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Whole Life

  • Whole Life: Centering Prayer

    Sep 24, 2014

    By: Karen Spear, Director of the Center for Organizational Ethics

    When I was in graduate school, my priest asked me how my coursework in theological ethics was affecting my faith. My response? "I feel as dry and desiccated as a bone." He invited me to join a small group of parishioners to whom he was teaching a prayer form called Centering Prayer. His invitation changed my life. I consider centering prayer one of the great gifts of my life.

    Centering Prayer a method of doing contemplative prayer. Many of us have probably experienced contemplative prayer in the context of deep personal prayer, saying the rosary, or kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration. It is that deep peace and rest that comes upon us when we are focused on and content to abide in the presence of God.

    The method of centering prayer was formulated by Frs. Thomas Keating, William Meninger, and Basil Pennington in the 1970s. In response to an invitation from Vatican II leaders, they developed centering prayer to revive the contemplative teachings of the early church and to make them accessible to modern believers. As such, centering prayer is thoroughly Christian and Catholic and is in no way derived from Eastern religion or Eastern mysticism.

    The practice of centering prayer is simple. We sit in silence for 20 minutes, focusing our minds on a "sacred word" that represents our intention to be present to God. The sacred word can be any word or very short phrase that signals our intent. It can be as simply as “Jesus” or “God” or “rest.” As we sit in silence with the sacred word, we will notice that our minds have wandered and we are thinking. When we become aware that we are thinking, we gently turn back to our sacred word. We continue to sit in this manner – focusing on the sacred word, finding we are thinking of something else, and gently returning to our word – for 20 minutes. As our bodies and our minds begin to slow down and become still, we experience a deep and restful peace and sense of well being. Our thoughts – while not ceasing – have slipped into the background of our mind as we rest in the presence of God.

    So why would anyone want to waste 20 minutes of their day sitting around doing nothing? The priest who taught me to center called his centering prayer practice "wasting time with God!" The immediate answer is that 20 minutes spent in the presence of God is good in and of itself. God has created us so that we get pleasure from being in God's presence - and it is deeply pleasant to rest in the presence of God during centering prayer.

    For me personally, centering prayer was like coming home. In centering I begin to let go of the judgments and expectations I put upon myself and others. I find that a daily practice of centering prayer helps to keep me a little closer to my "true self" and smooths out the rough edges of my personality (AKA, my "false self"). In short, through centering prayer I became aware that God loves me just as I am.

    It's important to note, however, that practicing centering prayer can be a difficult struggle, too. In deep prayer we become aware of our shortcomings. Furthermore, such deep prayer can also bring to light psychological issues. Indeed, Fr. Keating calls centering prayer to be "divine therapy." That is, it can be God's way of gently letting us know that we have work to do on ourselves. If you find the prayer bringing up troubling issues, it is best to seek professional psychological counseling or spiritual direction to help you deal with those issues.

    If you are interested in exploring centering prayer, a good place to learn and start to practice is in a centering prayer group. There are a number of centering prayer groups in Indianapolis and they are always happy to welcome new members.

    In an age in which the speed, stress, and human disconnection of daily living can leave us feeling "dry and desiccated," centering prayer can offer 20 minutes of silence and rest that reminds us that God is present to us always and we are accepted exactly as we are.

  • Service: Anywhere. Anytime.

    May 09, 2014

    By: Matthew K. Duncan

    Out of my many experiences as a student at Marian University, one of the things that I really learned about myself as a person is how much joy I find in serving others. As a young boy, I was shaped by my family’s involvement in setting up the tables at the local soup kitchen and my grandfather’s tireless efforts operating the food pantry at his parish’s St. Vincent dePaul chapter.

    Although service hours were required of me both as a member of a Catholic high school and participant in our San Damiano Scholars Program, I found myself wanting to do far more than the bare minimum. I remember going to S.T.A.R.R. (Students Taking Active Reflective Roles) the first week of my freshman year and wanting to go back every Friday. I recall the love that I felt from the Navajo in Tohatchi, New Mexico at the 2012 Alternative Spring Break trip. I also found interacting with nature at the Oldenburg Sisters’ Michaela Farm to be highly rewarding and peaceful. These are just a few of the service activities that I was a part of while at Marian

    Even as a recent college graduate, I find myself wanting to find ways to serve others. As an incoming law student and aspiring attorney, I want to take on pro bono legal cases in order to be a voice for those who normally cannot afford legal representation. I learned from my time leading S.T.A.R.R. that I really enjoyed mentoring younger individuals as well as those with special needs. I would really like to tutor at-risk kids at some point in this coming year. I want to continue using my gifts and talents to be a voice to those who do not have the ability to speak for themselves.

    Through my various service experiences, I have come to believe that the best way to spread the good news is to treat others like Christ. Our service projects and mission trips are a way to bring a modern face to Christianity. In a world of great suffering and strife, showing others love and compassion are one of the most compelling ways to evangelize to others. By helping the marginalized and poor among us, we are able to realize that Christ dwells in every single person. We belong to a rich faith that requires not only belief but action. After all, the scripture tells us that “faith without good works is dead” (James 2: 17). That challenge continues even after one graduates college. How we treat others will in many ways reflect on how people view Christianity as a whole. Are we being loving and joyful or are we being condemning and judgmental? Our Franciscan Sponsorship values and social justice teachings are not limited to the campus of Marian University. We can serve others in Jesus’ name anywhere in the world and at any time.

    My service experiences at Marian have taught me every single person has innate dignity and self-worth. I have learned a lot about my gifts and talents as a result of taking part in various service activities. I truly believe that one of the things that sets our student body apart is our commitment to service. I plan on taking this with me as a young professional. It is in giving, not receiving, that we find true joy and satisfaction. I would strongly encourage service to remain a top priority in your life wherever God is leading you.

  • Whole Life: Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love

    Mar 24, 2014

    By: Natalie Butler

    Over Spring Break, I read a book called Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love by Edward Sri, which is more or less a modern interpretation for youth to understand the message Blessed Pope John Paul II was trying to convey in Love and Responsibility. There were many enlightening points; however, a few stuck out in light of the Lenten season.

    In Lent, we are to give up something as a sacrifice, or so we have been told since we were little. We are supposed to give up chocolate or soda or TV for Lent, and we would be able to have these back on Easter. This is a little sacrifice we make compared to the self-giving sacrifice Christ made for us. Self-giving and sacrifice mean more than just giving up chocolate. Christ gave his own life, willingly, for you.  Yes,  you. We are to act like Christ during Lent to sacrifice the small things and to be self-giving in doing things for others. Lent is a season to fully reflect Christ in loving sacrifice and giving of you.

    When I was little, I used to think love was almost selfish. We search our whole lives to find that special someone so we can be happy. Or we spend a great deal of our time developing friendships that get us through our every day struggles in life.  No matter the form, everyone wants love in their life. That is not the case; love is a different essence entirely. Love is more giving then receiving. Love is about serving those around you willingly so to make their lives a little bit easier or more enjoyable. Love is about accepting the service as well. “It is in giving that we receive” as St. Francis’ famous saying goes. For example, the Eucharist is a way of receiving the love of Christ, but in return Christ also receives us. He welcomes us with all of our weaknesses, mistakes, sins, and burdens.  He is waiting for us with open arms to embrace us with his love and his mercy so we can begin again to love and to serve as he did.

    After reading this book, I started to look at my own Lenten journey so far this year. I realized that I was not putting forth the effort that I have in years past. I don’t know if it is because I am busier this semester or because I am just not really feeling it. However, I came to the realization that Christ did not really feel like getting crucified for our sins, but he knew it is what is to be fulfilled by God and he so loved his people that he wanted to save them. I, too, need to listen and to do God’s will. I am now shaping up and I have made more time for prayer and to do things for others. I am becoming more aware of the love and the mercy that God has showed me, and I am spending more time thanking Him for that blessing.

    During Lent, shouldn’t we be a self-gift to others like Christ was and is for us? Shouldn’t we do more than sacrifice a simple thing like chocolate during Lent so Christ can receive us more fully? I challenge you to look at the different forms of love and of service that you have around you. Are you sacrificing your time to be present to those people? Are you giving a piece of yourself to them mirroring Christ to better their lives?  I also challenge you to look at your Lenten promises. Are you giving up something for the correct intentions? Are you doing some extra prayer or service for others in so to transform your heart?

  • Alternative Break Update: Nicaragua Final Update

    Mar 17, 2014

    Family, Friends, and Loved Ones,

    Hi all! Today was our final day working in Nicaragua. Everyone headed to San Marcos after a morning of breakfast and devo. The community of San Marcos, as always, welcomed us with joy and open arms. We spent our morning digging more trench and laying a bit more of the pipe. After lunch we had Mass with the community one last time.

    The second half of the day was spent playing sports with the people of San Marcos. We all joined in a kickball game. It was a blast mixing with the young and old for a fun competition. Next, there was a baseball game and it was really impressive to see how talented the community is. There were always smaller soccer games, bracelet making, and coloring going on throughout the day. It was a joyous way to end our week and it made it really difficult to say goodbye to all the wonderful people.

    We ended our night with one last devo. It was another great opportunity to share with the entire group what we will all take away from this experience. The Amigos staff planned a special celebration for birthdays so we got to share cake and ice cream and hit a pinata. Tonight was a great end to the week and we are so appreciative of all who worked so hard to make this trip possible.

    It's safe to say that we are changed by this week. I'll end this week's final email with a quote from my (Rachel's) youth minister from high school on a mission trip to Nicaragua with Amigos. I think it speaks the truth to what every person in our group feels right about now. "I will tell you this; we have fallen in love. Not the young puppy-dog love, but the kind that pierces your heart. The kind of love that makes you do crazy things. The kind of love that makes you go to the ends of the earth just to make sure that other person knows how much you love them. The kind of love that makes your heart ache when you cannot make everything just right for them. We have fallen hard for the right kind of love. The love that Christ calls us to have for each and every person we meet."

    We'll get home late tomorrow night. Please pray for safe travels! We'll leave the rest of the sharing and updates on travel up to each individual person in our group so this will be the final email. Thanks for desiring to be a part of our journey. We appreciate you and love you!

    God Bless,

    Elizabeth, Kelsea, Rachel, and the whole ASB Nicaragua Family

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