Contributing Writer : Annika Mawn: member of Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church and Unity Church Centering Prayer groups.
True to its Emerald Isle heritage, St. Patrick’s Day dawned as a drizzling rain descended. The inclement weather did not deter close to eighty women and men–a number far exceeding the organizers’ expectations!–to join together as one at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Serra Mesa. From various parts of the County and different faith expressions, we celebrated, along with others worldwide, the 26th annual United in Prayer Day.
The two scheduled centering prayer periods were the heart and essence of our presence and participation. In addition, we were introduced to a compelling CD with Sister Meg Funk, a long time friend of Contemplative Outreach.
When I heard the CD’s title–“The Practice of Renouncing Violence“–I initially thought it referred to the violence that dominates our nightly news cycle. As Sister Meg continued to speak, I discovered her intent: violence is not only “out there”(external) but also “in here” (internal).
Sister Meg shared a revealing account of her own explosive/implosive reaction during her service as prioress of a large Benedictine community in Indiana. She viewed the chaplain assigned to the nuns as disagreeable and sought through various means (including an entreaty to the Archbishop!) to have him replaced. Upon surveying some of the nuns, Sister Meg discovered, to her surprise, that many of them interacted well with the chaplain. In one telling incident, Sister was at a communal penance service and opted to head straight to the chaplain’s confessional…not to humbly confess her offenses but to set him straight! “Right not contrite” was how she expressed it. Sister admitted that she literally had to physically pivot and move toward another priest.
Sister Meg learned to “own” her own anger and to renounce, refrain and root it out. She began by placing her anger at the foot of the Cross. Between impulse and response, she discovered that there is poise and a world of endless possibilities.
Toward that end, Sister Meg indicated that practice, practice, practice is required coupled with perseverance. Through pausing, praying and practicing, Sister Meg, over a year’s time, came to respond differently to the community’s chaplain. She “gentle down”. Her actions became infused with grace and gentleness.
Sister Meg spoke also of the importance and purpose of blessed water. It is a powerful antidote to evil, a force we have not the strength for. The use of holy water conveys trust in the power and presence of the Almighty and provides a peace that protects. Sister shared a simple blessing for use with holy water:
Father, Son and Spirit,
Calm, Heal, Hold,
Now and forever.
Toward the end of the day, all were invited to step forward and bless themselves with holy water from the font.
When I arrived at Saturday’s event, I had a heart heavy with many cares and concerns. No sooner had I exited my car than a loving woman slipped her arm through mine and we walked together into the meeting room. My spirits began to lift. Even the weather cooperated bringing a return of the sun’s brilliance. Its nourishing light coupled with the inspiring beauty of the United in Prayer day was reflected brightly in my own heart at day’s end and, I hope, in the hearts of others as well.
What does the practice of renouncing violence mean to me? Contributing writer Irma Eichinger
That was the question that came to mind when I listened to Sr. Meg Funk’s talk on United in Prayer Day! It turned out not to be about renouncing violence, but to be healing the harm which is more doable on an individual basis.
What was exciting to me was the fact that she let the Holy Spirit decide her actions. I always ask the Holy Spirit for guidance for me, my children, grandchildren and the leaders of our world. However to rely on the Holy Spirit for every minute of my day was unfamiliar territory to me – when to have a cup of coffee, when to sleep, and when to eat were never on my list. So now I will make the Holy Spirit a priority in deciding the everyday decisions of life! I am sure my day will be blessed. So far the Holy Spirit has directed my writing, so let’s see what else comes out of this pen. I just decided to have 2 chocolate chip cookies. Was that the Holy Spirt or my False Self? Either way, they were delicious and much appreciated.
Sr. Meg Funk goes on to say, “When violence is tamed, we find peace of heart”. Inner peace comes when we do God’s will by not reacting to violence, but to acknowledge it in a calm state of mind. She suggests leaving it to the Holy Spirit.
The following are my thoughts on this subject. I feel that reaction, retaliation, recompense and rage are all False Self activities. So, once we recognize that and ask God to guide us toward our True Self, a calmness will take over. Anger is a human condition reaction. “We know that there is no wrath in God and no anger in Jesus” states Meg Funk. So why do we get angry? It goes back to the False Self condition.
So the more we do Centering Prayer, the more these layers of selfishness, greed and envy get pared away. When we hold on to anger against someone, it is said that we are holding on to burning coals that we cannot wait to throw at our adversary. However, in the meantime these burning stones are hurting us, not our adversary.
When you look at the whole spectrum, loving God by sitting in silence with Him is by far the best remedy for healing violence.
Sr. Meg Funk goes on to say even in the midst of violence, we can experience a calmness, peace and the gentleness of God. This is so true as I experienced chaos after my husband of 59 l/2 years passed away from pancreatic cancer. By offering my sadness to God through Centering Prayer, He gave me the inner peace and calmness I so cherish!