Last week we had an assembly of catechists in the rural parish where I am helping. Many of these have very limited formal education and several cannot read, but they devote themselves to passing on the faith to children and young people.
One of the challenges they face is the pedantic nature of education here in Honduras. They are ingrained with the idea that education means memorizing, knowing things. Imagination is often at a premium.
This means that people here are often taught about Christ – but not formed in how we might encounter Christ. There are lots of prayers – but do they lead to Christ?
To offer an alternative way of praying, we offered an adaptation of Ignatian contemplation.
After some breathing exercise to center ourselves, we invited them to picture themselves at one of their daily tasks. Suddenly Jesus is present where they are. What do they want to tell him? What does he say to them?
The experience was moving. In near complete silence –interrupted only by infants walking around – the catechists took time to open themselves to encountering Christ for themselves.
I’m planning on trying this in a slightly different form in other meetings with catechists – especially helping them to pray Gospel stories imaginatively.
This comes from the Ignatian tradition – found especially in the Spiritual Exercises.
This morning I came across this prayer of Father Pedro Arrupe, S.J., the Father General of the Jesuits who died on February 5, 1991. It provides an example of how one might begin to pray in this fashion.
Teach me your way of looking at people:
as you glanced at Peter after his denial,
as you penetrated the heart of the rich young man
and the hearts of your disciples.
I would like to meet you as you really are,
since your image changes those with whom you come in contact.
The prayer is taken from Hearts on Fire: Praying with Jesuits, a collection of prayers published by Loyola Press which I find very helpful.