Teaching prayer through the practice of prayer

It was like “stepping into heaven” for a weekend, said Carol Weiler and Dominican Father Marty Gleeson about the sixth annual “Lord, Teach Me to Pray” weekend of prayer Feb. 28-March 3 in Kenner.
   “It’s all prayer,” said Father Gleeson, the spiritual advisor and assistant to Weiler. “It all came out of Carol’s prayer life.”

    Weiler had been praying Ignatian prayers for more than 30 years and founded Lord, Teach me to Pray in 2001 as a way women could grow in knowledge and love of Jesus. The first meeting happened to be scheduled on Sept. 11, the day of the World Trade Centers’ destruction.
   Weiler devised a three-part series in which individuals learn about Ignatian prayer through prayer, faith and sharing. Individuals also are given scriptures and information on the Spiritual Exercises (as outlined in St. Ignatius’ notebook) to pray daily at home in preparation for the weekly sessions.
   The three parts are “Praying Christian Virtues” (12 weeks); “My 19th Annotation” (30 weeks delving into the Spiritual Exercises); and “Discernment and Gifts of the Spirit” (14 weeks based on catechesis of the Holy Spirit).
    While it started with just women, it expanded in 2011 to include men. Father Gleeson and Weiler’s husband John were the first facilitators for men.
   Lord, Teach Me to Pray has spread throughout the country, Father Gleeson said, to North Dakota, Nebraska, Georgia, Mississippi and other states.
   “It’s not really a study; it’s prayer,” Father Gleeson said. “Facilitators pray with participants.”
Powerful time
   The 130 or so people who participated in the weekend were treated to Mass and preaching by Auxiliary Bishop Shelton Fabre and presentations by Father Gleeson, Jesuit Father Brian Dunkle and Franciscan Friar Andrew Apostoli. Musician and singer Lorraine Hess also shared her talents.
   But whether it was quiet time in prayer, the Holy Hours, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, reconciliation or the presentations, the focus was always on Jesus, Weiler said.
   “It’s a continual deepening, to see the Lord more clearly, love the Lord more dearly and follow him more nearly,” Father Gleeson said.
   “It’s a growing in love and knowledge of Jesus,” said Weiler, who spoke on re-evangelizing and praying for those who have left the church.

The new evangelization
   Using the theme, “Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father,” all speakers focused on the new evangelization for the world, Weiler said.
   Father Gleeson’s presentation centered on reigniting evangelical zeal with a focus on reconciliation with God the Father through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as a matter of eternal life or death.
   Father Apostoli spoke about faith but also demonstrating faith through action. During the year of new evangelization and faith, really “knowing Jesus is the foundation of faith and evangelizing,” he said.
   Jesuit Father Brian Dunkle of the New York Jesuit Province filled attendees with encouragement and ideas on how to approach St. Ignatius of Loyola’s meditation and contemplative praying. He hoped he offered some clarity about the way to pray and growth in prayer through St. Ignatius’ spiritual exercises.
   Father Dunkle said many have the misconception that meditation in the life of Ignatius was too intellectual, but it actually rouses us to be “men and women of deep desires who want to be active and engaged” in service to the Lord. He suggested tying meditation to a reading or even the text of the Mass.
   In contemplative prayer, we use our imagination to pray and make ourselves open so God can come to us. “We expose ourselves,” he said. Father Dunkle suggested finding a quiet time to meditate more deeply to gain more fruit. He said a busy world and a constant bombardment of images causes a lack of imagination in people. That’s why they are called the spiritual “exercises,” he said, because people must work at it, listen and observe.
   Bobbie Fazende of Metairie said the spiritual exercises used in Lord Teach Me to Pray are powerful.
   “It’s improved my spiritual life,” she said. “It causes us to use the Bible every day to achieve a deeper relationship with Jesus. I think it’s the Holy Spirit. You get that yearning for more knowledge of the Lord.”
   “We are supposed to be here to help each other in a call to service,” Barbara Massicot said, “asking God to lead me into doing something more.”
   Patrick Toso, 39, is a Part I facilitator for men. His wife had taken the Lord Teach Me to Pray series first. He noticed a closeness to God she gained that he desired in his daily life.
   “Doing the Lord, Teach Me to Pray exercises I was able to live life (with the distractions of four children and work) yet get all the experiences of Manresa,” he said. “It’s benefitted me and helped me relax and know what is important in life.”
            Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarionherald.org.

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