The Petit Valley and Diego Martin Church Cluster in collaboration with the World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM) will host ‘Meditation Builds Community’ November 1 to 30.
Facilitating the sessions is Judy Mc Sween, WCCM member, and an experienced Organisational Development Facilitator and Conversational Intelligence coach. She began group meditation with Sr Ruth Montrichard SJC about 13 years ago. Her first exposure to this practice was at a training event for organisational development consultants in the United States.
This month’s meditation initiative came out of meetings with ministry heads in the cluster. It was ministry coordinator Deacon Peter Timothy who suggested a month-long focus. Mc Sween had been conducting meditation in the cluster pre-Covid for at least ten years.
“The intention was one, to connect to the whole synodality, where the listening requires us to silence ourselves to listen to the other, and the realisation there is so much stress not just in our society but the world,” Mc Sween said.
She took the idea back to the leadership group of the local arm of the WCCM and they subsequently prepared a draft agenda for the month. It was presented to the pastoral council, parish priest Fr Christoper Lumsden, and Deacon Timothy. She received the go-ahead.
According to Mc Sween, “The aim is to provide the entire community, family members, the opportunity to pause, de-stress, reflect and reconnect with self, environment, and God. We hope the experience of November will cultivate in people a desire for daily meditation practice and assist in restoring peace in us all as we intentionally focus on building community, inclusivity, and dialogue.” She added: “We are really hoping through it there will be inner and outer peace.”
During the month people will be encouraged to incorporate daily meditation practice into their routines. Group meditation sessions will be held weekly. The following are scheduled:
• Introduction to Meditation Practice, online and at Church of Nativity – November 3 at 7 p.m.
• Meditation and Health, online and at Church of Nativity – November 14, 7 p.m.
• Meditation in Schools – November 20 to 24
• Meditation and Environment Family Day Picnic, Green Meadows, Santa Cruz – November 26 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• Closing Mass – November 30
• Daily Meditation Practice
• Weekly Group Meditation Sessions
• Contemplative Masses
Mc Sween said for the meditation in schools a team led by Pat Howai will be going to schools in the north-west to do sessions. She gave an overview of what can be expected for the Meditation and Environment Family Day Picnic. “Essentially what we are looking at a number of contemplative activities the family can engage in so there’ll be contemplative walks, contemplative art, contemplative movement Laudato Si’ presentations…there will be meditation sessions for the migrant community and throughout there will be meditation group sessions that people can attend.”
Masses in the cluster including the youth Mass on November 29 will have a contemplative aspect with silent meditation after Communion.
Parish ministries are encouraged to begin their meetings with meditation.
Benefits of Christian Meditation
Mc Sween disclosed the demographic participating in the parish’s meditation sessions were in their late 30s and older. In interactions with younger persons Mc Sween realised they were doing a form of meditation.
These reflective moments involved listening to quiet music, affirmations or using meditation apps. She said meditation is a positive experience but the depth of it can vary.
She clarified, “you can do it from a religious, spiritual dimension or you can do it solely for the temporary effect you get; so, the reason we are supporting it from the spiritual dimension is to deepen that relationship with God; we have to have transformation through the fruits of the Holy Spirit.”
These fruits include joy, patience, self-control, and inner peace. Tapping into the fruits of the Spirit has consequent benefits with reductions in anxiety and stress.
Research has shown that during meditation changes within the brain occur especially in the prefrontal cortex, causing calmness, greater focus, awareness etc.
There are different traditional approaches to meditation. Christian Meditation focuses on a sacred word—the Aramaic word maranatha ‘Come, Lord Jesus’.
“Persons who have done the Christian meditation speak about the deepening relationship with the Holy Spirit, because as you get quieter, you’re going deeper and you’re able to hear more clearly or be aware of the prompts of the Holy Spirit,” Mc Sween said.
Persons who are connected with their “God-centre” on an ongoing basis find that the quality of their interactions will be more from the perspective of the higher self rather than ego-self.
Mc Sween mentioned Jesus’ practice to go away from the crowd, empty Himself so He could be filled with the Holy Spirit. “He spoke to Mary and Martha that there’s a time for action, a time to sit still, contemplation.”
There has been some controversy in the Catholic community and criticisms of Catholics practising meditation. Sharing her view, Mc Sween said, “there will always be those who are for, those who are against it. And I suppose that the reintroduction of, the highlighting of meditation at this time, is important because if we’re speaking about inclusivity, there is something about meditation that is common in all your major religious traditions and even people who have no affinity to a religious tradition. There is something about sitting in the silence that creates community.”