Rochester retreat examines five types of prayer - Catholic Courier

Rochester retreat examines five types of prayer

Several months ago the Women’s Prayer Group at Peace of Christ Parish in Rochester planned an evening called Prayer Tastings. They planned to learn about and sample several different prayer styles that night, but soon found they were hard-pressed to even explore two styles in one evening, recalled Sister Marlene Vigna, pastoral associate at the parish.

Prayer Tastings was well-received, however, so the parish decided to expand on that idea during Lent. Thus, the theme of the parish’s Lenten retreat this year is “Paths to God: Ways of Communicating With the Divine, which was to be held each Monday from Feb. 11 through March 10 at the church, 25 Empire Blvd. in Rochester. The retreat will explore five styles of prayer, Sister Vigna said.

“What we’re trying to do in these five Mondays we tried to do in an hour and a half (before),” she said.

Each session will be presented twice, once at 11 a.m. and once at 7 p.m. Sister Vigna opened the series with a presentation about nontraditional sources of prayer, and later installments focused on guided meditation, centering prayer, charismatic prayer and the spirituality of the East, especially the four noble truths of Buddhism.

Each installment of the retreat opens with prayer and a 45-minute presentation by that day’s speaker before the audience is able to ask questions, Sister Vigna said. After that, the speaker leads participants in a real experience of what they’ve just learned about.

During her presentation, Sister Vigna talked about the ways she’s been able to use literature, movies, art and life experiences as the beginnings of prayerful conversations with God.

“We’re so used to prayer being somebody else’s words,” she said. “What I hoped would come out of (this) was the development of a lens through which to look at the ordinary things of life as sources of prayer.”

To illustrate her point, Sister Vigna related an experience she had while holding her infant godchild, who was kicking and flailing his tiny fists.

“In that moment it occurred to me that this is similar to how we are with God. God holds us close, God wants to protect us, and we fuss and kick,” she said.

Bonnie Matthaidess, a member of Faith Lutheran Church in Penfield, led the Feb. 18 sessions about guided mediation. After explaining how guided meditation works, Matthaidess read the first 15 verses of the next weekend’s Gospel reading. She then asked participants to be aware of any feelings the reading brought up or any phrases that stood out to them as she read it once more, and then asked participants to reflect on what they’d heard and put themselves into that scene.

“We asked ourselves what was happening, why it was happening, who was there and what Jesus was like. You’re exercising all of your senses,” Matthaidess said. “You kind of let the person sit quietly in that quiet time and allow God, allow the Holy Spirit to kind of be in dialogue with them.”

The next week Pat Baumann, a program staff member at Rochester’s Mercy Prayer Center, led the retreat sessions about centering prayer, or contemplative prayer. This type of prayer has been around for a long time but has risen in popularity within the last 20 years, she said.

Centering prayer has four guidelines to follow, and the first is to devote two 20-minute periods to this prayer each day, Baumann said. The second is to choose a sacred word, such as “God” or another meaningful word, as a symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within you.

Sit comfortably with your back straight and eyes closed and introduce the sacred word to still your other thoughts, Baumann said. If those other thoughts start again, gently pull back into the sacred word again. At the end of the 20 minutes, remain in silence with your eyes closed for a few minutes before resuming your daily activities.

This type of contemplative prayer opens the door to God, inviting him to come and work in you, Baumann said.

“It pulls you into silence to the point where it does a lot of interior work without you even knowing it. It can transform you. There’s a real intimate refashioning that goes on on the inside,” she said.

Deacon Don Germano, deacon at St. Joseph Parish in Penfield, was to lead the March 3 sessions about charismatic prayer. The charismatic renewal began in February 1967 when a group of college students at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pa., prayed for the Holy Spirit to touch them with its gifts, or charisms. These charisms, including knowledge, wisdom and the abilities to speak in tongues and speak words of prophesy, manifested themselves, and the movement has grown and touched more than 100 million people around the world since then, Deacon Germano said.

While the charismatic movement is only four decades old, the charisms it espouses are not new and were manifested in Jesus’ disciples in the days of the early church, Deacon Germano said. The Holy Spirit’s charisms are given to all who are baptized and confirmed, he added.

“We choose to go to the next level and explore them and ask the Lord to develop those within us. What the charismatic renewal has done is really to guide people, to inform them … how best to use those charisms they may be blessed with,” he said.

Entering into the charismatic renewal begins when people recommit themselves to their baptismal and confirmation vows and become attentive to the movements of the Holy Spirit in their lives, he said.

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