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Monthly Spiritual Exercise
The Facing Our Immortality Spiritual Exercise is an integral part of our monthly cancer support group. It is here where we form relationships with one another and in Christ. We never walk alone.
We are a spiritual ministry, based on the principles of Catholic teaching, for those who are pained and aggrieved by cancer or serious illness. We meet once per month in a safe environment, which provides a loving atmosphere formed in the community of Christ. Mutual respect for the dignity, privacy and confidentiality of each participant is fully embraced.
This Spiritual Exercise is designed to elevate conversation, understanding and support to a deeper faith-based perspective where our life-experience, especially at the present time, has God, and His plan/dream for us personally, at the center. This will involve working deeply with the mystery of suffering in our lives.
The Holy Spirit will animate much of this unfolding and direction with each group.
WHY WE PRAY
We will begin with an opening prayer followed by the Spiritual Exercise. Fr. James Flanagan, Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT), gives an explanation below of the elements involved, and then how to do an exercise.
A: Opening Prayer
B: Spiritual Exercise
Silent time for reflection
Say one “Glory Be…”
C: General Discussion
D: Closing Prayer
Cancer is not an individual experience. It is, generally speaking, a family experience, and so the family needs spiritual protection, healing, blessing, and just a general entrusting into the hands of God. Our Lives are relational. Cancer is something that intrudes into that, or is even sometimes, a consequence of long standing, unhealthy relationships. So it is never true that the person with cancer is the only one involved. There is always a context, and human relationships are always in deep need of the grace of God. Prayer is an essential way to bring that grace into these relationships and contexts. We are going to strive then to see things relationally, both in our human relationships and our divine relationships.
There are three elements involved in spiritual exercise, The Art of Listening, The Art of Reflection and The Art of Dialogue.
1. The Art of Listening
If we are to “hear” God’s Word it is essential that we learn how to listen to the Word, the Spirit, others and even ourselves. We must be able to distinguish between these voices also. Most of your time spent in the Spiritual Exercise will be using this art. We must not only listen to what is said, but we must learn to listen to what is not said. To really listen to one another we must empty ourselves of all prejudgments and biases. We must be open and receptive. We need, therefore, to enter the Spiritual Exercise with a spirit of humility. We must realize that we need others, and they need us to live the Trinitarian Life, which is a life of community.
2. The Art of Reflection
This second art is more directly related to the Spirit In this art we learn to open ourselves to the Spirit who teaches us “all things”. The art comes in learning how to open yourself to the voice of the Spirit within you. During the time of reflection we are not to think of very erudite things to impress people with our knowledge of theology or with our scholarship. It is a time when we open ourselves so the Spirit can teach us Himself. He will take us at times back into the Word to the Person of Jesus. At other times He will take us to our own life experiences, because in those life experiences He has been leading and teaching us. Therefore, a real relationship with the Person of the Spirit has to grow within you. The more you use this art, the more sensitive you will become to the Spirit and the more He will direct you.
3. The Art of Dialogue
Because we are the Body of Christ, and because we have to grow to that oneness in the Body, which Jesus himself prayed for, we come to a time when we share our reflections of the Spirit. This again is not an intellectual discussion, nor is it a psychological unburdening (although sometimes it will have that effect). As this art develops, little by little this time will become a moment of humble and fraternal communion with God and others, a moment of attentive listening to God through the lives of others. You will find that where you were not open to the Spirit during the time of reflection, the Spirit can speak to you through someone else’s experience of Him. We teach each other through our sharing because we are one in Christ. The art is to give what comes from our hearts, not from our learning. We must give what comes from the Lord to each other. This art is really a sharing of the Lord with each other in praise, in thanks and in life. This gift, therefore, is not for ourselves only, but for others which finds its roots and source in the community of the Trinity.
These three arts are skills that can be learned and developed, under, of course, the guidance of grace. And like all skills the more they are used, the more proficient the person becomes in them. The Trinity is community! And if you’re going to come into that Trinitarian life you must live as community.
Led by Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT
A. OPENING HEALING PRAYER Led by Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT
“We humbly approach you O Most Holy Trinity as we beg for your healing. You are Our Father and we trust in your goodness as you draw us daily to become what you call us to be. We humble ourselves before you as we acknowledge your greatness and your infinite mercy. Please dispel within us any form of idolatry that we may truly worship you with all our being, as Mary our Mother did.
Jesus, our eternal shepherd, we come to you like the many sick and the infirm that approached you. We beg you to fill our hearts and our souls with the faith of the Centurion who only asked you to say but the word, and he knew that his servant would be healed. Or like the woman, we come to touch your garments with great confidence that your healing power will flow through this cloth to the one it is placed upon now. For those of us who struggle with believing in your power to heal, we pray that you help our unbelief.
Holy Spirit, we rely on the humility that you give us as we bring our request before your presence. We often do not know what to ask and how to ask. Often we struggle with knowing what God’s will is for one who is sick. Yet we know that it is your love that can enkindle the flame within our feeble hearts. Help us to accept the healing that comes from your love; so that we may praise the glory of your Name!
We ask you Mother Mary to intercede with all the angels and saints for God’s healing of those who are sick. Cast your mantle of healing over them and restore them to wholeness and health.”
“Our Father, who art in heaven…”
“Hail Mary, full of grace……….”
“Glory Be, to the father ……….”
“O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit, we thank you for hearing our prayer. Help us all to be open to your healing, so that we may love you the more and have the strength to serve all those that you place in our lives. Give us the joy that once restored to health, we too may reach out to others and bring your healing power to them. We make this prayer through Christ Our Lord! Amen. “
“Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity! Pray for us.”
PRESENTATION: THE ANGELS – Jeannie Ewing
Most of us believe in angels, but we seldom pray to them. We imagine them wistfully flying around us, guarding or guiding us. But they are pure spirit, and we can’t relate to that aspect of their nature. Fathoming a special bond with your angelic guardian may seem awkward, but it’s a devotion we all can adopt in order to deepen our interior life and grow in sanctification.
Why is a devotion to our angel important? To begin, the angelic theologians and most exorcists concur that our guardians chose us. They knew us before we were created, and out of love and obedience to God, they said yes to His offer to protect us. This means they have had full knowledge of our temperaments, every sin we’ve ever committed, and all the good we would do in life. They likely know us better than we know ourselves.
The 20 Things Guardian Angels Do for Us – STEPHEN BEALE
Imagine you had a bodyguard who was always with you. He did all the usual bodyguard things like protecting you from danger, warding off assailants, and generally keeping you safe in all situations. But he also did more than this: he offered you moral guidance, helped you become a stronger person, and led you to your ultimate calling in life.
We don’t have to imagine it. We already have such a bodyguard. Christian tradition calls them guardian angels. Their existence is supported by Scripture and both Catholics and Protestants believe in them
But too often we neglect to tap this great spiritual resource. (I, for one, am certainly guilty of this!) In order to better enlist the aid of guardian angels, it might help to have a better appreciation of they can do for us. Here are 20 things:1. Ward off demons
1. Sometimes we visualize moral decision-making as a debate between a bad angel whispering in one ear and a good angel speaking wisely in the other. There is a truth to this: according to St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the roles of the guardian angels is to fight off demons (Summa Theologica, Part 1, Question 113, Articles 2-6).
2. Protect us from harm
Guardian angels generally protect us from both spiritual and physical harm, according to Aquinas (Question 113, Article 5, Reply 3). This belief is rooted in Scripture. For example, Psalm 91:11-12 declares, “For he commands his angels with regard to you, to guard you wherever you go. With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”
3. Strengthen us against temptation
Guardian angels do not just ward off evil, they also strengthen us so we can do it ourselves. As St. Bernard says in a sermon, “As often, therefore, as a most serious temptation is perceived to weigh upon you and an excessive trial is threatening, call to your guard, your leader, your helper in your needs, in your tribulation; cry to him and say: ‘Lord, save us; we perish!’”
4. Embolden us
St. Bernard also says that with angels such as these at our side we should have no fear. We should have the courage to live out our faith boldly and confront whatever life might throw our way. As he puts it, “Why should we fear under such guardians? Those who keep us in all our ways can neither be overcome nor be deceived, much less deceive. They are faithful; they are prudent; they are powerful; why do we tremble?”
5. Intervene miraculously to save us from trouble
Guardian angels not only ‘guard,’ they also can save us when we are already in trouble. This is illustrated by the story of Peter in Acts 12, when an angel helps break the apostle out of prison. The story suggests that it is his own personal angel that has intervened (see verse 15). Of course, we cannot count on such miracles. But it’s an added comfort to know that they are possible.
6. Guard us from birth
Church Fathers once debated whether guardian angels were assigned at birth or at baptism. St. Jerome argued decisively for the former. His basis was Matthew 18:10, which is a crucially important Scriptural passage that supports the existence of guardian angels. In the verse Jesus says, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” The reason that we get guardian angels at birth is that their aid is associated with our nature as rational beings, rather than belonging to the order of grace, according to Aquinas (Question 113, Article 5, Answer).
7. Guard all of us—including unbelievers
This conclusion follows from the above. Aquinas also makes this clear in explaining that God never leaves any of us, including sinners. As the great dogmatic theologian Ludwig Ott explained, “According to the general teaching of the theologians, however, not only every baptized person, but every human being, including unbelievers, has his own special guardian angel from his birth.” Pope Benedict XVI also taught that guardian angels are “ministers of the divine care for every human being.” (Thanks to Jimmy Akin for highlighting these sources.)
8. Remind us of the dignity of persons
This follows from all that has been said before. It is particularly evident from Matthew 18:10 where Jesus instructs us not to ‘despise’ the ‘little ones’ because they have angels watching over them. (I’m particularly indebted to Protestant preacher John Piper for pointing this out.) As St. Jerome puts it, “The worth of souls is so great that from birth each one has an angel assigned to him for protection.” Piper emphasizes how the presence of guardian angels should lead us to a greater respect for our fellow Christians: “Therefore don’t despise this simple, unimpressive disciple of Jesus! Let his angelic entourage remind you whose son he is.”
9. Remind us of God’s care for all
Aquinas explains how the angels operate in accordance with God’s providential plan for all men (Question 113, Article 6, Answer). It follows that these angels serve as a reminder of His care for us.
10. Bring our needs to God
Akin says that guardian angels act as intercessors who bring our requests directly to God based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:10 about angels beholding the face of God.
11. Bring us closer to God
It follows from the above that guardian angels also aid in bringing us nearer to God. Even when God seems distant, just remember that the guardian angel assigned to you personally is at the same time beholding God directly, as the Catholic Encyclopedia notes.
12. Move us to the good
Guardian angels also move us to the good. As Aquinas writes, “It is moreover manifest that as regards things to be done human knowledge and affection can vary and fail from good in many ways; and so it was necessary that angels should be deputed for the guardianship of men, in order to regulate them and move them to good” This includes prompting us to perform good works, according to Aquinas. (See Question 113, Article 1, Answer and Article 4, Objection 3.)
13. Reinforce God’s commands
According to Aquinas, one of the roles of our angelic guardians is helping us use our reason to pursue virtue. In particular, he says the angels help us in developing prudence by serving as God’s “universal instructor,” passing on God’s precepts (Question 113, Article 1, Reply 2).
14. Illuminate the truth
Angels “propose the intelligible truth to men” through sensible things, according to Aquinas (Question 111, Article 1, Answer). Although he does not elaborate on this point, this it is a basic teaching of the Church that the material world points to invisible spiritual realities. As St. Paul says in Romans 1:20, “Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made.”
15. Strengthen our minds
A second way that angels enlighten us, Aquinas says, is by reinforcing our intellects. As he puts it, “[T]he human intellect as the inferior, is strengthened by the action of the angelic intellect” (Question 111, Article 1).
16. Communicate through our imagination
In addition to working through our senses and intellects, our guardian angels also influence us through our imaginations, according to Aquinas, who gives the example of Joseph’s dreams (Question 111, Article 3, On the Contrary and Answer). But it might not be something as obvious as a dream; it could also be through more subtle means like a ‘phantasm,’ which could be defined as an image brought to the senses or the imagination (Question 111: Article 1, Answer; definition adapted from the Dictionary of Scholastic Philosophy by Bernard Wueller, SJ).
17. Influence our wills
Angels cannot directly move the will, but, according to Aquinas, they can indirectly influence it through our senses and intellect, as stated above (Question 111, Article 2 , Answer). This means that our guardian angels influence every part of our being for the better—our senses, intellect, and will.
18. Aid in our salvation
The ultimate goal of all that guardian angels do is to aid in our salvation, according to Aquinas. “Angels are sent to minister, and that efficaciously indeed, for those who shall receive the inheritance of salvation, if we consider the ultimate effect of their guardianship, which is the realizing of that inheritance,” Aquinas writes (Question 113, Article 5, Reply 1). Here he is drawing from Hebrews 1:14, which states, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent to serve, for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?”
19. Remind us of our ultimate goal
Inspired by Christ’s words in Matthew 18:10, St. Augustine suggests that guardian angels remind us that our ultimate goal is the beatific vision of God: “As, then, they see, so shall we also see; but not yet do we thus see. Wherefore the apostle uses the words cited a little ago, Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face. This vision is reserved as the reward of our faith; and of it the Apostle John also says, When He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 1 John 3:2. By the face of God we are to understand His manifestation, and not a part of the body similar to that which in our bodies we call by that name” (City of God, Book 22, Chapter 29).
20. Never leave us
Guardian angels assume their duties at our birth and maintain them up to our death. For Aquinas, this is just an extension of the broader truth that we never completely leave God’s care, even in sin and doubt: “Now it is evident that neither man, nor anything at all, is entirely withdrawn from the providence of God: for in as far as a thing participates being, so far is it subject to the providence that extends over all being.
SILENT TIME QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION – spend 5 or more minutes reflecting on this presentation and consider the following:
1. Why is it a good idea to develop a relationship with your guardian angel, especially in the midst of suffering, trial and difficulty?
2. Have you had experiences where you were aware of the involvement of angels, even in retrospect?
3. How do you think you can benefit more from the gift God has given us in our angels?
Additional Resource: https://catholicexchange.com has many different articles on angels. Just plug “angels” into their website search.
SHARING – If you feel the need, please share your thoughts. This is a time to share without reciprocal comment. What was your experience?
DISCUSSION: LET US ALLOW THE HOLY SPIRIT TO TAKE THE LEAD
- Our next meeting will take place March 11, 2019. Please add this to your online calendar and/or save to your mobile phone.
- Our Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/FacingOurImmortality/ page will also show the upcoming events. Please also follow our page to receive alerts.
- Please check the website for meeting location. We are scheduled to have the meetings at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School on the second Monday of each month from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm.
- Please check the website for the conference call line (for those not able to come to the meeting in person). We currently use Uber Conference: 720-735-7025.
- The spiritual exercise is uploaded each month to our website. Please go to the website prior to calling into the group. https://facingourimmortality.org/
- Sr. Anne Marie Walsh will be speaking at the Catholic Women’s Conference in Sioux City, Iowa on March 30, 2019. For more information, go to their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/homeofthetrinity/.
- Father Woody’s Haven of Hope – Richard and Denise (more so Richard) go to their day-shelter every Monday from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. This important part of our overall ministry offers individuals with serious illness/cancer an opportunity to pray and talk about their illness and circumstance. It is through communication and communion that there is hope for renewal in their lives, both personally and spiritually. They are truly enjoying time in the chapel. If you have time on Mondays, we could use your help. It is a joy to be there.
- We want to know when you are in need of special prayers. Ongoing prayer requests are sent out via email, but also published on the website. The website also has a section for resources and prayer links. We appreciate additional suggestions that you may have, and as our ministry grows, we will continue to add more information in this section. If you would like to request a prayer request, please email Denise at firstname.lastname@example.org. There are also comment and request forms within the website.
- Remember that these spiritual exercises can be done at any time. You may feel the desire to take another look at one from the past. Please let us know if you would like another copy from a past session.
- Please remember to invite others who you feel may benefit from our monthly spiritual exercise group. They do not need to be Catholic. We welcome patients, survivors, spouses, caregivers and surviving spouses. All are welcome.
Thank you so much for your prayers as well.
Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, Denise and Richard
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