We’ve been meeting every other Sunday since January. In our convening for Phase II* of the Resident Lay Community conversations, lead by Sr. Mary Margaret McKenzie (and the Holy Spirit), there is a richness — a provocative nature to the questions posed, the stories shared. On any given Sunday, as our room of 8-12 lay women and men meanders into the Sisters’ formal invitation to unpack their Essentials of Community Living, there is an a informal integration at work of these Salesian principles of monastic living into our own lives.
The following are notes from a recent meeting for Phase II of the Resident Lay Community Conversations. Perhaps they will speak to you?
CONTEMPLATIVE PRESENCE and SALESIAN STABILITY
-compiled by Brenda Lisenby, Monastic Immersion Experience resident
The meeting began with an introduction of the essential “contemplative presence” and Salesian stability by Sr. Mary Margaret:
“Be where you are, and be there well.”
– an adaptation of St. Francis de Sales “Be Who you are and be that well.”
Contemplative presence is the stability of the present moment…to be at home, to be at rest, to give yourself wholeheartedly, to enter into relationship believing God is there, here, today, at this moment, to enter into our alive Center.
Question: How do you practice or realize stability/contemplative presence in your life?
- Trying to be very aware of God’s presence throughout the day—when I do this, I have a sense of stability, a continual little nod to that Presence
- Practicing contemplative presence with bread baking, a contemplative activity
- Have a sense of stability by having a change in bread making method—changed from machine to hand’s on, and I feel more alive, feel more ownership, feel more stable
- Contemplative presence is the awareness of the present moment, whatever the activity (chopping carrots, ironing, etc.)
- For me it is an image: the process of centering the clay; nothing happens until it is centered; in the same way, nothing happens until I am centered, then can be in the moment with others
- Being, not doing—to be with people, to be part of community
- Contemplative presence is the slow work of God; an image that comes to mind is gardening—slow work; presence is also loving the place where you are, a place to give and receive love
- Contemplative presence is a spaciousness; it is the economy of grace (vs the economy of meritocracy)
- Contemplative presence is to receive all that comes in the moment as coming from the hand of God…from the beginning of time, God has held this moment for us and so we receive it as a grace gift and TREASURE it
- To live in the world as a contemplative is to be present, to have a receiving stance of all things, all things received through the senses (smelling, seeing, touching, hearing)…the 20 minutes of centering prayer each morning allows me to develop the muscles to be in this open heart space, to be present…this is contemplative presence, and it allows us to live into transformation of self and world
- “touching the now”, being open to what is happening immediately
- “being at home”, making where I am home for me and others
- There is a sense of “rightness” when I am present in a contemplative way
- Singing…being fully present to the moment—the words, my voice, the music, is a time when I am fully present, and open to inner transformation by the Spirit
- Bro Lawrence, “Practicing the presence”, a way of being present in the world through all the ordinary daily activities (washing dishes, cooking, etc.)—being present to the moment, which puts one in the presence of God, and is a stance of continual prayer
- Contemplative presence is being open to receiving the moment, the gift of presence given by others
- Contemplative presence is also related to identity as well, because we bring our “other places” with us to where we are—other “places” of gender, age, race, culture, etc.
- A reminder that “all is done through love, nothing through force.”
- A comment: Phase II has been an experience of contemplative presence, an organic unfolding.
*A brief articulation of the phases:
- Phase I: a time of listening to constituents response to the Sister’s proposal
- Phase II: a time of exploring and/or addressing practicalities through the essentials
- Phase III: a time when individuals who feel called and are free to respond to the call move forward in discernment and commitment.
Read more about the Resident Visitation Lay Community.