One of our meetings each month is our ongoing formation gathering. It has the four components that make up that Secular Franciscan Gathering: prayer, formation, business, and fellowship.
Our other gathering seems to be set up a bit differently. We still have prayer, business, and fellowship but the formation part takes a slightly different form because it includes a period of silence rather than a formal teaching.
The purpose of this silence is twofold. First, it takes us deeply into the worship of our Lord, which begins with the songs that we sing together beforehand. These help us to set aside the turmoil of our busy lives so we can enter consciously into His presence and adore Him, in song and then in silence.
Secondly, the silence enables us to listen to what He may have to say to us. It may be a thought or an image that occurs to us, or a scripture we are led to read.
After this time of silence we share our thoughts if we think the Holy Spirit has put something on our hearts that He wants us to share with the group.
As we share these thoughts, others respond and we are often amazed at how our thoughts come together and build on each other, taking us deeper into a meditation than any one of us could have developed on our own. It is the Holy Spirit that leads us to this point depending on our openness to Him. We can test the authenticity of the message by the holiness and the fruits of what we share.
As we were discussing this at our last council meeting, looking for ways we could go more deeply into the presence of the Lord during this time, I began to think about just how this experience is ongoing formation. Our formation director is the Holy Spirit. It is He that moves us to worship and He that inspires our thoughts. It is He that strings them together as we share, giving us a teaching of His own design, custom made for what we need to hear at that moment.
There is little need to describe this to most of us. We have experienced it many times, but perhaps we need to think about each part of it again because it is easy to get so much in the habit of doing something that we lose some of its meaning.
Thinking about this has filled me with a gratitude to the Holy Spirit that I don’t think I ever realized before. He draws us into the Heart of the presence of the Trinity! Who could ever be worthy of this? And as if this were not enough He sends us forth not just with a message for ourselves but with a piece of a puzzle, meant to be set in just the right place as we share, to join us together with a new wisdom that leads us on to serve Him and worship Him as one.
- Carolyn Barth, OFS
Pax et bonum