contemplation and vocation
Every Wednesday evening at 8.00 p.m. except for the months of July and August
The cornerstone of this centre is prayer. On each Wednesday evening, from September to June, at 8.00 p.m., a programme of contemplative prayer and reflection is offered which is based upon the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola for its content. This way of prayer emphasises that through the practice of reflective prayer, one discerns one’s unique vocation or calling from God. These evenings, therefore, seek to deepen the personal experience of God while also clarifying how one is called by God to live one’s life.
“… without prayer all our activity risks being fruitless and our message
empty. Jesus wants evangelisers who proclaim the good news not only
with words, but above all by a life transfigured by God’s presence.”
(Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 259)
Integritas is a domestic centre of Christian spirituality which first commenced in September 2000 with prayer on Wednesday evenings. These evenings of prayer and reflection have continued since then and commence each year at the beginning of September and conclude at the end of June. A period allowing for rest from this practice and for review of how it has proceeded occurs during the months of July and August.
These evenings take place between 8.00 p.m. and 9.00 p.m. The purpose is to engage the whole of one’s person in prayer – body, mind, soul and spirit. The practice, therefore, commences with a relaxation exercise, while ensures that the body is comfortable and becomes still. This exercise then focuses upon the breath, leading to an awareness that one is not breathing but being breathed. This awareness underpins an understanding throughout the prayer that one is called to be an instrument in service of God’s love in the world.
A period is then allowed for centering prayer. This is a relatively short period which would be considerably longer for those who regularly practice this way of prayer in daily life. Nonetheless, it is allowed for at this early point in the prayer so as to further concentrate the mind and to bring it into harmony with the soul (the realm of the psyche) and to create greater sensitivity to the Holy Spirit within oneself.
These two initial practices of relaxation of the body and breath and centering prayer, come from the tradition of apophatic prayer, which counsels the person in contemplation to let go of images and feelings that do not lead directly to resting in God’s presence. Apophatic prayer is an ancient and venerable way of prayer found in the writings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers and in the writings of Christian mystics such as St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. It renounces images and feelings in order to finally come to rest in the presence of God.
The next stage in a series of prayers from Scripture which seek the mercy of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They begin with the reading part of Psalm 50 (51) in alternate verse, which commences with the words ‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love’. This marks a change to prayer in the cataphatic prayer which honours and reverences images and feelings and goes through them to God. Any sort of prayer that highlights the mediation of creation can be called cataphatic. Praying with one’s senses, feelings, intuitions and imagination are cataphatic forms of prayer.
The next stage is the introduction of the theme for the evening’s prayer. The sequence of these themes is broadly taken from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola,which are availed of for two related reasons. Firstly, the spiritual themes of these exercises develop a heightened awareness of the person of Jesus Christ and of how His central presence gives a new order to one’s life. This is the basic vision of Integritas, namely that through a growing attraction to Him, a new integrity emerges in one’s life. This integrity becomes a reality through the strengthening of four progressive relationships in one’s life being :
- The relationship with God, the persons of the Holy Trinity;
- The relationship with one’s calling or vocation in life;
- The relationships with others in the bonds of family, friendship and community;
- The relationships with society and creation through one’s engagement in the social institutions of marriage, education, law, religion and politics.
The second reason for relying upon the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola is that they are particularly applicable to the lives of lay people and to discerning the will of God for one’s life in the midst of difficult choices and constant demands. By continually reflecting upon one’s life in this way of prayer, one is increasingly called to become totally dependant upon Jesus Christ, to notice the gentle, recurring calling of the Holy Spirit Spirit from Him to choose a life that is integrated and to be encouraged through faith in Him to follow the path that leads to the Father.
At this stage, we then arrive at the central and pivotal point – listening to the reading from the Gospel which is related to the theme of the evening and then being in silence so that the Word of God can be contemplated. After this period of silence, one is then invited to reflect upon what has emerged during this period of silence and to note it down so that it will be remembered and available to be reflected upon thereafter.
Following this period of reflection, a period of prayer is allowed for our families when family members, living and deceased, are remembered and the wellbeing of all families is prayed for. The central importance of families, of marriage between a man and a woman and the care and nurturing of children by their parents is critical for our shared future, for the good of society and the Church and justifies specific prayer and attention.
The final stage of the evening turns to an abbreviated form of Compline, drawing from this great monastic practice of prayer and uniting with the universal Church in thanksgiving to God and in asking for His protection and care in our lives and in our homes. Music is played at the conclusion of the evening and one can stay in silence in the prayer room thereafter for as long as one wishes.
Latin contemplari, contemplatio:
‘to mark out a space for observation’
The word contemplation comes for the latin word contemplatio. Its root is also that of the latin word templum, a piece of ground consecrated for the taking of auspices, or a building for worship, derived either from Proto-Indo-European base tem - “to cut” and so a “place reserved or cut out” or from the Proto-indo-European base temp - “to stretch” and thus referring to a cleared space in front of an altar. In Eastern Christianity, contemplation (theoria) literally means to see God or to have the vision of God.
Latin vocare, vocatio:
The word vocation comes from the latin word vocatio meaning ‘a call, summons’. The ideal of vocation is central to the Christian belief that God has created each person with gifts and talents orientated toward specific purposes and a way of life. It is especially associated with a divine call to service to the Church and humanity through particular vocational life commitments such as marriage to a particular person, consecration as a religious, ordination to priestly ministry in the church or holy life as a single person, In the broader sense, Christian vocation includes the use of one’s gifts in one’s profession, family life, church and civic commitments for the sake of the greater common good.