It was a moment I think most of us dreaded. In the later stages of formation some 60 years ago I remember hearing the words “Mr. Freund please”. The words came from the Superior’s bench in both the Novitiate and the Major Seminary. Whoever was called had to “share” the thoughts that had occurred during the long morning meditation period. The relief would come with the closing formula “Such, Sir, was the sum and substance of my morning meditation.”
St. Vincent placed great importance on what he called “Repetition of Prayer.” He would gather his confrères around himself. Then call upon them to share with the community the good thoughts and resolutions that God had given them during meditation. Even on his journeys, he would encourage his companions to share the inspirations which the Holy Spirit had given them.
Only recently did it dawn on me that today we would speak of “shared prayer.”
The journey to Mindwalk
I have spent much of my priestly life teaching variations of a method that is often called “theological reflection.” It was popular in post-Vatican II seminary circles. I did not realize until recently that it was a variation on what I dreaded in the seminary.
Each week students had to pick some event in their lives and describe it. Each week in a small seminar of students they were asked to discover any pattern that might sum up some pastoral experience in a sentence or two. Perhaps “This was an experience of making connections.” Finally, they were expected to explore whether there were any biblical resonances. “It reminded me of the connection between Veronica and Jesus as she wiped his face.”
It was about connecting experiences and meaning.
One of these students, now a senior administrator, adapted the process for a senior exit seminar in use at a large secular institution. This seminar helps students distill what they have learned during their four-year college experience. For decades the seminar has consistently been over-subscribed.
A few years ago, I also realized it has influenced my preaching and is not far removed from Vincent’s “Little Method” of preaching. What, Why, and How.
How Mindwalk is life-giving for me today
I have heard from a number of people how much these Mindwalks mean to them. I am, of course, delighted that this ministry touches people. But I have a confession. I write these reflections for myself to make sense of issues I wrestle with. It’s about making connections.
Of course, at this stage of my life, I have stepped back from FamVin.org which was my daily ministry for the last quarter of a century. I now have the time to use the skills I developed for searching the internet. It has evolved into a ministry more suited to my aging process. I use the internet to learn what other people have thought about Issues of concern, a kind of prayerful fact-checking of my preconceptions and thinking.
I now understand better how the repetition of prayer I once dreaded has given me life in a variety of ways over the years.
My purpose in sharing this personal journey with you is to encourage you. Take whatever opportunities you can make for yourself, expecially this Advent. It no doubt means giving up some time. But the time spent nurturing prayerful reflection is well worth it. I think you too will gain perspective on things that you dread today. For me, it has become a way of praying.
A suggestion for praying
I suggest you regularly use a little bit of your time to expand your horizons beyond what you normally read. Use the internet to prayerfully explore the wide variety of thoughts on any given issue. But, always, always, ask what story or incident in scripture best illustrates a vexing issue.
Note: This may be the last post for a week or two. I have moved into another stage with my Parkinsons which is forcing me to make some adjustments. I will see my neurologist on Dec. 12 and expect to have more information at that time. For now, continue your own Mindwalk and aks what incident in scripture best illustrates an issue that vexes you.