hope.” We will discuss them individually and in slightly different order. Our first session is on “Believe.”

First reader: “Have hope and firm faith in God, for he will help you in everything. Pray to him, humble yourself under his great power, because, without a doubt, as he has given you this charge, so he will give you also the strength to be able to carry it out, provided you do not fail for your part. Act, move, believe, strive, hope, cry out to him with all your heart, for without doubt you will see marvelous things, if you direct everything to the praise and glory of his Majesty and the good of souls.”

Saint Angela Merici, Introduction to the Counsels

Leader: People were drawn to Angela because of her holiness and her desire to encourage contemplative people to be part of the active world. She started with a fervent belief in God and urged her daughters and followers to deepen their faith in God, “and they would see marvelous things.”

Second reader: “Just about the time Angela arrives in Brescia, there and in other cities, layfolk begin to organize themselves into spiritual companies, according to various spiritual movements, including one known as The Company of Divine Love. These people of faith meet frequently for spiritual conversation. They are keenly interested in the witness and ways of the early Church. They study Scripture. They seek to deepen their prayer, an expression of their longing for personal relationship with Christ.”

Sister Larraine Lauter

Leader: Consider the following questions and discuss them with others in your group.

  • What are some examples when you’ve taken time to gather with lay people to deepen your faith?
  • What benefits did you gain by participating?
  • What are the obstacles (other than Covid) that are preventing you from forming new such opportunities with lay people?

 Third reader: “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: Final Farewell

Fourth reader: “In Brescia, Angela is taken into the circle (of these spiritual companies), an association that may have lasted 20 years or more. We can surmise, knowing her depth of spiritual gift, that she plays a leading, inspirational role, yet let us not forget that she is a laywoman among laity. Angela is a third order Franciscan, which was a lay form at the time. … She is living in the world, she is a laywoman among layfolk, who recognize and are drawn to her great depth of spirituality. She is single-hearted, dedicated to Christ whom she claims as spouse. The institutional Church does not recognize her as a religious… but the layfolk around her, the “merely baptized” recognize her as a radically authentic Christian leader for their times.”

Sister Larraine Lauter

Leader: Consider the following questions and discuss them with others in your group.

  • Is there someone you know who serves as a spiritual role model, simply by the way he or she lives their life?
  • For people who may be struggling with their faith – or with no faith – how can you be someone for them to turn to?

Fifth reader: “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.’ … We exhort each one to raise her mind to God, and every day to practice this, and in the secret of her heart, to say: “My Lord, light up the darkness of my heart.”

Saint Angela Merici, The Rule, Chapter V: On Prayer

Sixth reader: “Our faith tells us that Christ is present because we are present. In Christ, we find our hope; in Christ in one another, we find courage, strength, wisdom for the day. We can be sure of this: that Christ does not abandon us.”

Sister Larraine Lauter

Leader: Consider these questions and discuss them with others in your group.

  • What sort of prayer brings you the most comfort?
  • Would you like to learn other ways to pray? What are some other prayer forms that interest you?

Closing prayer: Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” Lord, let us be people who are alive in Christ, just as Christ is alive in us. Amen.