Begin with Prayer
The Lord found them in a wilderness, a desert wasteland. The Lord shielded them, cared for them, guarding them as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirs up its nestlings, spreading its wings over them and teaching them to fly, So he took them up and bore them upon his pinions. The Lord alone guided them.
Read the Scripture again quietly to yourself. Notice a word, phrase, or sense that touches you.
Bridging the Age Divide with Joy
Penelope Van Der Lee – Marist Logos Youth Development Introduced by Bev McDonald
Bev: Hello everyone, this month, we are particularly blessed to hear from Penelope, who went to Ireland with me and Tutangata Ama. It was a Marist Laity Conference, but also, particularly, any kind of ministry that flows from Marist Laity, so includes Marian Mothers. I thought I would share it with you as mothers, as women, because we are so vitally interested in the life and faith of our young people, our own children, our nieces and nephews, our grandchildren and also the children of our parishes. And I wanted you to hear, first-hand, the experience that Marist identity and belonging, and a sense of church, can bring to young people. And I hope it encourages and inspires you to see that the church may be changing, there may be uncertainty and a period of upheaval, but there is also great hope, and the LOGOS community, and Penelope and Tutangata and so many others like them are living a vital, dynamic faith and need our help, our prayers and our encouragement. So enjoy listening to the joy, the hope and the faith of Penelope. God bless.
Penelope: When initially invited to go to Ireland, despite working at Logos for almost 3 years, I found it hard to accept that I was ‘the best choice’ to represent Marist Lay in New Zealand. However, this was a real experience of the words I’ve often heard “there is no them and us: we are all laity”. It was both a wonderful invitation and a struggle to accept what it meant to say yes. Feeling recognition for my work at Logos and unpacking Isaiah “I have called you by name” with the Marist ladies as preparation, continues to be a strong emotional and positive part of this opportunity.
On the day the conference was about to start, we were to meet the group at the airport. There are so many groups of people there I was wondering how we would spot them. But then Tuts (Tutangata) pointed to a group and he said “I bet that’s them” and I asked, “how do you know?” and Tuts replied “because they are so happy, look at them. Church people are always happy”. The group we were approaching were all smiling, laughing and hugging – scenes that are natural at an airport, but there was something SO joyous of them we just knew they had to be the Marist group – and they were.
I like this story as a reminder that gospel people are joyful people, we have something ‘extra’ about us. An innate knowledge, appreciation, and acceptance of God’s love for us. If we are living the way we are invited to (that is, accepting and sharing God’s love), we are happier and people can literally see it from the outside.
Twice daily (morning and night), the countries took it in turns to lead prayer or celebrate Mass, usually this was the daily office or people reading the gospel of the day. For our day we prepared gathered shells from the nearby beach walk and arranged the chairs in a circle. Along with the daily scripture we invited people to hold a shell and spend time with God, then share with those around them. To us it seemed very basic, however, the number of people who thanked us afterward was overwhelming. Some came to us in tears, saying they have never experienced prayer in such a simple, interactive and powerful way. It was both a shock and a sad reality that others had never had the opportunity to see prayer in this way. One gentleman commented on the ‘brilliance’ of ‘putting us in a circle’, this is second nature for prayer where I come from and it still astounds me that apparently it’s not common practice around the world.
Perhaps because Tuts and I were the youngest ones there, I appreciated how people were really and genuinely interested in my experience. During question time after a talk had been presented, I raised my hand tentatively for a question and the person holding the mic immediately made a beeline for me even though others may have been waiting.
Similarly, people tuned in and refocused when myself or Tuts spoke showing a real respect and curiosity. I felt there was a real effort made and people went out of their way to make us feel valued and encouraged. People were happy and careful to explain unfamiliar terms to me so I wouldn’t feel stupid, uninformed or like they had an agenda. It is good to know that by these lay Marists, young people are listened to, their opinions are considered valid and important, and the desire to pass on wisdom is done in gentle and nurturing ways.
A key takeaway I experienced was after a talk on our cosmic story and continual creation. There was an elderly lady who was struggling to come to concepts with the facts around the ‘big bang’ and how it contradicted what she was taught in Genesis. She was not a fundamentalist, nor was she trying to argue science vs religion. I have always had both ‘stories’ available to me and I’ve been shown they don’t contradict – actually they complement each other. This moment helped me realise that actually our church and understanding has changed a lot in just a few decades. It can sometimes feel that; I am part of an ancient tradition unchanging for two thousand years, and that the church as an institution is slow to give or adapt, but this is an example of the changes that have actually happened. I hope in future, we, as a church, continue to broaden our understanding to complement the facts, technology, science, and reality of our modern world.
Many of the lay Marists at the conference were very interested in New Zealand laity, particularly the American and Mexican delegates. There is potential in the future to learn off each other and share resources, including people.
Bev, Tuts and I definitely brought a varied, but united, experience of New Zealand to share with the conference.
Simply Use the Questions below as Starters to Guide Your Sharing
How do you relate to the struggle to say ‘yes’ and feeling unworthy?
They felt valued, respected, listened to and encouraged amidst a much older group. How might we foster and encourage young women and mothers in our parish?
Prayer as simple, powerful and interactive: What helps you experience prayer like that?
Penny said, “Gospel people are joyful people.” What attracts you to this group? How open is it to newcomers?
As a mother what do you find most encouraging about Penny’s sharing?