Spiritual Practices for Violent Times:
Catholics and Mennonites Bridging the Divide
St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota
July 17-20, 2003
Listening Committee Report
The theme of the conference has been “Spiritual Practices for Violent Times.” We listened to stories in order to find a sustained and peaceable Christian response to violence. We tried to discover spiritual practices through listening to these stories.
We heard Sr. Janice speak of anger over a simple meal of bread and soup. The next morning Abbot John told us in detail about how he and the Abbey dealt with the reality of sexual abuse by its members and its ramifications. That afternoon we heard about the community of Sant’ Egidio. Helmut Harder and Peter Nissen filled us in on the international dialogue. Peter Erb gave a report on the Martyr’s Confession. Yesterday morning, we heard Weldon and Marg Nisly speak about the discernment over Weldon’s call to go to Iraq.
The spiritual practices that the groups brought out of these stories were discernment, prayer, truth-telling, singing, friendship and hospitality, listening with the ear of the heart, repentance and reconciliation.
In our summarizing of what we will take from our conference, we placed a good deal of emphasis on discernment. There was a sense of gratitude to this group and to what it might become. Some people felt challenged to go home to do more for peace building. We talked about our solidarity in prayer. But what emerged also was the pain many of us feel about our still present disunity, as well as the pain about church structures. Pain emerges out of the misuse of power. However the possibility exists to look at our brokenness through the eyes of unity, wholeness and hope. We also take with us the conviviality and joy of the group, strengthened by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
We played with the metaphor of the bridge as descriptive of Bridgefolk people. Are we called to go back to our homes and tell people that it is ok to go to the other side of the bridge and that there is life on the other side as well? The bridge is also the symbol of the already and the not yet and represents a hope that God is building something in the future. Although some people have a home that is not on the bridge, some of us find ourselves living more or less permanently on the bridge. Then the question becomes how to live on that bridge. This bridge itself is not built by human hands.
For our group spiritual practices, we had a reconciliation service on Friday evening, an agape and foot washing and hymn singing on Saturday night and lectio divina on Ephesians 2:13-22. We would like to suggest that we continue with lectio on the same passage during the coming year as a way of having shared prayer.
René McGraw OSB