- Hi all,
I work for a very large non-profit organization that was founded by nuns and which remains committed to "core values" taken from the Catholic faith. Each employee meeting begins with a "reflection."
Yesterday I was very touched by the following reflection. It was quoted from a nun named Sr. Joan (unknown to me), referring to her Benedictine religious community. In it, she says she asks each new member of their community why they "go to prayer." We could as easily ask ourselves why we go to Wednesday night medtitations.The "answer" flooded me with love and deep gratitude to my beloved Seattle Centre and to all my spiritual sisters and brothers in Centres around the world. I would like to dedicate this post to Seattle Centre, as we prepare to celebrate our 36th anniversary on Oct. 17, 2011.
Years ago when I was working with new members in the community, there was always one session in which I asked each of them individually, and in turn, why they went to prayer. The answers were always full of the piety that comes with newness and the theology that comes from books.
"Because," someone would say, "prayer is what leads us to perfection. That's why I go to prayer." I'd shake my head: "No," I'd say. "We are always immersed in God, but that is not why we go to prayer."
The brows would furrow around the table. "I think we go to prayer to remember God," someone would say, a bit more tentatively. I'd shake my head: "No," I'd say. "Awareness is certainly a state we seek, but it is not why we go to prayer."
By this time, there were fewer quick answers. Finally, one of the brave ones would say, "The why do we go to prayer?" I'd smile. "We go to prayer around here," I'd say, "because the bell rings."
It took a moment or two of stunned silence and then they got it. We go to prayer because the community sweeps us along on the days we are too tired to pray, too distracted to pray, too overburdened to care. Then the community becomes the vehicle of our spiritual lives.
The function of community is to sustain us in our weaknesses, model for us the ultimate of our ideals, carry us to the next level of spiritual growth even when we are unaware that we need it, and give us a strength beyond ourselves with which to attain it.
The message is as fresh today as it's ever been. We join communities, we create groups, to get to know ourselves and to get the help we need to enable us to do what we most want to do but cannot possibly, continually, certainly do alone. You will certainly strengthen your own resolve, broaden your own perspective, deepen your own resolve, and find strength from those around you.
"When two or more are gathered together," the scriptures say, "there am I in the midst of them." The presence of God comes to us as much through others as through our own mental meanderings, however sincere. In a group, people get to know us what we need, what is difficult for us, what we're wrestling with, and what are our gifts meant to be given for the life of this group, for the life of the world. So be open yourself, listen to others, explore the great questions of life together, and hold one another up along the way. That's what community life is all about. Share the wisdom, get the grace, give the life away.