While ministry appears to be an important part of the development of my religious identity, there is no denying that my prayer life serves as the core of my call to religious life. It is the powerhouse that sustains my religious journey. It is unimaginable to claim spiritual well-being and being centered without basing it on one’s prayer life. It is my conviction that prayer is a lifeline for anyone who wants to dedicate one’s life to religious life. At least this is my personal experience for almost 25 years now as a religious member of the Order of Saint Camillus.
In emphasizing the importance of prayer in the life of a religious, it is also essential to reflect on one’s style of praying. For many years, one of the challenges that I have consistently discussed with my Spiritual Director was the feeling that I was not praying enough or that I kept looking for better ways of praying. I tried many styles of praying and had received advice on how to pray and when to pray. Still, I was hungry to learn about the style of praying that would feed my spiritual needs fully.
I am particularly talking about personal prayer time. It is praying alone. Praying personally is a separate practice from the communitarian one that each Religious has the duty to participate in.
I believe in the importance and value of Community Prayers. Praying with my brothers is a place where I feel the relational aspect of my religious life. Praying together leads me to feel that I belong to something bigger than my own vision of ministry and understanding of Religious life.
Eight years ago, in my search for the “right style of praying,” I came across a meditation practice. One day, a close friend of mine asked if I was interested in attending a workshop on Meditation and Buddhism based on the teaching of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk. For five consecutive Tuesdays in the evening, I attended a two-hour presentation and exploration on the basics of sitting and walking meditation. I learned to sit and just pay attention to my breath. It was not easy at the outset. I felt restless and had difficulty relaxing and being mindful of what I was feeling, thinking, and sensing just in the moment. I had to learn to befriend the “monkeys in my mind.” Little by little, I began to feel relaxed and focused. This practice led me to an experience of being centered and grounded and to a personal practice that I continue to utilize.
I have developed a habit of starting my workday in meditation. It is my conviction that before I can pay attention to any ministry needs of others, I first need to pay attention to my own needs. Praying through meditation addresses those needs. It is my experience that when I miss my daily meditation and prayer, I end up feeling scattered, and my day feels incomplete. Praying is like breathing. Praying in whatever style is the key nourishment for anyone who wants to bring spiritual healing to others.
Father Jojo Orosa, MI