Your support has helped 80 students and 48 Permanent Community members grow in faith this year—including me
I don’t know much about God and prayer. And frankly what I do know has remained too often rattling around in my head. I wish it were otherwise. When people talk about having a “relationship” with Jesus, it has often felt completely mysterious to me.
Here’s another confession: the formal and overly scripted parts of our faith sometimes bug me. Yet, when it comes to personal prayer, give me the script! Going off-script terrifies me. I am in awe of people who can offer personal prayers out loud, straight from their heart, like they are talking to Jesus right next to them. They talk to him like he is an old friend. Like they are just picking up the phone and filling him in on something. In the moment, no fancy preamble required. They have a relationship with Jesus. Boy, have I wanted that.
The turning point for me came when we went to the Evangelical Catholic training camp with six of our students last summer. In those five days, I saw people’s faith right in front of me. They sang their hearts out. They shared their personal prayers out loud. They talked about how they learned to share their faith with others and how much joy it brought them and their communities. They weren’t in a solitary prayer life. This wasn’t a faith in isolation. It wasn’t formal. Theirs was faith shared in community. They found their relationship with Jesus through building relationships with others. I wanted what they had.
The students got to launch their Encounter Christ small groups last year. The Permanent Community got to launch EC small groups this month. I saw this as my chance. And I feel like I hit the jackpot.
We are eight women, ages 30ish to 60ish. We meet on Thursday nights. We eat a little soup and crusty bread, drink a little wine, laugh and catch up. Then we move to the living room and our host starts us off with a prayer. We quiet ourselves. We read the Gospel together several times, slowly, afterwards offering words or phrases from the reading that resonate with us. Then we discuss how the Gospel touches us—not on an intellectual plane. This is not a bible study. Rather, how the Gospel challenges or encourages us in our lives at that moment. We talk about what we can each commit to in the week ahead in response to the Gospel. We wrap up with a prayer spoken from our hearts. And believe it or not, at that point, it’s easy not only to share heart-felt prayers out loud, but to feel Jesus’ presence in that room among us. It has been amazing.
Insights. Inspiration. Community. Humor. Compassion. Growth. Hope. What blessings.
M’Lis Berry ’85 is a cradle Catholic who attended fifteen years of Catholic schools and still is often baffled by, and struggles with, her faith. She is grateful for the gift that the EC small group has brought to her life this fall.