Saturday, February 01, 2014

Praying with the imagination

Yesterday we had an assembly of catechists in the parish of Dulce Nombre. Seventy-four arrived from almost all the villages.

Padre German and I planned the meeting last week. One of the things we noted is how often the prayer and the actual classes become rote, lacking imagination.

I suggested that we use a form of prayer with the imagination, in the style of Saint Ignatius. Padre German suggested that we add rhythmic breathing as part of the prayer.

We had no idea how it would come off – in a noisy, wordy society like Honduras.

I began by asking everyone to sit straight in their chairs with their two feet on the ground and their hands either on their knees or joined face up.

Then we began to breathe in and out in a rhythm. I  spoke quietly. First: one, two, three: inhale; one-two-three: exhale. After several times we switched to the prayer “Señor, ten piedad – Lord, have mercy” inhaling and exhaling. Then, I said only “Jesucristo – Jesus Christ.”

After a few minutes, I asked them to continue breathing rhythmically and to imagine that they were at work – making tortillas, harvesting coffee, weeding the cornfield with a machete, in school, washing clothes, whatever....

Then, suddenly Christ walks in. What do you want to say to Jesus?

After a while I encouraged then to listen to what Jesus was saying to them.

The silence was tangible.

I thought of just letting it go for a long time – but, being too impatient, I decided to end it after a few minutes.

I then asked them to turn to the person next to them to share what they had experienced. Then we shared in common.

Several spoke of what they had experienced – a sense of the presence of God. Some, still in the head, started to talk about what it meant. I gently urged them to speak from experience.

For me, it was an amazing experience of prayer in common.

When we planned it, I had no idea that it would be such a strong experience for me and for the people.

After this we had the catechists gather in groups to prepare a prayer to begin a sessions with students. Padre German gave each of them a theme. Most had long prayers with only one person speaking - sometimes explaining rather than praying. But two groups used their imaginations and prayed with symbols that involved the participants, one placing symbols in a sack as they offered petitions.

God is good. We'll have to try more of this. 

I stayed around in the parish, talking with Padre German and also trying to tie up some loose ends for the partial scholarships that St. Thomas in Ames is providing for about 150 students in the parish. (More on this later.)

It was about 5:30 when I started back to Santa Rosa.

For many years I've noticed that here in Honduras, as in El Salvador, there is a short period just before sunset where there is a very distinctive light that has almost always moved me to awe.

Much of the way back I saw and felt that light - another sign of God's presence here.

Here's a photo that does not capture that light, but shows a bit of the natural beauty here.

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