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August 6, 2012 | Volume 87, Number 20

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photo: Charlie Hornbostel asks “What does your life look like?” during the Life in the Spirit seminar
Charlie Hornbostel asks “What does your life look like?” during the Life in the Spirit seminar

An appraisal of a Life in the Spirit Seminar

R ecently the four Metanoia Prayer Group leaders at St. Bede Parish in Williamsburg presented a compressed “Life in the Spirit Seminar.”

“What’s that?” you may ask.

One could describe the “Life in the Spirit Seminar” as a spiritually powerful event that helps a person’s understanding of, and increases awareness of, the Holy Spirit’s empowerment and guidance.

It fosters spiritual renewal of the sacraments of initiation, intensifying one’s love of God and others.

However, it reaches beyond personal holiness to provide a supportive opportunity to empower a person to effectively build up the Body of Christ through God’s gifts, called charisms.

The seminar is typically offered by a viable, Catholic charismatic prayer group in a parish setting to those to have been attending a prayer group for a while. It clearly reaffirms the central truths of the Good News, using the promises contained in Scripture plus personal stories as contemporary examples.

The high point is the prayer for the fuller release of the Holy Spirit’s action in one’s life. The prayer group can further nurture the practice and development of this renewed life in a community setting afterwards.

During our months of planning, obstacles mounted. To present it over seven weeks — the ideal timing — meant scheduling conflicts.

And we didn’t have enough small group facilitators for more than a small turnout. In trying to gather additional people, the most likely were not available.

And then, there was a concern over presenting the seminar to those not familiar with charismatic prayer meetings, in a sense, unprepared

We researched shorter formats and prayed whether or not to choose one. We didn’t want to act irresponsibly by compromising the seminar’s potential blessings, especially the element of sufficient time to prayerfully ponder the subject matter.

It seemed that offering it on a Friday evening followed by Saturday morning and afternoon would be the only way we could realistically manage it.

Trusting in God, we forged ahead. We wanted to make the presentations memorable and emphatic, and enliven the barrage of material presented in these long sessions. So, we decided to use the available PowerPoint capability to visualize Scripture promises and hymn refrains with creative imagery.

We promoted this seminar multiple ways. We ran essays in our parish’s monthly newsletter, posters, bulletin announcements, plus brief witnesses at each Mass on the preceding sign-up weekend.

We were thrilled to have over 70 registrations. Still, we wondered how we could minister to so many — effectively!

About 50 actually did attend some or all of the sessions, most of whom had never been to a prayer meeting.

All went well! Participants paid rapt attention and had an open attitude. We broke up into four small discussion groups at times, but it worked!

At the end, all had the opportunity to fill out an evaluation form that asked for insights and skills gained for leading a Christian life. We asked about their reactions or feelings and asked that they identify aspects of the seminar they found most or least helpful.

It is difficult to capture in a few words what the seminar meant to each. The reactions were strongly felt; all of them life-giving. Peace, joy, and sense of community were echoed repeatedly, as well as a grasp of the Holy Spirit’s ongoing presence.

The desire for more connection to parish and family struck many. The awareness of just how deep faith can go; the need for daily prayer, praise of God, and worship was cited.

Some had a hunger to improve their knowledge of Scripture. Some cited the need for humility and centering one’s life on the Lord.

How could I not mention these wonderful realizations that God’s gifts are not earned, but free? One has the ability to touch another with kind words.

We need to be alert for obstacles keeping us from the Holy Spirit. We can trust in the Scripture promises and need not fear letting go to permit the Spirit to work.

We should feel gratitude every day, throughout the day.

Many appreciated the small group discussions. Participants also repeatedly commended the music, the team, and the personal testimonies of the leaders, as well as being prayed over by one of the two prayer teams with a laying on of hands.

Participants repeatedly mentioned the humor and enthusiasm of the presenters. Also recognized were the importance of professing faith in other settings bedsides Mass, and recognizing gifts in everyone.

One was fed on the energy felt from the Holy Spirit; another looked towards more faith and less worry.

Another remarked that the Holy Spirit is deeply in us, working always to bring us closer to God.

WOW! God did indeed multiply our meager efforts, overcame our limitations, and honored our trust in his action to fill in our deficit. Ample preparation with trust bore fruit.

How could we not be awed by the power of God? We must humbly take the risk to have confidence in God’s Word. We are grateful to the One who made and keeps the promises revealed in the Word of God, and Who touches us so profoundly in our sacraments.
Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10).

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