5 September 2011
More than 370 people converged on Palmerston North last month to pray, be inspired to pray and to listen and discuss all aspects of prayer and what follows from prayer at the Let Us Pray symposium.
Bishop Peter Cullinane was delighted with the number of people who registered and with the positive spirit in the gatherings.
The three-day symposium which started on Thursday August 11 drew people from Auckland, Christchurch and all points in between.
Keynote speaker Donna Orsuto, front right of photo, from the Institute of Spirituality at the Gregorian University in Rome began the symposium with an outline of prayer in an address entitled ‘Rich Pathways into Spiritual Growth’.
She reminded us that there were two aspects of spirituality – that it is lived in communion with God and with others and that it is characterised by paschal living or sharing in the life, death and resurrection of Christ.
Paschal living is summed up in the verse from John’s Gospel, ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit’ [Jn 12:24]. For something to grow it first has to die which can be painful at times. ‘But if we cling too much to the present reality, we never enter into the life that God intends for us, a richer life that reflects Jesus’ own life.’
Quoting St Bonaventure, Orsuto said a sculptor never adds anything but instead pares away the dross until all that is left is the noble in the stone.
‘Through God’s prayer the dross is removed from us.’
Some pillars for Christian growth
• Personal prayer rooted in scripture
• Sacramental life especially Sunday Eucharist
• Rootedness in community
• A life poured out for others: solidarity and service.
The cornerstone of prayer, she said, is love. ‘Activating and sustaining this prayer is up to us … prayer allows us to tune into God’s will for our lives.’
Praying with scripture is an integral part of Catholic spirituality, not an optional extra.
An advocate of lectio divina, Orsuto spoke of the five ‘r’s of the system – read, reflect, respond in prayer, rest and a fifth stage, react, which was any action that might come from the prayer.
She invoked such church luminaries as John Henry Newman, Dorothy Day, St Augustine, St Jerome and the former Jesuit general Pedro Arrupe SJ, ‘Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way.’
Other keynote speeches came from liturgical musician Stephen Kirk of Brisbane, Abbot Brian Keogh of Southern Star Abbey, Kopua, and poet, author and spiritual guide, Joy Cowley.
Listening is central to good praying
Joy Cowley our special rabbi