Centering Prayer
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@Home Retreat, January 2021

Triangle @Home Monthly Morning Retreat
January 16th, 2021
9:00-10:00am

 

*Prepare your space: Find an area where hopefully you will not be disturbed for your quiet time. Perhaps you want a blanket for yourself. 
*Gather your supplies: Timer, note paper and/or journal, pen. You may want to bring in one or two inspirational books.
*Create an “altar”: Put a few meaningful items out, include a candle.
*Opening Song –  Refresh My Heart or song of your choice.
(You Tube Link) Refresh My Heart
*Opening Prayers: The Sign of the Cross, Our Father, Hail Mary or your choice.
*Intention: This is a reflective, healing time and we ask that it be filled with the love of the Holy Spirit, the care of Mother Mary and the guidance of all our guardian angels. We are here to learn from one another and to support each other on our journey towards a closer, more intimate relationship with Our Lord.
*Write out a prayer request or a few and add them to your “altar.”
*Reflection – It’s a new year and the COVID vaccine has appeared on the scene.  When will you receive it?  Do you want to receive it? What then?  Will it protect us from the virus so we can finally see our family and friends? How much longer will we need to wear masks and maintain “social distancing?” There are so many questions? How are you doing? How have you continued to stay connected to God, the Divine, Our Lord? What has come into your heart and your life during this time, peace, hope, fear, compassion, gratitude?
Using your journal write about any insights. (10-15 min.)

 

*The Gospel reading is: Mark 2:13-17

13 He went out again to the shore of the lake; and all the people came to him, and he taught them.

14 As he was walking along he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

15 When Jesus was at dinner in his house, a number of tax collectors and sinners were also sitting at table with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many of them among his followers.

16 When the scribes of the Pharisee party saw him eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’

17 When Jesus heard this he said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. I came to call not the upright, but sinners.’

 

 

*Journaling Time – What did you hear God sharing with you? What do you want to share with God? (10-15 minutes)
*Centering Prayer – 10 to 20 (recommended) minutes of silent time (you decide.)
Guidelines:
  1. Sit comfortably.
  2. Choose a sacred word on which to focus.
  3. Set a timer.
  4. Don’t judge, just observe.
  5. The phrase that often precedes Centering Prayer is: I let go of security, affection & control and fully accept this moment exactly as it is. (Optional)
  6. Take a few breaths at the end to return to the present moment and to reflect
    on the experience.
  7. *Make it Your Own:
    Perhaps you have an inspirational book you have been meaning to investigate but you just haven’t had the opportunity. Now is the time. If you have some time left before the end of the hour open it and see what other messages the Holy is sending to you.
  8. You could also use this time to say the Rosary. Saturday in the Catholic Church is set aside as “Mary’s Day” and the reflection is on the Joyful Mysteries.
*Closing Prayer –
Dear God,
Speak gently in my silence.
When the loud outer noises of my surroundings and the loud my fears keep pulling me away from you,
inner noises of
help me to trust that you are still there even when I am unable to hear you. Give me ears to listen to your small, soft voice saying: “Come to me, you who
are overburdened, and I will give you rest…
for I am gentle and humble of heart.” Let that loving voice be my guide. Amen
Excerpt from With Open Hands by Henri J.M. Nouwen, ave maria press, 2006
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2
*Sharing a Word Exercise – choose a word from your reading or your quiet time (your sacred word?) and share it on an email to me. Feel free to share any other thoughts or insights you have gained from this sacred time. I will send out an email with everyone’s response some time today.
Thank you.
Jean Costa, MSW, RYT
Certified Spiritual Director, JeanAnneCosta@gmail.com

@Home Retreat, December 2020

Triangle@Home Monthly Morning Retreat
December 19th, 2020 9:00-10:00 am

  (or day and time of your choice).

*Prepare your space: Find an area where hopefully you will not be disturbed for your quiet time. Perhaps you want a blanket for yourself (or a teddy bear?). 
*Gatheram your supplies: Timer, note paper and/or journal, pen. You may want to bring in one or two inspirational books. 
*Create an “altar”: Put a few meaningful items out, include a candle. 
*Opening Song – Here I am Lord

*Opening Prayers: The Sign of the Cross, Our Father, Hail Mary or your choice. 
*Intention: This is a reflective, healing time and we ask that it be filled with the love of the Holy Spirit, the care of Mother Mary and the guidance of all our guardian angels. We are here to learn from one another and to support each other on our journey towards a closer, more intimate relationship with Our Lord. 
*Write out a prayer request or a few and add them to your “altar.” 
*Reflection – There appears to be a “light at the end of the tunnel.” The news is focused on the recently discovered vaccine for Covid 19.  For most of us, this probably won’t be available until sometime in 2021.  We are still faced with decisions about the holidays that are causing sadness and separation. We are still trying to stay safe and keep our loved ones safe but for most of us, we ache to see them and hold them. It’s one of the most bizarre holidays most of us have ever experienced.  
How are you doing? How have you continued to stay connected to God, the Divine, Our Lord? What has come into your heart and your life during this time of chaos and uncertainty, peace, hope, fear, compassion, gratitude? 
Using your journal write about any insights. (10-15 min.) 
Saturday in the Catholic Church is always Mother Mary’s Day
One prayer to Mary is the Memoire: (This is one of my favorite and the one I always say as I am going to sleep.)
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known that any one who fled to thy protection,
implored thy help or sought thy intercession,
was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence,
I fly unto thee,
O Virgin of virgins my Mother;
to thee do I come,
before thee I stand,
sinful and sorrowful;
O Mother of thy Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions,
but in thy clemency hear and answer me.
Amen.
Gospel reading suggestion: read slowly three times.
*The Gospel reading is:
Gospel, Luke 1:5-25
5 In the days of King Herod of Judaea there lived a priest called Zechariah who belonged to the Abijah section of the priesthood, and he had a wife, Elizabeth by name, who was a descendant of Aaron.
6 Both were upright in the sight of God and impeccably carried out all the commandments and observances of the Lord.
7 But they were childless: Elizabeth was barren and they were both advanced in years.
8 Now it happened that it was the turn of his section to serve, and he was exercising his priestly office before God
9 when it fell to him by lot, as the priestly custom was, to enter the Lord’s sanctuary and burn incense there.
10 And at the hour of incense all the people were outside, praying.
11 Then there appeared to him the angel of the Lord, standing on the right of the altar of incense.
12 The sight disturbed Zechariah and he was overcome with fear.
13 But the angel said to him, ‘Zechariah, do not be afraid, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth is to bear you a son and you shall name him John.
14 He will be your joy and delight and many will rejoice at his birth,
15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord; he must drink no wine, no strong drink; even from his mother’s womb he will be filled with the Holy Spirit,
16 and he will bring back many of the Israelites to the Lord their God.
17 With the spirit and power of Elijah, he will go before him to reconcile fathers to their children and the disobedient to the good sense of the upright, preparing for the Lord a people fit for him.’
18 Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How can I know this? I am an old man and my wife is getting on in years.’
19 The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel, who stand in God’s presence, and I have been sent to speak to you and bring you this good news.
20 Look! Since you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time, you will be silenced and have no power of speech until this has happened.’
21 Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and were surprised that he stayed in the sanctuary so long.
22 When he came out he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. But he could only make signs to them and remained dumb.
23 When his time of service came to an end he returned home.
24 Some time later his wife Elizabeth conceived and for five months she kept to herself, saying,
25 ‘The Lord has done this for me, now that it has pleased him to take away the humiliation I suffered in public.’
*Centering Prayer – 10 to 20 (recommended) minutes of silent time (you decide.)
Guidelines: 
  1. Sit comfortably. 
  2. Choose a sacred word on which to focus. 
  3. Set a timer. 
  4. Don’t judge, just observe. 
  5. The phrase that often precedes Centering Prayer is: I let go of security, affection & control and fully accept this moment exactly as it is. (Optional) 
  6. Take a few breaths at the end to return to the present moment and to reflect
    on the experience. 
  7. *Make it Your Own:
    Perhaps you have an inspirational book you have been meaning to investigate but you just haven’t had the opportunity. Now is the time. If you have some time left before the end of the hour open it and see what other messages the Holy is sending to you.
  8. You could also use this time to say the Rosary. Saturday in the Catholic Church is set aside as “Mary’s Day” and the reflection is on the Joyful Mysteries.
*Journaling Time – What did you hear God sharing with you? What do you want to share with God? (10-15 minutes) 
*Closing Prayer – 
Merciful Father, in the name of our Lovable Jesus, His Holy Mother, all the angels and saints, I ask you to set me on fire with Your love and to give me the grace to deeply love You.
Dear God,
Speak gently in my silence. 
When the loud outer noises of my surroundings and the loud inner noises of my fears keep pulling me away from you, help me to trust that you are still there even when I am unable to hear you. Give me ears to listen to your small, soft voice saying: “Come to me, you who are overburdened, and I will give you rest… for I am gentle and humble of heart.” Let that loving voice be my guide. Amen 
Excerpt from With Open Hands by Henri J.M. Nouwen, ave maria press, 2006 
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2 
*Sharing a Word Exercise – choose a word or phrase from your reading or your quiet time (your sacred word?) and share it on an email to me. Feel free to share any other thoughts or insights you have gained from this sacred time. I will send out an email with everyone’s response some time today. 
Thank you. 
Jean Costa, MSW, RYT 
Certified Spiritual Director, JeanAnneCosta@gmail.com 

Let Go

Affirmation: I let go of struggle.

 

IMG_2839-2The immaculate Conception parish in Durham, North Carolina held it’s annual woman’s retreat this last weekend. It was at the Baptist retreat center on Oak Island, North Carolina. Approximately fifty women attended. They were of all ages and ethnic backgrounds. There was one man, Father Jude Siciliano but as one of the women tried to explain to me, he was such a remarkable man that the women attending would be very comfortable with his presence. She was right, very right.

As you probably know if you regularly read this blog, I am very familiar with creating and presenting retreats. This year will be our eleventh Pink Ribbon Yoga Retreat. At the time of this blog, our first planning session is about to take place. It takes a solid six months to get an event like ours together.

IMG_2830-2The committee for the Immaculate Conception retreat also works on their event for many months beforehand. It was very obvious. They didn’t miss a thing. It was everything I’d want a spiritual retreat to be. The design was very gentle with lots of free time. The rooms were comfortable and well appointed. The setting was originally Fort Caswell with remnants of the cement bunkers and walls in the midst of lovely houses and stunningly beautiful ocean vistas. We were able to watch the sunrise and the sunset. The theme was, Reclaiming the Gifts of Sabbath Living and we were encouraged to come with something written out that we wanted to eliminate from our lives. We were then encouraged to “take an intention” to help us accomplish our desire. I was right at home. I must admit I also felt a little smug; I mean I’d already looked at the year and I had set an intention. I was ready! I really was but just like all adventures there was so much to experience than I could even imagine.

IMG_2834-2We were a carpool of four. We were the only four from our part of the Triangle. It was a delightful ride to the beach. One of the other women took on all the driving and another coordinated our pickups. I was honored to be with these three spiritual sages. They had all worked hard at getting in touch with God, each in their own way. I couldn’t wait to see what I would learn from each of them. The simple fact that I was not in charge of any aspect of this trip, other than packing my own suitcase, was a gift in itself. What a way to start a new year, in the company of three very loving, wise women and then to share in the journey of several dozen other women all with the same desire to know God better, to find a way to be better connected to the Divine.

IMG_2836-2Father Jude led us in several ceremonies but for me the most meaningful were the two Centering Prayer sessions, twenty minutes of eyes closed and emptying the mind. How easy that sounds but how difficult to put into practice. I’ve meditated now on and off, mostly off, for over thirty years. I’m great at praying and of course, I always journal but being called upon to just sit silently, without going to sleep, for twenty minutes, twice a day, is simply something I haven’t made happen in my life, probably because I really don’t want to. I am a busy person. There is so much to do and to think about and of which to be in charge! I do fully realize, however, the multiple benefits of meditation, of resting the brain and in this case in finally being silent so that I can listen to God, not always be dominating the conversation. That’s what we were given, two twenty minute sessions to simply listen. Did God speak to me? Yes, She did!

During both sessions I received images that I cannot explain. I went into the first session with a question to which I could not find an answer and somewhere in that twenty minutes, an answer came and one I feel I never never would have arrived at using any other modality. I was actually stunned and felt a great sense of peace. During the second session I was prepared to simply sit quietly and repeat my word or “mantra” but once again I was visited with an image. It was a warm, comforting person and I was so grateful for her care. I might have stayed longer but the bell rang and she left. She left and yet I still feel her with me. I’m not sure if or when she will ever leave again.

Unknown-2I’m curious now, will each time in Centering Prayer bring a new insight, a warm feeling, a sense of peace and calm or was it the power of almost fifty other people sitting with me that presented me with these gifts? A few years back I took a ten week course in Mindful Meditation at Duke Integrative Medicine. I sat quietly in lotus position, crossed legs, on the floor twice a day for twenty minutes for ten weeks and then the course ended and so did my practice. I know all the benefits meditation presents. I’ve read about lowering blood pressure, increasing self discipline, improving concentration and about how the brain actually changes its state with ongoing meditation. This January there was a Sixty Minute episode that showed a computer scan of the beneficial effects on the brain during meditation. I haven’t read a self-help book yet that doesn’t at some point tell the reader to meditate. Presently, I am listening to Richard Rohr’s, The Art of Letting Go. I just began session four this week. Guess what the topic was? Contemplation or meditation and why it’s so beneficial not only to our bodies but to our spirits.

Am I ready? Can I do it? Even as I sit here and write I can feel the resistance. “Be careful what you pray for,” I’ve been told. So, I’m not going to ask God to help me with this intention. Instead I’m simply going to allow the time to unfold and present itself to me. My intention for the year had already been set before I ever got to the retreat, this is, The Year of Trusting in Christ. The quality I left behind at the retreat to honor Sabbath living was struggle. My affirmation is, I let go of struggle, even the struggle to meditate daily. I’m simply going to see how the days evolve and maybe this time, with God in the picture, my desire to sit quietly and discover His/Her message will come as a welcome gift.

Stay tuned. I’ll report back in a few months. Maybe you want to join me in this journey? I’d love to know what you might discover.