I was involved with a Cursillo retreat this past weekend and it reminded of me of three (well, more than three, but only three I am going to talk about here) very important pieces of my spiritual life. The first is the power of prayer. My own personal prayer is the cornerstone of my life. It is what centers me on a daily basis, both my formal morning prayer and the numerous informal ways that I interact with God throughout the day. My favorite line from the movie Shadowlands is Anthony Hopkins, playing C.S. Lewis, stating to his friend, "I don't pray because it changes God; I pray because it changes me. I pray because the need flows out of me constantly." I believe that prayer changes us and changes our relationships with one another. Those of you who know me well know that I am quite fascinated by quantum physics. I think that we will discover more and more about how truly interconnected we are through science, how truly interconnected we were created to be. I sometimes forget about this interconnectedness, about how much I also need the prayer of others, how much I am strengthened by knowing that others are praying for me and that I am not alone. The power of prayer is not simply my own prayer, but it is the prayer of those who pray with me and for me, which brings me to my second point.
I remembered this weekend (not that I had really forgotten, but had reinforced) the power of community. I have said many times that to be human is to be in relationship. There is an incredible amount of power in a group of people coming together in love and support and celebration. This piece of being human is why we worship as a community. My relationship with God is not just personal, it is also communal (or ecclesial in theological speak!). Part of the reason our relationship with God is also communal is that we are embodied. We experience the world in and through time and space. We also experience God in and through time and space, which means that our relationships with one another can mediate our experience of God. I can't even begin to describe how much I felt God present this past weekend in and through this group of women gathered on retreat. There is great power in community.
My third point is clearly the most obvious. I "remembered" the power of God. Again, not just the power of God in my own life, but hearing the stories of how God is present and acting in the lives of others (another reason why community is so important). My own faith is deepened and strengthened by that witness. I also believe that God was strongly acting in bringing this particular group of women together at this particular point in all of our lives. I find God works in that way quite often. We always say that in RCIA (the process of becoming Catholic) as well, that on any given year the group that is formed is the group that is meant to be together. In theology, this is what we call God working through secondary causes. I used to love to explain this to the teenage Confirmands at the parish, that God works in their lives through other events and people, so that yes, God can even work through their parents forcing them to attend Confirmation classes! Every woman on this retreat had different people and events that led her to be there. Some had planned to go on an earlier retreat, but life had interfered. Others were hesitant to go on this retreat but something pushed them. The result was what it was meant to be. Of course, I don't want to eliminate the role of freedom either. Maybe there were others we will never know about that were meant to be there as well, but were not open to the working of God in their lives at this moment. The great thing about the power of God is that a missed opportunity is rarely definitive; God simply works in our lives to offer us new opportunities. Wherever you are today and whatever you are doing, I hope you experience the power of prayer, community, and God in your life.