(This article originally appeared in the TAU-USA Spring 2022 Issue #105)
The Conference of National Spiritual Assistants enlivened the National Chapter by focusing on being part of an order, on prayer and contemplation, and on the Liturgy of the Hours.
As an Order, Respect Different Opinions
“It’s important that we recognize that we are committed to an order, and we should try to be in harmony with the church… and with each other,” Fr. Jerome Wolbert, OFM, said. But, sometimes, he said, it’s difficult. Sometimes, even across the church, there may be disagreement.
He suggested that sometimes we take something that is true and blow it out of proportion, out of context and reinterpret it, moving people away from the truth. Sometimes, we may not hear the scholarly reply. It’s “important to be grounded to know where the church is – in scripture and to understand it in the light of Christ, to pay attention to church and its magisterium.” Respect it.
As an order, we should “be respectful of other people with a different point of view.” For him, he said he likes to “keep things open and on the table – It’s a dimension of being part of an order.” He recommended having a “broad collection of people and hear a lot of opinions. It’s helpful to sort things out that way.”
“There are a lot of things that we have to keep in our hearts and we can’t say
anything,” but, “we can take them to our spiritual directors. I hope that anyone who is in a position of authority, has a spiritual director.”
Being a part of an order can be difficult, especially if you are in the role of leadership, he said. We must not abandon but rather be “vigilant and persistent about coming ever closer to being coordinated with the rest of the church and among ourselves as an order.”
He added, “To be willing to be directed and to give up something you love out of the sense of harmony of the church is a dimension of leadership…” It’s challenging to keep some things in our hearts, but “we must face this challenge because we are part of an order.”
Prayer & Contemplation: The Bedrock
“Prayer and contemplation are the bedrock of our engagement with the divine,” began Fr. Christopher Panagoplos, TOR. Prayer is about giving thanks, asking for intercessions, making petitions and adoring God. These are the four types of prayer, he said.
“The Liturgy is the summit with all forms of prayer included,” he noted. Quoting Sister Delio, he said “prayer is where we speak what we know and what we don’t know.” He added Bonaventure’s thoughts: “If we want to ascend to God, we must descend into our own humanity… In prayer, God bends down to embrace us.”
“God speaks to us,” he added, and we should be “listening and engaging with him…Where God is, he gives us the strength and speaks to us in the goodness of creation…We’re the ones who put the veil in front of our faces.”
Through prayer and contemplation, we can understand who we are. “It brings all into perspective,” he said, adding that St. Clare’s method of “contemplation begins with the mirror of the Crucified Christ; seeing oneself in daily prayer before the Cross; to accept God in the Crucified is to accept God in our own lives, to accept who we are; the more we contemplate Christ, the more we come to resemble Christ.”
He advised: “Find God in the midst of all that is humanity. Listen to him in creation and in fraternity. Keep your mouths shut and ears open to see how God wants the world to be.”
He closed by saying that Contemplation makes us “aware of God who is always here.”
Liturgy of the Hours: Church’s Gift
Fr. Chris Shorrock, OFM Conv. asked the questions: Can Liturgy of the Hours become a prayer for every person? Can it bring new energy? Can we learn from it?
Using the Timothy M. Gallagher, OMV, book, Praying the Liturgy of the Hours – A Personal Journey, as his reference, he said that “spiritual life consists of ordinary experience with its daily joys and struggles, daily efforts to pray, and daily striving to love God and others.”
“When ordinary spiritual experience is expressed in words, new paths open in our lives of faith.”
Liturgy of the Hours, he said, is a “rich source of (that) spiritual growth.” The Psalms in the Hours “cry to God in times of affliction,” and “express hope and a deep longing for God.”
Quoting St. Ambrose, he said:
“A psalm is ‘a cry of happiness.’ A psalm soothes the temper, distracts from care, lightens the burden of sorrow. It is a source of security at night, a lesson of wisdom by day. It is a shield when we are afraid, a celebration of holiness, a vision of serenity, a promise of peace and harmony.”
The Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office, is, he concluded, “the Church’s greatest gift for all members of the church.”