I just spent the weekend immersed in Dominican life in Memphis Tennessee. My first activity was to meet several current Memphis Associates – Lynn Lofton, Nancy Ganz, JoAnn Lynn, Amy Moody, Julia Schuster, Gretchen Kirk, Tine Williams, Libba Nance and JoAnne O'Brien-Scott. We gathered in small groups for informal conversations on why they initially committed, have remained Dominican Associates of Peace and what being an Associate means to them.
This past weekend I attended the fourth annual Associates Retreat, "Peace-full: A Journey in Prayer," held at the Dominican Retreat and Conference Center in Niskayuna, NY. I didn't have to go far to get there because the retreat house is a five-minute drive from my home. It was an intense weekend filled with other Associate's personal experiences using different prayer styles. It wasn't a typical retreat with presentations, group discussions, and large gaps of time for individual prayer and reflection. But I was afforded the opportunity to experience some new options for personal prayer or enhance some I already use. I listened with no particular expectations from anyone. I was also able to meet or get reacquainted with Sisters and Associates of Peace from other areas; enjoy some delicious food; and participate in Liturgy.
This theme was quite evident as Dominican Associates and Sisters gathered at Heartland Center for Spirituality in Great Bend, KS, August 8-10, for their Commitment Retreat. Marcia Berchek, Tammy Jones, Joan Dreher, Verlene Wilson and Ann Axman were received as new Associates. Sr. Jolene Geier opened our time together reflecting on Luke 10:38-42. Associates Russ and Connie Ginest shared how their hearts were changed working with Sr. Rita Schwarzenberger in Africa. Sr. Teresita Huse's enthusiasm and love for the Nigerian missions was highlighted in her comments.
"We, the Associates, in relationship with the Dominican Sisters of Peace, are called by God to become the Holy Preaching by promoting the liberating truth of the Gospel of Jesus, and collaborating with God for the transformation of all creation. In response to that call, I, as part of the world-wide Dominican Family, commit myself to the preaching mission of the Dominican Order. I will express the mission through a life rooted in prayer, study, community and ministry." - Associates Statement of Commitment
Recently, when cleaning out some of my overstuffed files, I ran across a pamphlet that caught my attention with its subtitle: "How to end war one person at a time." The flyer, condensed and distributed by Lydia G. Polley, suggests that if enough people in the world transformed themselves into peace makers, war could end. The leading idea here is "critical mass." When enough people participate, a critical mass can change the world (as when a critical mass of humans embraced electricity or fossil fuels).
Seven practices for peace are were offered that could be taken a day at a time:
Last Saturday, July 12, Dominican Sisters of Peace Juanita Henley, Barbara Catalano, Amy McFrederick and Alicia Alvarado joined Associates Dora Harper and Lydia Gonzales and some 3 to 500 others who participated in a Walk for Justice organized in Cleveland, OH, by Sr. Rita Mary Harwood, SND, Secretariat for Parish Life and Development, and the Walk Committee. Those who joined in this prayer and demonstration publicly identified themselves as "those who stand with our immigrant brothers and sisters, using our voices calling for revision to our broken immigration system, calling for humane and just laws which respond to the needs of today, remembering where we have come from and why, and recognizing our story repeated in the lives of the immigrants of today."
Michael Hurley, OP, stated that "Prayer is simply talking to God. Just as there are many ways of conversing with a friend, so too there are various ways in which we pray." (The Four Pillars of Dominican Life, 2005) And Henri Nouwen insisted that "Prayer is living. It is eating and drinking, action and rest, teaching and learning, playing and working. God is wherever we are, always reaching out, always drawing us near, ever revealing an unending love for us." (With Open Hands, 1975)
It's a noisy world out there. The microwave and the dryer keep us posted on their progress. Siri answers our questions. And the lady in the GPS tells us where to go. And those are the just noises we ask to hear. Add to those sounds, the noises of traffic, our televisions and radios and, of course, other people and you have a very noisy world, indeed.
While it is true that God is always speaking to our hearts, it takes a special effort to quiet ourselves enough to hear that "still small voice" ( 1 Kings 19: 13).