Editorial: transformation of prayer and unity

Cecily McNeillSeptember 2011 There has been a feast of gathering in the past month in the two dioceses with the ‘Let Us Pray’ symposium in Palmerston North August 11-13 and the…

Cecily McNeill
September 2011

There has been a feast of gathering in the past month in the two dioceses with the ‘Let Us Pray’ symposium in Palmerston North August 11-13 and the Stewardship Institute at the end of the month preceded by the PrayLive day in the cathedral August 26.

People flocked from all points of the dioceses and from north and south. The Social Justice Hui in February was another gathering which drew large numbers from around the archdiocese.

There seems to be a hunger for the social cohesion and discussion of issues confronting the church that such gatherings provide with lay people eager to share ideas for greater collaboration in Church. (The Stewardship Institute was still going when this was written but all accounts suggest people were enjoying the networking opportunity.)
As spirituality guru Donna Orsuto said, one of the key pillars of prayer is community and so Jesus said, where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst [Mt18:20].

Several speakers in the symposium stressed the need to do as Jesus did and withdraw to a quiet place to be with God. Abbot Brian Keogh suggested this quiet time be as regular as the birds’ dawn and evening chorus.

During the PrayLive day in Wellington, Sr Anne Powell took people gathered in the cathedral on a meditative journey, ‘Going Deeper’ into their hearts.

Donna Orsuto introduced those at the symposium to the practice of lectio divina and suggested a fifth stage – react. So after meditating on a text, one is led to some form of action.

Mgr Gerard Burns in his symposium workshop on prayer and action recalled going on a march in Latin America in support of water resources and learning that this was a form of prayer.

The Cardijn community is this year celebrating 50 years since the Church adopted the Cardijn method of See, Judge, Act in Mater et Magistra [Mother and Teacher].

The Belgian priest Joseph Cardijn founded the Young Christian Workers and taught his method of observing what is going on, reflecting on it in light of Church teaching on justice and human rights and taking action. The YCW movement, strong in the United Kingdom and Australia, still practises this method of prayer and discernment followed by action and reflection on that action.

On May 15, 1961, Pope John XXIII issued Mater et Magistra a year after he had asked Cardinal Cardijn to produce an outline of his method to inform the encyclical.

Cardijn’s method focused attention on the need to respond to signals of poverty and injustice, both social and structural.

Today there is also an emphasis on communal change, recognising that, for poverty and injustice to be eradicated, everyone must work together to transform the community, not merely those who are most obviously affected.

As archdiocesan leaders found when they heard at a recent meeting from two materially poorer parishes, richness does not pertain only to money (see ‘Stewardship crosses boundaries’).

It is heartening to see so many in the two dioceses gathering in community and opening themselves to the transformation that comes with deep prayer, reflection and learning about the situation of others.