A Prayerful Journey of Spiritual Growth and Healing

It is of immense help to explore the profound contemplative tradition within our Catholic faith and to understand that horizons within which spiritual development occurs. Ultimately, however, the Holy Spirit is the master of prayer and wants to be your guide.

The following eight exercises are offered as a means to place yourself in the school of the Spirit. They target particularly those challenging areas that thwart the progress of people who pray. They are labeled steps precisely because they build on one another. You may find them most helpful if you take each step in order, although you certainly may use them in any order you feel drawn. For some of the steps you will need a pen, paper and bible, as indicated. If you feel you would be nourished by more time on some point or another of the prayer exercise I invite you to pause the recording and give yourself and the Spirit all the time you desire. It would be preferable to not finish the prayer guide, than to rush through it. Without any pause the prayer guides are a total of 25 minutes. The essential text of the prayer guides are reproduced below for your convenience.


Topic 24: Step Eight: Prayer of Transformation

For this prayer you will need a bible. Possible readings for the first part of prayer could be:

  • John 13:1-20 Jesus washes the disciple‘s feet
  • Philippians 2:5-11: Christ‘s humility
  • Luke 1:46-56: Mary‘s song of praise
  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: The gift of love
  • Matthew 19:16-30: The rich young man
  • Luke 4:16-21: Jesus comes to set us free
  • 1 John 4:18-19: Love casts out fear
  • Luke 17:11-19: Jesus cleanses ten lepers
  • Luke 8:22-25: Jesus calms the storm
  • Luke 9:28-36: The Transfiguration
  • Philippians 2:1-11: Putting on the mind and heart of Christ
  • Matthew 5:1-12: The beatitudes
  • Ephesians 3:14-21: Christ dwells in your heart

 

In a holy sanctuary or quiet spot, take some moments to focus yourself. By now you may have a favorite short prayer, or you may wish to use one of the following:

Quiet. Peace.
Amen. Letting be.
Still. Letting go.

For a short while let go of your thoughts, your attempts to understand, plan, or analyze. Immerse yourself in a mystery larger than yourself.

Talk to God about the strongest emotions you are feeling right now or the situations in your life that are challenging you or blessing you the most.

Ask the Spirit to shed light on your mind, will and heart so that you will begin to more and more think, speak, act, and love like Jesus. Tell Jesus how much you desire to receive all that he came on earth to make possible for us: a sharing in God‘s own life now and forever in heaven.

 

Read a passage from Scripture. Listen to what is being said to you in your heart as you read. In his word, God speaks directly to us, now, regarding what we most need to hear and receive at each moment.

 

Read the passage three times with a quiet pause in between each time. In the stillness do not think about the reading, apply it, develop it. Just be still. If it helps you, root yourself in your breath to stay in the present moment.

 

Choose a phrase of the passage that resonates with you in some way: either it challenges you, confirms you or comforts you. Repeat the phrase quietly allowing it to water your spirit as the gentle spring rain. Or else imagine yourself in the scene of the Scripture passage and speak directly to Jesus about what you notice about him, the way he acts, or speaks, or his attitudes. Speak directly to him about what you notice and desire.

 

If your attention wanders, bring it back gently.

 

Take a few moments to read the book of your life. Get in touch with what you‘re feeling about what‘s happening in your life. Where is there tension? Where is there lightness? Where is there clarity? Where is their frustration? Is there a relationship that is troubling you? Or one that you find especially fulfilling? With what spirit are you approaching your work and responsibilities? Where is God present to you most in your life? Least?

 

Read the passage from the Scriptures again, offering these experiences and realities to Jesus. Listen for the way the Word of God speaks to your life situations. Speak to Jesus about your life. Tell him what you desire.

 

Now gather up a word or a phrase from your reading, a word that embodies the experience of your prayer. Say it quietly to yourself and then settle into the silence. When your mind begins to wander repeat the word. Gently bring your thoughts back to your prayer. You can become aware of your breathing if it helps to root you in this present moment where you need to do nothing else but be present. Here God is giving himself to you with tenderness and trust. Wait. Listen. Trust. Allow it to arise within you as a fountain.

Here you and Jesus are one. He has united himself with you forever when he became man. He invites you to share in his divinity. You are invited to a fusion of heart, will and mentality with Jesus. ―The affections of Jesus are mine; the will of Jesus is my will; the thoughts of Jesus are my thoughts. In fact, it is Jesus who lives in my mind. I loan him my mind, but it is he who think in me. I loan him my heart, but it is he who loves in me and with me. I loan him my will because I want what he wants in me. And I not only loan these to him, but it is Jesus who lives in me. He lives in me; he loves in me; he wills in me; he works in me.‖ (Blessed James Alberione, SSP)

 

Now you are invited to a still contemplative silence. Now is the time for a simple gaze of adoration, a gaze which is a response to God‘s loving gaze upon you. Be fully aware that God has gazed upon you first. Allow him to look upon you with love. Allow yourself to be seen.

 

In true silence, the humble heart has nothing to say for itself. Be as a simple vessel drinking in grace until it is full.

 

Jesus reshapes you in his own image when you adore him. He reshapes your mind, your thoughts, your biases, your preferences, your worldview. He reshapes your will, your decisions, your commitments, your character. He reshapes your desires, your loves, your attractions.

 

Jesus gazes on you with love. What do you want? he asks. If we only knew how to look at him. If we only knew how to love him. If we only knew….


Suggested Readings

Ahlgren, Gillian. Entering Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle: A Reader’s Companion. Mahwah, NY: Paulist, 2005.

Antier, Jean-Jacques. St. Teresa of Avila: God Alone Suffices. Boston, MA: Pauline, 2007.

Avila, Teresa. Interior Castle: The Classic Text with a Spiritual Commentary. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2007.

Bernard, Bangley, The Cloud of Unknowing. Orleans, MA: Paraclete, 2006.

Brother Lawrence. Practice of the Presence of God. Boston, MA: Shambhala, 2005.

Bryan, Mark and Cameron, Julia. The Artist‘s Way at Work: Riding the Dragon. San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1999.

Curley, Marie Paul. Bread of Life, Prayers for Eucharistic Adoration. Boston, MA: Pauline, 2004.

de Caussade, Jean-Pierre. The Sacrament of the Present Moment. San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1989.

d‘Elbée, Jean C. J. I Believe in Love—A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux. Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2001.

Del Mastro, M.L. The Revelation of Love in Sixteen Showings Made to Dame Julian of Norwich. Liguori, MI: Liguori, 1994.

Fleming, David. What Is Ignatian Spirituality? Chicago, IL: Loyola, 2008.

Gallagher, Timothy, OMV. Examen Prayer: Ignatian Wisdom for Our Lives Today. City, State: Crossroad, 2006.

Gans, George. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: A Translation and Commentary. Chicago, IL: Loyola, 1992.

Hall, Thelma. Too Deep for Words–Rediscovering Lectio Divina. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 1988.

Hermes, Kathryn. The Journey Within. Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Books, 2004.

John-Julian. Love‘s Trinity: A Companion to Julian of Norwich, Long Text with a Commentary. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2009.

Johnston, William (editor). The Cloud of Unknowing and The Book of Privy Counselling. New York: Random, 1996.

Keating, Thomas, O.C.S.O. Active Meditations for Contemplative Prayer. London, UK: Continuum, 2007.

Keating, Thomas, O.C.S.O. The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living—Excerpts from the Writings of Father Thomas Keating. London, UK: Continuum, 2009.

Kidd, Sue Monk. When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life‘s Sacred Questions (Plus). San Francisco, CA: Harper, 2006.

Laird, Martin. Into the Silent Land. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Larranaga, Ignacio, OFM. Cap. Sensing Your Hidden Presence: Toward Intimacy with God. New York: Galilee Books, 1987.

Llewelyn , Robert . All Shall Be Well. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 1985.

Maloney, George. Prayer of the Heart. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2008.

Matthews, Ian. The Impact of God. Soundings from St. John of the Cross. Hachette Livre, UK: Hodder Headline, 1995.

Merton, Thomas. New Seeds of Contemplation. New York: New Directions, 2007.

Nouwen, Henri. The Inner Voice of Love–A Journey Through Anquish to Freedom. New York: Random, 1999.

Pentkovsky, Aleksei. The Pilgrim‘s Tale. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 1999.

Reinhold, H. A. (editor). The Soul Afire: Revelations of the Mystics. New York: Pantheon Books, 1944.

Schultz, Karl. How to Pray with the Bible: the Ancient Prayer Form of Lectio Divina Made Simple. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2007.

Van Breeman, Peter G. The God Who Won’t Let Go. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2001.

Weil, Simone. Waiting for God. San Francisco, CA: Harper, 2009.

Weil, Simone and Springsted, Eric. Simone Weil. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1998.

Wick, Robert. Everyday Simplicity: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Growth. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2000.

A Prayerful Journey of Spiritual Growth and Healing

It is of immense help to explore the profound contemplative tradition within our Catholic faith and to understand that horizons within which spiritual development occurs. Ultimately, however, the Holy Spirit is the master of prayer and wants to be your guide.

The following eight exercises are offered as a means to place yourself in the school of the Spirit. They target particularly those challenging areas that thwart the progress of people who pray. They are labeled steps precisely because they build on one another. You may find them most helpful if you take each step in order, although you certainly may use them in any order you feel drawn. For some of the steps you will need a pen, paper and bible, as indicated. If you feel you would be nourished by more time on some point or another of the prayer exercise I invite you to pause the recording and give yourself and the Spirit all the time you desire. It would be preferable to not finish the prayer guide, than to rush through it. Without any pause the prayer guides are a total of 25 minutes. The essential text of the prayer guides are reproduced below for your convenience.


Topic 23: Step Seven: An Examen of Consciousness

The moment we say YES to God‘s desire for relationship with us, God gives himself abundantly to us, pouring out gifts greater than our hearts could fathom. This is the key to the deepest reality of our lives: we are loved. This love spills over into the concrete ways our life unfolds, and God desires our response, our love in return.

 

Take a moment now to think back over the past day or so. In hindsight where can you see God giving himself to you, God drawing you, God loving you?

 

God desires our love in return for his love. Love is not just a feeling, an attraction, but a decision in the deepest part of our being to put God and his desires first in our life, a decision which actually honors our own deepest truth. But we also know that many other desires, needs, addictions, and values stir up interior movements in our hearts that sway us away from the attraction of this love. God works concretely in our day and there are interior movements in our hearts that are opposed to these workings.

 

Holy Spirit, grant me the insight to see what God has been doing in my life this day. Where has he been attracting me? Consoling me? Calling me? Changing me? Help me to see the interior movements that have been opposing God‘s activity and desires in my life. Grant me insight and wisdom so that I might overcome all that hinders my freedom and so that God‘s life in me through grace might abound all the more.

 

Take some time to review the day hour by hour looking for the affective quality of your prayer or work or relationships. Look for those places in which you felt spiritual consolation accompanied by a sense of clarity and light. Where did you feel troubled and spiritual desolation?

 

Choose one incident or reaction that stands out particularly for you at this time. Recall to mind the details of the incident and its context, the people involved and how it make you feel. Ask yourself if you are experiencing consolation:

  • Is the experience moving you toward God?
  • Are you more accepting of others?
  • Have you become more sensitive and gentle?
  • Do you have a more realistic view of yourself?
  • If the incident is painful, are you sad because God has been offended?
  •  Underneath tension or conflict, is there a sense of faith?
  • Are you turned in on yourself or outward toward others?

Or are you experiencing desolation:

  • Do you feel more turned in on yourself?
  • Has God slipped out of your consciousness?
  • Is he no longer a part of your activities?
  • Do you feel alone and separated from God, even though you desire to be with him?
  • Does everything seem confused or difficult?
  • Are you ―happy,‖ but with a sense that you are fooling yourself?
  • Is the experience moving you away from the Lord?
  • Are things out of perspective?

As you take notice of your feelings, ask yourself what are the thoughts that arise from these feelings. Discern which thoughts are of God and which are not. Which thoughts bring light, clarity, and a sense of connection with a loving God? Which thoughts bring confusion, discouragement, and a sense of disconnection with God? Accept those of God and reject those that are not of God.

 

Examine the desires of your heart and discern whether these are in accord with God‘s desires or not. When you recognize desires in your heart that are not in harmony with God‘s desires, ask for the grace to let your plans and dreams go and to surrender to God‘s dreams for you. Surrender all.

 

Ask forgiveness for the ways in which you have been straying along the path of his love. Take some time to meditate on the passion, the parable of the Prodigal Son, the parable of the lost sheep sought for by the Good Shepherd, the woman who washed Jesus‘ feet, or any other passage from Scripture which strengthens your trust in God‘s love for you personally. Place yourself in the scene. Speak directly to Jesus. Allow him to speak to you. Take some time to experience God‘s love for you outpoured now even more abundantly after your prayer of sorrow.

 

Look ahead to the day to come.

 

Choose one activity, situation, relationship or event in which you want to be more in sync with God’s desires for you. Imagine what this would look like. Curiously ponder: what could be different about this activity or situation? What are various new approaches you could take? What do you need in order to be different when accomplishing this work? Be specific. Ask the Spirit to come into that activity with you, in you, and through you.

Write a letter to Jesus or journal briefly regarding what you have learned in this prayer about yourself and about God‘s desires for you.

A Prayerful Journey of Spiritual Growth and Healing

It is of immense help to explore the profound contemplative tradition within our Catholic faith and to understand that horizons within which spiritual development occurs. Ultimately, however, the Holy Spirit is the master of prayer and wants to be your guide.

The following eight exercises are offered as a means to place yourself in the school of the Spirit. They target particularly those challenging areas that thwart the progress of people who pray. They are labeled steps precisely because they build on one another. You may find them most helpful if you take each step in order, although you certainly may use them in any order you feel drawn. For some of the steps you will need a pen, paper and bible, as indicated. If you feel you would be nourished by more time on some point or another of the prayer exercise I invite you to pause the recording and give yourself and the Spirit all the time you desire. It would be preferable to not finish the prayer guide, than to rush through it. Without any pause the prayer guides are a total of 25 minutes. The essential text of the prayer guides are reproduced below for your convenience.


Topic 22: Step Six: Your Deepest Longing

Sit comfortably, in a way that allows you to be present and at ease. Close your eyes and take several long, deep breaths. Then rest in the natural flow of your breath and allow your body and mind to begin to settle.

Images or thoughts will naturally arise. Notice them passing and gently return your attention to the sensations. If feelings and memories arise, notice the sensations that accompany them: tightness, hardness, tingling, pressure, numbness.

 

When you are relaxed and feel settled, ask yourself, ―What does my heart long for?‖ Your initial answer might be that you be healthy, to lose weight, to make money and so forth. Ask again, and listen deeply, accepting whatever spontaneously arises. Continue in this way for several minutes, asking yourself the question, pausing and paying attention in an accepting and nonreactive way. Perhaps your answer will begin to deepen and simplify. Be patient and relaxed—with time, as you listen to your heart, your deepest longing will emerge. This longing might be expressed as the longing for love, presence, peace, communion, harmony, beauty, truth or freedom.

 

After a time, picture yourself in a beautiful place with Jesus coming to you.

 

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”

The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon (Jn 1.35-39).

The narrative of the first two disciples following Jesus to see and know where he stayed, to present themselves and to discover if they would be accepted, is so simple, yet riddled with intense emotion. Excitement, fear, desire, tentative trust, hope that risked disappointment, curiosity, and a myriad other motivations were tangled up with the decision to walk after the man John the Baptist had called the Lamb of God. The intense emotions are juxtaposed with the yawning stretch of the afternoon they spent together. ―It was about four in the afternoon‖ (Jn 1.39).

The gospel leaves no record of what occurred that afternoon. What did they discover when they found where Jesus lived? Was it a physical dwelling that Jesus showed them? Did he talk about himself, his dreams, his Father? Did he ask them questions about themselves? The psychological intensity of the reader of the gospel is, like that of the two disciples, swallowed up in the measured response of the Master: Come and see. The effect of the gospel narrative is to focus the eyes of our soul inward, to a vast, unending, path that leads progressively deeper into the ―yawning stretches‖ of our inner self. In a word, the effect of the narrative is to create a space in which to remain, to abide, an abiding which has less a sense of cohabitation as it does of inhabitation. Inhabitation presumes the direct action of God upon the person, the raising of the human creature into a supra-human world. Inhabitation means incorporation into Jesus, being inhabited by the Holy Spirit.

Let us go with the disciples as they follow Jesus, go with them into this space of intimate conversation and revelation with this own words. Augustine encourages us to ―Let your foot wear out the threshold of his door; arise to come to him continually.‖ And again, ―Let us come to him, enter into him, be engrafted into him.‖

It is difficult in a crowd to see Jesus. Our mind demands a certain solitude. It is as if Jesus were to invite us: Leave outside your coat and yourself, descend into yourself, go to your secret place—your mind—and hear what I have to say. For many of us this will require that we return to our inner self, for in the frenetic fragmentation of post-modern life we have wandered abroad, an exile from our inner homeland. When we again hear the ―noiseless speaking‖ of Jesus‘ voice, we will rejoice and hunger for more.

The two disciples who asked Jesus where he lived were drawn into the fascination of God‘s hunger for God‘s creatures‘ love and surrender. But the experience of God‘s presence is acquired by daily growth. It is by walking with Jesus that we grow and that we come to know our deepest longing.

The disciples ask a question: Where do you live? They have taken a step toward getting to know Jesus and seeing if they will be accepted as disciples and companions. The intense personal struggle to present oneself for possible acceptance by the Master is juxtaposed to the endless calm of Jesus‘ response: Come and see. Come and remain with me. The gospel does not state where Jesus took them. It leaves him absolutely free to take each disciple to a place known only to them. It also raises the stakes for the disciple. Is she ready to let herself be led? Is he ready to go where he doesn‘t have control?

For the disciple this place is within themselves where Jesus already abides and waits for them. Spiritual writers have always spoken of this journey which is at the same time a journey outward to God and inward to one‘s own reality—where both God and ones own demons live. Jesus is not satisfied with cohabiting the disciple‘s inner space. God wants to act directly upon the person, to inhabit her, to raise him above himself, to incorporate them into Jesus.

Intimate conversation with Jesus is not meant to deepen one‘s inner harmony and psychic peace. It is to be ―instructed in his precepts.‖ Conversation with Jesus is about change, finding the new, admitting one‘s ignorance, surrendering in obedience and humility, struggling with one‘s demons, yielding to God. Abiding is a prerequisite for receiving the truth: long pauses and spaces of time set apart simply to abide: abiding through art and music, abiding through doing nothing and watching the grass grow, abiding by gazing at God present in oneself, abiding by studying Scripture or through spiritual reading, abiding by time spent in developing relationships. Abiding comes in

many shapes and sizes, and gives us the capacity of hearing the noiseless speaking of Jesus‘ voice.
In order to inhabit them Jesus begins to reveal himself to his disciples. He has come to ―remake‖ them, and in order for them to be remade into authentic images of God, their self-identity needs to be rooted in truth. Jesus reveals the truth to his disciples. The truth is that God is Creator and Savior; we are not our own creators and saviors. The truth is that we are nothing and that Jesus came to raise us to God. The truth is that the power of sin and death have been destroyed by the death of Jesus.

Jesus attached his life and his fate to us and he asks us not to separate ourselves from him. We have been grafted on to him. The prominence of the image of the Vine and the branches is counterbalanced with the image of a baby. We are only able to nourish ourselves on the Vine—to be rescued from eternal nothingness—because the Lord of Life became the son of Mary, small, helpless, frail. The Vine at one time was dependent on a branch for his very existence. God risked allowing a creature to have total power over him, that we might learn that it is safe to let God exercise his power over us.

What delicacy and tenderness accompanies the descent of God to us for our salvation. God did not come in this manner in order to humiliate us, but to reveal to us the dignity of our humble condition. We try to escape our vulnerability and dependence, hide from ourselves and others our ignorance and sin. God gently picked up what we try to leave behind: our humanity. Jesus displayed for us what authentic humanity is called to be, urging us to let go of our grasping for power and security in order to discover that we are held and loved and safe in God‘s love. Henceforth the Way is defined as the way of humanity. The Way of lowliness. The Way of humility. The Way of vulnerability. The Way of silence. The Way of defenselessness. It is only in walking this way that we abide in the One who is the Love-Way.

This Way is the proof to us that we will never be judged, cast out, or punished. We have been already judged, and God has taken upon himself the consequences of our darkness and sin. Now there is only one Way left—even for God. The only Way is Love. God loves his Son and also loves the members of his Son‘s Body. God has signed the papers of adoption: God has written his name beside ours and given us his name. We are Jesus in God‘s eyes. We are God‘s dearly beloved one. Jesus is now all God can see when God looks upon God‘s creation. We have been made Jesus Christ.

What are you looking for—Jesus turns and asks us this question today, each today of our lives. What am I looking for? What am I longing for? What is my deepest desire?

A Prayerful Journey of Spiritual Growth and Healing

It is of immense help to explore the profound contemplative tradition within our Catholic faith and to understand that horizons within which spiritual development occurs. Ultimately, however, the Holy Spirit is the master of prayer and wants to be your guide.

The following eight exercises are offered as a means to place yourself in the school of the Spirit. They target particularly those challenging areas that thwart the progress of people who pray. They are labeled steps precisely because they build on one another. You may find them most helpful if you take each step in order, although you certainly may use them in any order you feel drawn. For some of the steps you will need a pen, paper and bible, as indicated. If you feel you would be nourished by more time on some point or another of the prayer exercise I invite you to pause the recording and give yourself and the Spirit all the time you desire. It would be preferable to not finish the prayer guide, than to rush through it. Without any pause the prayer guides are a total of 25 minutes. The essential text of the prayer guides are reproduced below for your convenience.


Topic 21: Step Five: The Secret of Peace

In a holy sanctuary or quiet spot, alone or with a companion guide, take some moments to focus yourself. By now you may have a favorite short prayer, or you may wish to use one of the following:

Quiet. Peace.
Amen. Letting be.
Still. Letting go.

For a short while let go of your thoughts, your attempts to understand, plan, or analyze. Immerse yourself in a mystery larger than yourself.

Two emotions have a major influence on our capacity for contemplation: love and fear.

Fear of intimacy often comes from childhood experiences in which we had to measure up to be accepted. We are afraid of being judged negatively. So we don‘t risk letting others get close to us or know us. The part of us that is afraid of rejection creates a disguise to keep others from seeing our truth. We also live this out in our relationship with God.

Fear comes from a belief that we don‘t deserve love, often because of something done in the past. We project this belief out to the world, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We get back exactly what we fear. We project this believe onto God.

Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to mind the negative perceptions of the past and the losses that have resulted from these perceptions that still have a hold on you. It could be the loss of something important, the absence of something wanted but never received, or the pain of being denied or rejected.

Identify one loss from the list. As you think about it, what it has meant, how it has affected your life, determine:

  • Can it be retrieved or even attained for the first time
  • Can it be replaced with something appropriate for your stage in life, or
  • Should it be acknowledged as a real loss and released.

For example, I may have lost the belief that I am a good person because of the influence of someone in my life. That belief can be retrieved. What step can I take to value myself as a good person? I may need to let go of the years of failed relationships because of my negative self-image, but I can begin to replace these lost relationships by saying yes when others ask me to join them for coffee. In this way, you can put together a journey of small concrete steps toward new perceptions of yourself, which in turn may pave the way to authentic intimacy.

Spend some moments, entering into the presence of God surrounding you and within you. Steep yourself in the mystery of Presence, of the God who IS now and always. Very slowly read the following, taking it phrase by phrase, digesting each thought completely before going on.

The secret of peace is at-one-ness with what is,
knowing that things are exactly the way they are supposed to be.
It is our ego that needs to make things different.
If we do not feed our ego with our attention,
then we discover the marvels of the present moment
even in the crucible of suffering.

Take some moments of silence, watching your thoughts and the feelings they provoke. Write them down. Confront these thoughts and feelings with the following statements:

We often get angry because we are trying to control others.

Writing a script for ourselves or for others to follow is a set up for disappointment, rage, jealousy and depression.

The only way to peace is to choose peace — with this moment, in this moment, for this moment.

If we are angry we can be sure that we do not have the whole story. Our perceptions are limited by our projections and agendas.

When we are unhappy we have chosen a goal we can’t have: getting something another won’t or can’t give us. Instead choose peace of mind.

To be happy we may have to let go of having the last word.

Unforgiveness allows us to bolster our ego by blaming others. If we let go of unforgiving thoughts, we are free.

We can always choose to see the world differently.

When we stop judging, healing happens.

We are hurt only by our own thoughts and attitudes.

Everything is perfect just the way it is.

Whatever the problem, love is the answer.

Open your Bible and read Matthew 5:1–10. As you read it, imagine Jesus speaking directly to you. What other beatitudes would he proclaim to you? Finish this sentence: Blessed are you, [insert your name], because you…. Share with Jesus, and another trusted companion, the feelings that have arisen during your prayer.

A Prayerful Journey of Spiritual Growth and Healing

It is of immense help to explore the profound contemplative tradition within our Catholic faith and to understand that horizons within which spiritual development occurs. Ultimately, however, the Holy Spirit is the master of prayer and wants to be your guide.

The following eight exercises are offered as a means to place yourself in the school of the Spirit. They target particularly those challenging areas that thwart the progress of people who pray. They are labeled steps precisely because they build on one another. You may find them most helpful if you take each step in order, although you certainly may use them in any order you feel drawn. For some of the steps you will need a pen, paper and bible, as indicated. If you feel you would be nourished by more time on some point or another of the prayer exercise I invite you to pause the recording and give yourself and the Spirit all the time you desire. It would be preferable to not finish the prayer guide, than to rush through it. Without any pause the prayer guides are a total of 25 minutes. The essential text of the prayer guides are reproduced below for your convenience.


Topic 20: Step Four: A Prayer of Inner Healing

This prayer is rooted in the reality that everything is present to God, and therefore God is able to work powerfully even in past moments of our life, bringing light and healing to memories that have pained and darkened months and years of our life.

 

And so I invite you now to close your eyes. Imagine that you are walking along a winding path, over a grassy hill and down to the most beautiful spot in nature you have ever seen. As you walk into this special place, you sense immediately its sacredness. Take a moment to look around. What are the colors and textures around you? What sounds do you hear? Are there any smells? Take a moment to get grounded in your sacred space.

 

Very gently you hear someone approach. It is Jesus. He is so happy to see you. He holds your hand and looks into your eyes. There is such love in his gaze. He is happy to see you.

 

Then he begins to walk with you. ―Tell me how things are going. I‘ve been worried about you.‖ And then you start to speak. You and

Jesus sit down as he listens carefully to every detail of your story.

 

When you are finished, Jesus calls you by name. My dearest child, what a heavy burden you have been carrying and for how long a time. I see your pain and your worry, and I want to heal you.

 

Come close to me. Come here, my child. Take me back to where it all began. Show me. We can go together.

 

Jesus, do you see. There, you tell him, There is where it all began. You look together. You notice the details—where you were, what it looked like, how you felt, who was there, what was said.

 

I call on the Holy Spirit to surround you with light and to protect you.

Please, Jesus, I pray that you be freed of the burden of this event, once and for all.

May you be relieved of any apprehension and anxiety you may feel because of it.

Jesus, quiet the terror of guilt that resulted from this situation.

Holy Spirit, replace the darkness of this memory with light—a rainbow of beautiful colors.

Please, Jesus, heal all the scars left—years of wounds and pain. Take them all away.

Jesus, enable your child to receive your forgiveness and mercy.

And if the harm that has been done was inflicted by another, forgive them and have mercy on them. If it was an accident or unintentional, please remove any feelings of guilt or sense of failure or despair anyone may be feeling.

Jesus I believe you were present at this event and that you have the power and desire to heal us now.

 

Please set your loved one free from the ways in which this has marked the rest of life. Take away any fears of inferiority, desperation, guilt, depression, hopelessness or abandonment.

 

In those inner places where this child of yours needed more nurturing put her in to the arms of your own mother.

 

Bring the hugs and fatherly presence that mean so much as one grows up.

Put your arms around your little one‘s shoulder and take away the sting of betrayal and abandonment and loneliness.

I thank you for your gentleness in caring for this dear one of yours.
I give praise for your healing of this your child.

 

Now return to your sacred place. Jesus embraces you there and walks away. He will be back, but you are safe here, still feeling the warmth and security of his love. Safe in his care for you.

 

When you are ready, open your eyes.

 

Believe in this healing. When feelings or memories return connected with this event, remind Jesus of his power to heal and entrust yourself to him anew.

 

A Prayerful Journey of Spiritual Growth and Healing

It is of immense help to explore the profound contemplative tradition within our Catholic faith and to understand that horizons within which spiritual development occurs. Ultimately, however, the Holy Spirit is the master of prayer and wants to be your guide.

The following eight exercises are offered as a means to place yourself in the school of the Spirit. They target particularly those challenging areas that thwart the progress of people who pray. They are labeled steps precisely because they build on one another. You may find them most helpful if you take each step in order, although you certainly may use them in any order you feel drawn. For some of the steps you will need a pen, paper and bible, as indicated. If you feel you would be nourished by more time on some point or another of the prayer exercise I invite you to pause the recording and give yourself and the Spirit all the time you desire. It would be preferable to not finish the prayer guide, than to rush through it. Without any pause the prayer guides are a total of 25 minutes. The essential text of the prayer guides are reproduced below for your convenience.


Topic 19: Step Three: Being Called by Name

You will need paper and pen for this prayer exercise. You will also need to pause this prayer guide throughout in order to be able to complete what has been suggested.

Settle into a place of prayer, either alone or with a trusted companion. Take a moment to notice the characteristics of the space. Are you inside or outside? What are the sounds around you? Why did you choose this place? Are there candles or pictures that make it particularly meaningful? Or is it a bare place, like a desert, that in its simplicity receives you as you are?

Then scan your interior space. How are you feeling? What are your expectations? Do you have any anxiety about this time of prayer and interior liberation? Scan your body, from your feet to your head, and tell yourself to relax. Allow the silence to wash over you, wrapping itself around you with its comforting arms. Repeat quietly and reverently the phrase: Be still now. God is here.

Explore situations that you have lived through or are currently living in that have become like prisons for you. These situations could have been created by someone‘s attitudes toward you; a situation of injustice or abuse; events in your childhood; your own fears or shyness; a financial or physical tragedy; a betrayal, etc. What have been your imprisoning situations?

Taking each situation in turn, write about your prison and how it feels to be in it. What does it look like? Who else is there? How does it affect the rest of your life? Who else is affected? Is God with you in that prison at all or do you feel all alone?

Reflecting on these imprisoning situations, you may become aware of certain fundamental ―life lessons‖ – either true or false – that were impressed upon you. Write these down as well. For example, perhaps your ―prison experience‖ led you to conclude:

  • It would be better if you had not been born
  • If you don‘t conform you are bad
  • You are worthless
  • You should not grow up or be successful
  • Intimacy is not safe
  • Success guarantees acceptance
  • You must not dream.

What life lessons have you learned from these situations?

What situations or behaviors in your present life are being affected by these injunctions?

Take a few moments to thank God for your life and the way God has been there, seeing you through each year, each event, each relationship.

Your heart calls out for healing. By exposing these prisons to the light; they no longer have the same power over you. Another way is possible to you now: to live from the deepest part of yourself, where you truly are God‘s dream. You are far more than the survival tactics, masks, and defenses that you have unconsciously developed to protect yourself. Until now, it may have been the only way you could survive. This isn‘t true anymore.

There are relationships or situations in your present life that have been influenced by these masks and defenses and tactics of survival.. With great gentleness, accept what you are feeling. The dissatisfaction…. the fear…. the sense of isolation…. the lack of authenticity, or the presence of guilt.

It is time to purify these survival mechanisms and to progressively free yourself from their control.

Very quietly begin to center yourself with your breathing. You may use a word to focus your attention: peace, let it be, or yes.
If you wish, picture yourself in the situation that is causing you the most distress. Jesus comes to stand by your side. He takes your hand or puts his arm around you. You are not alone anymore. Listen to these thoughts. Let them descend into your heart:

I have suffered enough by doing what others want in order to buy their love or acceptance. I have suffered enough for not being myself.
My love, my life, my dreams have been distorted and falsified.

Now I can begin again, from this point. I have brought everything to the light, put everything on the table. I can leave behind every idealized image of myself. I can live now from the depths of my being, because only in this way can I give and receive true love.

Turn toward Jesus and away from the persons or events that have caused you pain. Look into Jesus‘ face and see the compassion and strength in his eyes. Jesus has always known the goodness in your heart. In his eyes you were always worth loving, you were always beautiful – that fact has never changed. He has always believed in you.

The suffering in your life can yield great treasures. It is possible to find gifts in the ashes, treasures in the flames. But don‘t worry about that now. Jesus himself will show you where the gold lies. You only need to hold on to him, to lean in weakness on his power, to trust in poverty on his bountiful love. Lay your head down on his heart and rest as a little child sleeps in his parent‘s arms.

Let yourself slip deeper and deeper within yourself. Picture that place within yourself that is the place where God calls you by name. It may be a lush green field full of wild flowers, or a sanctuary that breathes divine presence.

In this place you can let go of all your masks and defenses. You are loved. Here where God pronounces your name, you can be truly happy. You no longer need to buy happiness and acceptance.

Here in this place, love expands more and more, taking over your thoughts and fears, replacing your attitudes and words and perceptions. Here you are peace. You are filled with light that comes from God who is Love and Goodness itself. It is certain and true: You are the outpouring of God‘s immensely tender love, which is always just beginning, always expanding and opening itself, always spreading light, always bestowing life.

Take a few moments to breath in this light. Breathe in light, and breathe out any darkness you may feel. Breathe in light, and breathe out attitudes that mar the perfection of that crystalline brightness. Breathe in light, permeating every cell of your body, and breathe out feelings that are obstacles to that light,.

Slip down farther, letting all fears and demands go. Unhook your attention from them, and let them go. In the deepest center of your being, where you are truly yourself, you are more than these expectations and manipulations. In this place where you are truly who you were created to be, you are already loved and you have always been loved.

The gracious waters of an eternal fountain spring up in your true ―I.‖ Here you are called by your real name. Allow yourself to feel the coolness of the waters of grace that flow in the hills and valleys of your inner landscape. Let the wind caress your face. Let the beautiful array of color nourish you. Feel the rain as it gently gives growth. Reach up and hug the warmth of the sun. Let the peace of this place penetrate you.

Absorbed in this peace, you may experience that you are not alone; instead, you are in relation to another who gives you to yourself. You may be able to say, ―You, Lord, give me to myself now. You guide me to find myself. I am utterly derived from you. I do not exist by myself, but only from you as a perpetual gift that you give to me moment by moment.‖

Do not force anything. At times you may feel absorbed in peace, at other times lost in shadows or resentment. Little by little you may feel the strength of a hand that guides you in this place. Come back to this place again and again.

This is an exercise of the heart, an opening of the sentiments and the thoughts to the gift of oneself. Eventually a sense of gratitude will emerge. When we feel gratitude with our whole heart, when we realize we are a gift, then we have truly entered into reality. The work of making peace with oneself is moving from illusion to this reality.

Remain a while in the joy of finally being able to be who you are. Soak in the possibilities of new beginnings and new directions.

When you are ready, gently return to the room in which you are praying. If you are sharing this exercise with a friend or guide, you may wish to share what happened between Jesus and yourself, any feelings or words or impressions that may have come to you.

A Prayerful Journey of Spiritual Growth and Healing

It is of immense help to explore the profound contemplative tradition within our Catholic faith and to understand that horizons within which spiritual development occurs. Ultimately, however, the Holy Spirit is the master of prayer and wants to be your guide.

The following eight exercises are offered as a means to place yourself in the school of the Spirit. They target particularly those challenging areas that thwart the progress of people who pray. They are labeled steps precisely because they build on one another. You may find them most helpful if you take each step in order, although you certainly may use them in any order you feel drawn. For some of the steps you will need a pen, paper and bible, as indicated. If you feel you would be nourished by more time on some point or another of the prayer exercise I invite you to pause the recording and give yourself and the Spirit all the time you desire. It would be preferable to not finish the prayer guide, than to rush through it. Without any pause the prayer guides are a total of 25 minutes. The essential text of the prayer guides are reproduced below for your convenience.


Topic 18: Step Two: Rumblings and Resistance

For this exercise of prayer you will need a pen and paper.

There are times when we can‘t settle down to pray. Sometimes it is very apparent to us why. Feelings are strong and our thoughts are chaotic. Other times we think we are settled inside but we can‘t pray. There can be many reasons for this, but at times this situation may be the result of our not really being aware of the rumblings and resistances within us. The following exercise is helpful for these times of prayer. Sometimes I can complete the exercise in 15 minutes. Other times it can become a deeper prayer that lasts a couple hours. In either case it inevitably leads to a much closer relationship with God.

Draw on the paper a stick figure representing how you feel right now. With an X mark those parts of your body which are registering tension. After a while you will notice a pattern. Don‘t try to relax the tension, just observe it.

Then begin a list to the right of the stick figure of anything that begins to come into your mind: emotions, memories, situations, thoughts. Each of them should be only one, two, or three words. For example, after a stressful day I compiled the list: time limit, deadline, demands, force, control, make it happen, want this for myself, shame, emptied. Let us take a minute to explore this list before beginning the exercise for ourselves. This list represents the situation that is creating the tension: perceived time limits and deadlines. It moves on to how I am dealing with the situation: force, control, make it happen. Then the list begins to reflect how I feel about myself as I respond to the situation: want this for myself, shame, emptied. Simply start freely writing down whatever you think or feel or remember or desire as the words and feelings come to you. Do not worry about any particular order. The point is simply awareness.

Underneath the list you have already created next to the stick figure that images how you feel, write the strongest presenting emotion. Then drop the story and just concentrate on what it is to feel this emotion. Ask yourself what is underneath this emotion and wait for a flickering indication of something different moving beneath the layer of this feeling. Write it down next on the list. Concentrate on this feeling and ask what is underneath it. When you become aware of it, write it down, and so forth until you reach the deepest emotion.

That deepest emotion is protecting the most vulnerable and sacred center of our soul. If we allow our awareness to slip past the pain and fear of that defensive ―outpost‖ we will discover a place and a presence. For each person I pray with, this sacred place looks slightly different, but it always is beautiful and there is the clear personal presence of God.

This is a most beautiful place to pray, a contemplative, still, quiet resting.

You are my God.

You are forever.

You are all.

You are darkness and light.

You are near by and far away.

You are in the stars and you are in every cell of my body.

You are the beginning and the end.’

You are invisible. You are safe.

You are strength.

You are patience.

You are beauty.

You are gentleness.

You are the fury of truth that will not back down.

You are the tenderness of love that will never end.17

Remain in silence. Accept whatever you are feeling: peace, anger, resistance, bitterness, joy, hope, and excitement. Let the feelings rise and fall until there is silence.

Heal me, Lord” (inhale) and “Hold me” (exhale)

A Prayerful Journey of Spiritual Growth and Healing

It is of immense help to explore the profound contemplative tradition within our Catholic faith and to understand that horizons within which spiritual development occurs. Ultimately, however, the Holy Spirit is the master of prayer and wants to be your guide.

The following eight exercises are offered as a means to place yourself in the school of the Spirit. They target particularly those challenging areas that thwart the progress of people who pray. They are labeled steps precisely because they build on one another. You may find them most helpful if you take each step in order, although you certainly may use them in any order you feel drawn. For some of the steps you will need a pen, paper and bible, as indicated. If you feel you would be nourished by more time on some point or another of the prayer exercise I invite you to pause the recording and give yourself and the Spirit all the time you desire. It would be preferable to not finish the prayer guide, than to rush through it. Without any pause the prayer guides are a total of 25 minutes. The essential text of the prayer guides are reproduced below for your convenience.


Topic 17: Step One: Becoming Aware

Developing a prayerful spirit often begins with awareness—becoming aware of who you are, and aware of who God is — responsive to the subtle communication that is going on between you. That takes a lot of work, at least initially: to settle down, loosen, let go, forget, turn off the endless mental activity and emotional responses so that we can encounter what is truly real about God and about ourselves.
Begin by becoming aware of the exterior world around you.

Listen for a few moments.

What do you hear?

Now let these things go.

Enjoy the new sense of peace. Now begin to stop the endless mental chattering, quieting the thoughts and emotions that kidnap the consciousness. As you begin to quiet down, begin to pull apart the mass of ―thoughts and emotions‖ by simply saying the word “thinking” softly as you become aware of your thoughts.

When you are aware of these individual thoughts and reactions, you can begin to let them go.

Let go of past events, friendships, worries, conflicts.

Let them go.

Let go of ideals, plans, hopes, and dreams.

Let go of anything around you.

Let go of everything outside of this moment.

Let go of everything outside of this place.

Let go of everyone.

Mentally scan your body and gently tell your body to relax.

As you relax, begin to say one of the following breath prayers with a quiet intensity and relaxed concentration,

Jesus, I worship you” (as you inhale) and “Touch my heart” (as you exhale)
Jesus” (inhale) and “Come” (exhale)
Heal me, Lord” (inhale) and “Hold me” (exhale)

This is an excellent preparation with which to begin every time of stillness and communion with God.

Review Questions

Question 1

Can you talk about how you have experienced one of the contemplative shifts in your life: a shift surrounding issues of abandonment, control, or analysis? How was your life different after this experience? How was your prayer different?

 

Question 2

Has God been moving furniture around in your life during this course? What has been your reaction? How have you resisted him? How have you surrendered? How have you helped him?

 

Question 3

How does silence figure into your prayer now? What would you need to change in your life or your prayer in order to live more completely united to the Trinity as expressed in the Conclusion which appears above?

Review Questions

Question 1

Prayer is the space where we would assume that God would show us his love. And we can‘t understand why miracles don‘t always happen. If God did love us, miracles should fix our problems, shouldn‘t they? And we really aren‘t consoled by stories of the cross, which often sound like religiously concocted excuses for God‘s absence or impotence.‖ How would these sentences make someone feel who had just suffered a setback, a financial disaster, the loss of a child or parent, the break-up of a marriage or other important relationship? How would you help such a person through the struggle he or she would be undergoing?

 

Question 2

Have you had any experiences where you could touch the mercy and presence of God? Could you share them?