There are few things more inspiring than a good story of people rising to great challenges and undertaking heroic tasks in order to achieve a worthy mission and help people in need. There’s a reason movies like this are blockbusters! When St. Ignatius was recovering from his battle wound, he read The Lives of the Saints and was swept up in the stories of these heroic people who risked everything to do what God asked.
At this point in Caminos, we are discerning how God’s love for us has equipped us to respond to the call that God makes to us in our own vocations. Spending this meeting witnessing the stories of the spiritual heroes who have gone before us can give us courage and wisdom to say yes to where God needs us.
In preparation for this meeting, you may choose to invite your community members to read about one of the saints listed below (or others of your choosing) in advance. Perhaps they could choose to research a saint who has always interested them, a saint for whom they were named, a saint who was their Confirmation name, or anyone else. It is fine to invite people to research “almost saints,” or people who have lead exemplary lives as well but who are not canonized, which might be more comfortable for people whose religious traditions do not recognize saints. The important part is that the stories represent people who have said “yes” to God’s invitation and lived lives of mission that give us examples of how life can be lived for God.
Bring copies of some short biographies of saints or other very holy people. You may choose to invite people to bring laptop computers, books about saints, or other methods of research. You may also want to check out a few books about saints from the library and bring them for reference. A number of brief saint biographies are available online. You may invite group members to select a saint or holy figure in advance and bring some information about that person.
Ask for the grace to receive the stories we hear and openness to being transformed by them.
In the last week(s) has there been any difficult “yes” in my day? Perhaps it was agreeing to help someone I am not too fond of, going to extraordinary measures to help a friend, being kind to someone who has been hurtful towards me, or simply getting out of bed in the morning to do something that I did not want to do.
Read the story of the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38) to the group as a way of opening the focus exercise.
“In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, ‘Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ But Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?’ And the angel said to her in reply, ‘The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.’ Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.”
Invite each member to spend a little time reading or researching about his or her assigned saint or a saint that they choose. This can be a fun, casual process. In particular, invite people to focus on the following questions:
- What was special about this person?
- How did this person experience an invitation to live their life for God?
- What were the obstacles, challenges, or costs of choosing to say “yes?”
- What were the fruits that came from this person’s “yes?”
When people have had about 15-20 minutes to consider these questions, ask each person to give a short, casual report to the rest of the group, sharing a little about the person they researched and their answers to the questions above.
After each person has shared about their saint, invite a minute of silence to reflect on what we’ve heard and what stands out for us before discussing the following questions.
- What strikes you about these stories? Are there qualities that these holy people share?
- In what ways do you find your own story in theirs?
- If God were asking me to be a saint, how might I have to change the way I am living my life?
- What am I being invited to say “yes” to in my life? What stops me, or what gives me courage?
- What relationships or habits in my life help me to live out my personal “yes” to God’s invitation?
- How have I seen other people in this community say “yes” to God’s invitation? Affirm the ways we’ve witnessed these yeses in each other’s journeys. In what ways might God be inviting this community to something new?
- What has struck you as you have been listening to others share? Do you notice any patterns or similarities?
- How have you been feeling throughout the meeting? Comfortable? Anxious? Curious?
- Is there anything you would like to share after listening to another person share?
- What is remaining with you? What do you hope to return to in prayer at another point in the week?
In the coming weeks, if there is something that you find yourself worrying about or dwelling on (perhaps an injustice you saw in your daily life, something in the world that you hear or read about, or a personal encounter that has nagged at you), take that opportunity to offer that concern to God. Then honestly ask, “Lord are you inviting me to collaborate with you in this? Is there something you are inviting me to do?” Beginning to practice this prayer around issues that touch your heart or worry you can be a wonderful, simple tool in preparing yourself for listening for how God calls you to serve in the future.
“Teach Me Your Ways” (Pedro Arrupe, SJ)
Teach me your way of looking at people:
as you glanced at Peter after his denial,
as you penetrated the heart of the rich young man
and the hearts of your disciples.
I would like to meet you as you really are,
since your image changes those with whom you
come into contact.
Remember John the Baptist’s first meeting with you?
And the centurion’s feeling of unworthiness?
And the amazement of all those who saw miracles
and other wonders?
How you impressed your disciples,
the rabble in the Garden of Olives,
Pilate and his wife
and the centurion at the foot of the cross. . . .
I would like to hear and be impressed
by your manner of speaking,
listening, for example, to your discourse in the
synagogue in Capharnaum
or the Sermon on the Mount where your audience
felt you “taught as one who has authority.”
“To prepare ourselves more effectively for apostolic witness and service in our daily environment, we assemble in community those who feel a more urgent need to unite their human life in all its dimensions with the fullness of their Christian faith. Responding to the call of Christ and following our charism, we seek to achieve this unity of life in the world in which we live.” (CLC-USA General Principles #4)
“…But the Lord said: I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry against their taskmasters, so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them up from that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey, the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Hivites and the Jebusites…” Exodus 3-4
“As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.” Mark 1:16-18
“After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” Luke 5:4-11