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Many forms of prayer, many ways to commune with God – a prayer workshop at Gather Us In 2013

August 6, 2013

As Catholics, we are all familiar with the traditional prayers of the Church: The Our Father, The Hail Mary, The Memorare, The Apostles Creed and so forth. Among the most popular devotions are The Rosary and The Chaplet of Divine Mercy, both prayed with rosary beads. The Church’s rich tradition of spoken prayer has supplied Catholics throughout the centuries with meaningful words that we can use to pray to God.

Oftentimes, the conversation becomes one-sided. We are taught what to say, but how do we learn to listen to God?

Many forms of prayer facilitate this need to listen. They are ways that deepen our connection, reaching into the depths of our souls.

Among the workshops being offered by the Gather Us In 2013 women’s conference this November 2nd is one called “Many Ways to Pray” which will include two forms of prayer that are at once, ancient and new. We are fortunate to have Sr. Yvette Bellerose presenting on Lectio Divina, and Sisters Mary Ann Azanza, RA and Jurgita Sereikaite, RA presenting on Taizé. Not only will participants be exposed to the teachings on these forms of prayer but they will be able to actually experience them.

Those who have tried these forms of prayer can testify to the deepening of their friendship with God through their use. I know that both methods have helped me learn to identify the still, small voice of God.

lectioJust what is Lectio Divina? Catholic monk and musician John Michael Talbot in his song, “Lectio Divina,” describes it this way: “Reading to prayer to meditation to contemplation divine.” It begins with a scripture passage or a single verse, perhaps chosen from the daily lectionary which can be found in missalettes or online at http://www.usccb.org/

Presenter Sister Yvette Bellerose says that “Lectio Divina is an ancient practice that can increase our awareness of the sacred dimension in our lives. We gradually recognize the gentle whisper of God, of Jesus, of God’s Spirit weaving Life into various aspects of daily living: our interactions with people, events, nature, work or ministry, and even in moments of leisure.”

She continues, “Lectio Divina guides us to look for deeper dimensions in Scripture.  It beckons us to savor words or phrases in Scripture, to go under the surface dimension of the Word, to listen deeply, stay with the Word, and let it change how we see life.  We learn to listen to God speaking to us in the present moment from the depth of our heart.  This heartfelt sensing of the Word of God calls us to action, to transformation, to something never before imagined.  We begin to understand what we want more of in life.  We move one step at a time in knowing how to respond to Jesus’ question: ‘What are you looking for?’”

taizeThe other prayer form to be discussed is known as Taizé. It is named after the ecumenical monastic community founded in 1940 by Brother Roger Schultz and situated in the town of Taizé in the central part of France. The community is dedicated to living in the spirit of kindness, simplicity and reconciliation. To encourage deeper prayer, simple chants were composed by community members. Sung in many languages and incorporating traditions of  all Christian faiths (including icons and chants from the Eastern Orthodox tradition), these simple songs focus on verses of scripture, sung many times over to facilitate the meditation and understanding of the verse. In many ways it’s not unlike Lectio Divina except for the fact that it is set to music.

Presenters Sr. Mary Ann Azanza, RA and Sr. Jurgita Sereikaite, RA are well versed in this form of prayer. Sr. Mary Ann has spent time at the Taizé community in France and has participated in several days of prayer animated by the Taizé community in Manila, especially during World Youth Day. She goes regularly to Taizé prayer at the Ascension campus of St. John’s Church.

Sr. Jurgita Sereikaite’s active participation in the Chapel Choir of Assumption College and service on the Liturgy Committee of her congregation’s General Chapter gives her the background to teach and appreciate Taize prayer from its musical and liturgical roots.

The Commission welcomes these three sisters to Gather Us In and we look forward to the wonderful teachings and blessings their workshop will bring to all of you. Be sure and visit the Commission website at www.worcestercommissionforwomen.org for more information on the conference.

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