Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (from January 23, 2011 bulletin)

“Lord, teach us to pray…” - Luke 11:1
It seems like a simple request for Our Lord to teach someone how to pray, and yet it becomes complex in our broken
lives. Unfortunately, we are not simple people. But the Lord is patient and offers His disciples a beautiful answer, “When
you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
And forgive us our sins as we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
And do not subject us to the final test.”

He goes on to other lessons on prayer, but it begins here with the best known Christian prayer, the one Jesus gave us. We ought to know
it well and pray it often. In the early Church, Christians considered it an obligation to pray the Our Father at least three times a day.

If we only did just this, we would soon feel a drawing to pray more. The Scriptures invite us to “Taste and see how good the Lord is.” This
drawing to pray more, to know the Lord better, brings with it questions. As my beloved grandmother once said when asked who she thought
God is, “God is mystery.” In my ignorance at the time I thought I knew Him better than that. “Mystery” sounded too vague for a God who reveals
Himself to us. But as one grows in the spiritual life, one thing He reveals is His depths. God’s infinite Being becomes unfathomable and ineffable.
One could be overwhelmed.

It’s times like this when a person may feel a need for spiritual guidance. And so, many people seek information about the life of prayer. I
wish I had time to do this every day, all day long. It is a joy to help a person seek the action of the Holy Spirit in his or her life. And it’s an
impossible task for any one person in a large parish like ours. In discernment with a small core team, we sought to find a solution to this and
developed a new ministry called Spiritual Companions. With the expertise of Tim Malone and the help of Marijean Heutmaker and Diane
Cooper, we are launching this valuable help to the mission of the Church this weekend, January 22nd and 23rd.

The Twelve Companions (remind you of anything?) have been trained in the basic principles articulated by St. Ignatius of Loyola for
discernment of spirits and other methods of prayer. They have also received excellent listening skills and continue through ongoing formation
to shape their ability to relate with others. Each of them was screened for aptitude, and they have succeeded in completing this initial class over
the past year. They value their own spiritual journey and desire to share it with others.

These twelve adventurers in the spirit are trained to companion others on their journey. They aren’t spiritual directors or counselors, but
instead walk beside a person, sharing from their own experience and the richness of our spiritual tradition as Catholics. The disciples of
Emmaus give us a perfect image of how this ministry plans to function. You know the story; the two disciples are walking away from Jerusalem
wondering what had just happened. Their Jesus had been crucified and many of the disciples were terrified for their own lives. Now what? What
did their lives mean? Jesus comes alongside them, unrecognized, and asks what they were speaking about. “All that has happened in
Jerusalem over the past few days,” they respond. “What things?” Jesus asks.

Here is the crux of processing our prayer experience. ‘What things’ happen when you pray? We can try to process this alone, but it can help
immensely to share these ‘things’ with others. As the Body of Christ ,we bless, strengthen and encourage one another with God’s wisdom and
compassion. Sharing your prayer experience is a valuable way to bring the different members of Christ’s Body closer together.

Our Spiritual Companions at St. Stephen’s are available for one-on-one companioning or small group facilitation. We are hoping to have a
few small groups available for Lent this year. The format would include contemplative prayer based on the lectionary and sharing our experience
together. One doesn’t need to worry about sharing your feelings or personal concerns; one can share or not share. One doesn’t need to know
how to pray. We are all learners.

Please join me in commissioning these twelve founding members of St. Stephen’s Spiritual Companions. It promises to be an extraordinary
ministry of fruitfulness and growth in God’s love. One of our original core members, Leonard Lombardi, didn’t live long enough to see this come
to fruition, but his prayers and companionship continue in a more powerful way. Thank you, Lenny, for your gift of prayer and sacrifice for
Christ’s Church. We continue from the road to Emmaus on to the New Jerusalem together.

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