Mark Your Calendar
Good Friday Way of the Cross
40-Day Fast for Christian Nonviolence
Feast of the Holy
Feast of the Holy
Peacemaking Through the Arts
Ash Wednesday Leafleting
Ash Wednesday Leafleting
Our tradition on Ash
Wednesday is to offer a Lenten Reflection to the
faithful outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Our tradition on Ash Wednesday is to offer a Lenten Reflection to the faithful outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Each year PCMNY organizes a weekend retreat, usually during Lent, facilitated by a noted spiritual leader to challenge and nurture participants in their commitment to Christian nonviolence.
Silent Prayer & Nonviolence: PCMNY’s 2015 Retreat
by Margaret Flanagan, President of the PCMNY Board
We gathered together at St. Joseph's Renewal Center in Brentwood, Long Island, about 30 people, a few new to Pax Christi, a few new to Centering Prayer, with Joachim Lally, a Paulist priest who discovered Marshall Rosenberg and nonviolent communication in the 1970s and has been delving deeper and deeper into it ever since.
Joachim shared how he had come to use centering prayer for himself and to teach about it throughout his ministry. The Scripture that is most central for him, he told us, is John 17:21 –“That all may be one.” His overarching theme: “I came that you may have life and have it to the full.” The theme for the retreat, outlined on Friday night: “The Main Cause of Personal and Societal Violence.”Joachim developed these points throughout the weekend.
One that touched me was that our desire to be a peacemaker, to do away with injustice in all its forms, can be a subtle exercise of ego (ego being the source of violence; it is our false self, and trying to get its “needs” met leads us to violence). Love by its nature is free - forced “love” is not love - God chooses to love us, every day, every moment, and choices flow from love.
Don't “should” on me was another, recurrent point. We need to think not “I have to,” but “I choose this out of love.” Joachim elaborated: Let God develop within us - more willingness than willfulness. If Mary had said “Yes, you picked the right woman” that would have been willfulness, but, instead, she responded, “Let it be done unto me according to Your will.”
Saturday morning a few more joined us, only able to come for the day, but very welcome. Throughout our time together, we gathered at tables where, after each talk,we would practice some centering prayer and silence and then share in small groups.We also had some time to share with the large group what struck us about what we heard in our small groups.
Joachim continued the retreat with more instruction on Centering Prayer and Nonviolence. In 1971 Thomas Keating brought Centering Prayer to the United States, and Joachim found it soon after. It feels to me that Joachim found nonviolent communication and Centering Prayer around the same time and has used Centering Prayer to help him in communicating nonviolently, so the concepts are intertwined for him. Other resources he uses are Richard Rohr's Falling Upward, Julian of Norwich's concept “Oneing,” and the website www.catholicinformationcenter.org/centering prayer.
Contemplative prayer is opening yourself to the divine presence - resting in God. It is pure gift. All we can do is prepare for it, and centering prayer can help you prepare. In contrast to meditation, which is using your mind, for contemplation Joachim jested: You need to be out of your mind. Joachim gave us guidelines for using centering prayer and warned us: Failure is built in to destabilize your ego. Since it is common for minds to wander (a sense of failure), Joachim offered this advice, which I love: When engaged with your thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word
Another point that resonated with me was “seeing with nonjudgmental and thus nonviolent eyes.” Here Joachim related the concept to mysticism. He explained: Mysticism implies not legalistic religion, but living spirituality . . .heartfelt experience of the Divine, centering on a miraculous andjoyful appreciation of the Spirit's ability to heal and transform lives.Mystics are those who have moved from belief systems or belonging systems to actual inner experience - "We don't think ourselves into a new way of living, we live ourselves into a new way of thinking." Transformation is our universal vocation. In spiritual life, the intellect or mind is highly overrated - it is not bad, just not enough for true transformation. Through contemplation we see with new eyes and a new heart. "We cannot will ourselves into a relationship with God. We can only surrender to the truth that we are already related to God in the most intimate way."
In the practice of centering prayer, the illusion of the false self is brought into the presence of the light of our true self and cannot survive in the presence of the Spirit. But Joachim warned: Do not look at the false self with hatred, or as an enemy, which would be a waste of energy. God's work in the world is one of bringing all creation to the consciousness of its true state where we see ourselves in the same way that God does.
The next point followed very appropriately: Judging and Nonviolence. Joachim said: To judge someone is to separate them into nonrelationship. He referred to the story of The Tree of Good and Evil, Genesis 2:17, which is all about judging - we build a wall, not a bridge. We had much vigorous discussion about judging the ideology and the behavior, but not the person. We might conceive of this as observational rather than oppositional energy. How difficult it is to discipline ourselves to observe actions and language and to refrain from judging (separating and condemning)! Yet it is to the extent that we can develop the habit of non-dual thinking and non-labelingthat we will have peace, both within ourselves and in our world of relationships. “Peace on earth and good will to all” is the nonviolent way of expressing it, not “Peace on Earth to men of good will.”
Sunday morning, summing up, Joachim shared that “communicate” comes from “to make one.” In that context, he spoke of several other related concepts. He said we are called to be receivers of the joy of God,conductors - let the energy flow through you - and reflectors - let people see what you see of the joy of God. We have the opportunity to connect compassionately in a way that enriches life. We talked about alienating language and responses and were reminded that we have a choice about how we will respond. “Sympathy” is feeling with, and “empathy” is feeling within. Nonviolent responses express feelings and needs and guess what the other person might be feeling and needing. Focusing our attention, we direct our attention to our feelings and needs that are alive within us and in others.
Two quotations that I found particularly meaningful in light of this inspiring retreat follow:
"The highest form of human intelligence is the ability to observe without evaluating." Krishnamurti
"Don't just do something, be there." Buddha
In addition to the rich sessions that Joachim led, we had a very powerful liturgy, so much to bring to prayer for us all! And on Saturday night we had the opportunity to socialize, some chatting, some playing board games, some doing a wonderful but very difficult puzzle, and all celebrating Joachim's Golden Jubilee of priesthood with cake, goodies, wine and soda. Many thanks to all for donating and to Rosemarie for organizing all of it, along with the other members of the Education Committee.
By the end, I spent more time writing notes than reflecting, but there is meat to last until next year's retreat. Thank you to Joachim and the whole team at Pax Christi Metro New York!
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