This summer I was blessed to attend the Dominican Sisters of Peace Assembly 2016, “Sent to preach the Gospel in every season.” It was held at Ohio Dominican University, adjacent to the Columbus Motherhouse, and drew Sisters and Associates from far and wide. It was a joyful, Holy Spirit-filled time.
When it ended, with the music of the last liturgy still echoing in Alumni Hall, Associate Conni Dubick excitedly asked, “How soon can you write a blog about the assembly?” Well, two months later, I am still processing, still pondering, still letting the seeds planted at the Assembly take root and grow in my heart.
I keep thinking of the theme, preaching the gospel in every season, especially as we turn our calendars from summer to fall. Yet our liturgical calendars remain in “Ordinary Time.” Ordinary Time, I believe, is when the seeds God plants in “special” seasons take root, grow and begin to bear fruit.
For example, God seems to prune me a lot during Lent, so sometimes I am really glad when the penance period is over. Easter, of course, is joyous, and Pentecost, too, but they are busy, busy times between church and family, deadlines and commitments. Then comes Ordinary Time, time to ponder, time to grow. What was the pruning about? Did it change me, or did I just give up something for a few weeks? If I am advancing at all along this spiritual journey, I will hopefully have learned something, and my contemplation period will bear fruit.
So it is with the 2016 Dominican Sisters of Peace Assembly. As usually happens at Dominican gatherings, there was much “food for thought.” As with every gathering I have attended in 25 years as a Dominican Associate, there was a lot of information, inspiration and insight crammed into every hour of the Assembly. The keynote speaker was superb, the table discussions were lively and enlightening, the break-out sessions were thought-provoking, the associate panel was excellent, and the liturgies were wonderful. These are my first impressions, all good.
The deeper impressions though, are the ones I ponder: as a community, as an Associate, where are we now, where are we going? Are we standing on a precipice of change? What does the future hold for our Order, our Congregation, for the Associate movement in our time? How are we proclaiming Christ?
Finally, whenever I attend an assembly or retreat, I try to come away with one thing I can use in my prayer life. What resonated with me this time resulted from a break-out session.
Each of five break-out groups were to discuss one of our congregational chapter commitments. We were to discern a way in which to put our particular commitment into practice; then we were to write down our group’s suggestion to share with the larger community.
My group discussed the chapter commitment to “Study, contemplate, and preach God’s revelation discovered in the unfolding mystery of creation and in Sacred Scripture.” The suggestion we came up with is: “We will commit ourselves to a period of contemplative silence daily.”
This turned out to be more challenging than I thought because it’s just my nature to seek that quiet contemplative space. I hunger for it. I sometimes “escape” my noisy (but beautiful) family and go off by myself for a while. One of my favorite quotes is from St. Anselm, who said we should “enter the inner chamber of our hearts, take only that which can help us in seeking God; and when we have shut the door, seek God.”
Yet my daily prayer time wasn’t nearly quiet enough. I wasn’t escaping as often as I used to; and when I did, I was taking too many “things” into the inner chamber. Things like the Internet! “You Tube” and other sites provide a plethora of spiritual tools, music, scripture, even all the mysteries of the rosary. I love them all, but sometimes I have to turn them all off, and be with the mystery of the Divine.
So that’s what I’ve been pondering on since the Assembly. What about you? Are you pondering on something too?