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Forming a Spiritual Group through the Four Movements of Experiencing the Divine.

Updated: Aug 8, 2023


Project

The purpose of this project is study how to establish a small spiritual group formed to celebrate its communion with the divine. This project is inspired by Ignatian Spiritual activity as presented by Fr. John English S.J. (1924-2004) in his book, Spiritual Intimacy and Community. An Ignatian View of the Small Faith Community.

Objectives


Within our small group, we will tell the stories of our personal experiences of God. We will open ourselves up to sensing God's pres­ence through the giftedness of each other. Through our actions, we will commit ourselves to work with Christ in bringing the Word of encouragement to the world. We will open up our hearts, which will become full of hope and desire, as we experience our unity with both each other and the Divine.

Much like the Spiritual Exercises, this project will work at being ‘Attuned to the presence and action of God.’ Though each group member will be at different level of spiritual awareness, God will take them where they are in their lives. The main objective is God’s revelation and our response that revelation, beyond mere emotionalism. The bottom line for this project is to discover the ‘unconditional, creative and saving love of God’ for each and every one of us.

Rationale


The purpose of this project is to have the group experience a personal encounter with an engaging and loving God. Very similar to the Spiritual exercises, this project will offer ‘a certain world view, a vision of God, a relationship with and an invitation’ for the group to ‘join in the creative, loving action of the Trinity.’ Our desire is to experience the presence of the Divine as a group. Together, with the help of our innate senses, our group will express its relationship with God in terms of four movements: Sensing God as the One, the Beautiful, the True and the Good.

Resources


Facilitation of small groups on spiritual formation will be within a parish setting. I will have the assistance of two parishioners who will assist me, as needed. We will provide what ever is needed to open up the senses. However, for the most part, each person’s individual experience will be the primary source of education for others.


Time Line


The group will meet on Wednesday, April 11th, 18th, and April 25th, from 7 pm to 8 pm. On the fourth and final Wednesday, May 2nd, the group will gather together from 7 pm to 9pm. The first three meetings will be ordered as follows: Opening Prayer: five minutes, Presentation: ten minutes, Group Activity: fifteen minutes, Individual Meditation: ten minutes, Group Reflection: fifteen minutes and Closing Prayer: five minutes; for a total of one hour. The fourth and final evening will be expanded to two hours to allow for the assessing the Four Movements of Experiencing the Divine and a closing meal. The total time together will be five hours.


Creative Activities- Exercise


Each week we will have a theme or movements which will emphasize our experience of the Divine and sense of God’s presence in our life. Once again, we will simply use our five natural senses as a tool to make contact with the divine.

Week One – The First Movement “Oneness in God: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”

Wednesday April 11th. 7 pm to 8 pm

Opening Prayer

Leader: Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of us your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created.

All: And you shall renew the face of the earth.

Leader: Let us pray.

All: O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit instructs the hearts of the faithful, grant, that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolations; Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

All: I believe. Lord that you are here present. Although my eyes do not see you, my faith senses you. Take any stray thoughts from my mind. Make me understand the truths which you wish to teach me in this meditation. Let me make up my mind to put them into practice. Your servant is listening; speak Lord, to my soul.

Group introduction

This is a time when everyone briefly introduces who they are and gives a brief explanation of their particular faith journey. They may also offer what they expect from this small group as it relates to experiencing God.

Presentation of the First Movement


The presentation will start by having the group become aware of their oneness in Christ and of the One who is God. It will offer up the mystery of the Trinity as a prime example of divine unity and our invitation to take part in it. It will present God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as persons, equal in glory, and co-eternal in majesty. The presentation will conclude with that invitation to experience the Oneness of God in a tangible way, both individually and as a community.

Group activity


The communal experience begins with the physical sense of everyone in the room together. This will entail holding hands while praying. They will be instructed to do whatever they can to physically interact with others. They can look and intently listen and even keep their eyes closed at moments of contact. The objective is to have everyone move through an awareness that the people around them are seeking a union of minds and hearts, and no matter how diverse their gifts and opinions may be, everyone has the opportunity to sense the one Spirit filling each person, collectively experiencing oneness with God.

Individual Meditation


Time is put aside for individual group members to meditate on Oneness in God, as it relates to them personally and the group. They may, if they wish, bring back their thoughts to the group.

Group Reflections of experiencing our “Oneness in God”


The group will come together to reflect on their experiences over the evening. They will gather their thoughts and ponder the question: What does it mean to have a sense of oneness? Perhaps it is a 'common purpose and a common mind' demonstrated in the desire for unity and an attitude of openness to one another. Perhaps there is further movement into an experi­ence of all-togetherness. The group may now sense the divine unity of itself with Christ as head of the body.

Closing Prayer


Leader: Let us bow before the Lord our God, and ask him to bless us.

Leader: May God the Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, strengthen us in his love.

All: May God the Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, strengthen us in his love.

Leader: May God the Holy Spirit guide us in all our deeds.

All: May God the Holy Spirit guide us in all our deeds.

Leader: May our all powerful God- the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit- in His Oneness-bless us and keep us for ever.

All: May our all powerful God- the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit- in His Oneness- bless us and keep us for ever. Amen!

Week Two – The Second Movement

“Communal experience of the Beautiful”

Wednesday April 18th. 7 pm to 8 pm

Opening Prayer

Leader: Let us bow before the Lord our God, and ask him to bless us.

Leader: Loving Father, you made all things through your Son. You gave us beauty to give us Joy and to lead us to love you. Listen to our prayer, let your Spirit continue to shower his gifts on us and so bring us all to you. Father, we ask this grace through Jesus Christ our Lord.

All: Amen!

Leader: May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

All: May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Presentation of the Second Movement

The presentation will start by making the group aware of the communal experience of the Beautiful. It will offer up examples of how we may sense of ‘the beautiful’ and recognize different kinds of simplicity, candour, openness and wonder of ‘beauty’ through its individual members. It will show how a spiritual or faith filled community senses divine beauty within itself; “to enlighten them with the knowledge of God's glory, the glory on the face of Christ (2 Col 4:6).”

Group activity

Each member of the group will bring in something that they regard as beautiful. They will be asked to briefly describe the beauty of the object. In this manner, the group will experience the physical sensation of beauty. The group will also acknowledge the beauty of each other; no matter what their looks or behaviour or disposition in life may be. Our objective is to not only experience outer beauty, but also to identify and then understand inner beauty. Eventually the group begins to become aware of the sense of God's beauty instilling the whole communal experience.

Individual Meditation

Time is put aside for individual group members to meditate on experience of the beautiful as it relates to them personally and the group. They may, if they wish, bring back their thoughts to the group.

Group Reflections on experiencing the Beautiful

The group will come together to reflect upon their experiences over the evening. They will gather there thoughts and ponder the question: What does it mean to experience the beautiful? Perhaps it is the things that are more outwardly, like the items they brought in, or maybe it is deeper than that. Perhaps there will be a group awareness of the beauty that permeates everything. The group may now sense the divine imprint of God on both each other and the group.

Closing Prayer

Leader: Let us bow before the Lord our God, and ask him to bless us.

Leader: May the Lord bless you and keep you.

All: May the Lord bless you and keep you.

Leader: May his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you.

All: May his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you.

Leader: May his beauty be instilled upon your heart.

All: May his beauty be instilled upon your heart.

Leader: May he look upon you with kindness, and give you his peace.

All: May he look upon you with kindness, and give you his peace.

Leader: May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

All: May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


Week Three – The Third Movement

“Communal experience of the True”


Wednesday April 25th 7 pm to 8 pm


Opening Prayer


Leader: Let us bow before the Lord our God, and ask him to bless us.

Leader: Blessed are, Lord God, King and ruler of heaven and earth:

All: Blessed are, Lord God, King and ruler of heaven and earth:

Leader: Through your Son you have brought us salvation, and in his Holy Spirit, you lead us to all truth.

All: Through your Son you have brought us salvation, and in his Holy Spirit, you lead us to all truth.

Leader: Help us to be people of faith and prayer, guided by your Spirit and filled with your love. Let us share our faith and love.

All: Help us to be people of faith and prayer, guided by your Spirit and filled with your love. Let us share our faith and love.

Leader: May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

All: May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


Presentation of the Third Movement


The presentation will start by making the group aware of the communal experience of the True. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, truth or truthfulness is a virtue which is manifested in people who are true to themselves in both deeds and words, as well as at all times avoiding duplicity, dissimulation and hypocrisy. Seeking truth is not simply an intellectual exercise, but a visceral part of human existence. It’s earthy. Truth empowers and its counterpart ‘falsehood’ weakens the human spirit. So this presentation will offer up ways of how we can experience a sense of the true; which will bring for us a certain humility, amazement, surprise, commitment and freedom for action


Group activity


The group will come together in light of the presentation and talk about truth and what it means to be true to ones self and to each other, as well as the significance of each person to each other. In a very real way, they can unabashedly say, “we need each other”, and/or “we complete each other” as a faithful community. The group will then move to a deeper understanding that 'we are the beloved of God', not in some theoretical way, but in a very real way, in a true way. When the group does this, it is in a position to sense, in itself, the words of Christ: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life' (John 14:6).


Individual Meditation


Time is put aside for individual group members to meditate on their experience of the True as it relates to them personally and the group. They may, if they wish, bring back their thoughts to the group.


Group Reflections on experiencing the True


The group will come together to reflect upon their experiences over the evening. They will gather their thoughts and ponder the question: What does it mean to experience the True? Perhaps it is the way we open ourselves up to each other in honesty, being true to our self or maybe it is an understanding that Jesus is the epitome of Truth. Perhaps the group will discover the Truth which lies within each of us. The group may now sense the divine Truth of itself as members of the Body of Christ.


Closing Prayer


Leader: Let us bow before the Lord our God, and ask him to bless us.

Leader: Blessed are, Lord God, King and ruler of heaven and earth.

All: Blessed are, Lord God, King and ruler of heaven and earth.

Leader: Through your Son you have brought us salvation, and in his Holy Spirit, you lead us to all truth.

All: Through your Son you have brought us salvation, and in his Holy Spirit, you lead us to all truth.

Leader: May our words and our lives lead your people to stronger faith and love. Through our work may your kingdom come among us, and lead us to serve you each day.

All: May our words and our lives lead your people to stronger faith and love. Through our work may your kingdom come among us, and lead us to serve you each day.

Leader: Through our work may your kingdom come among us, and lead us to serve you each day.

All: Through our work may your kingdom come among us, and lead us to serve you each day.

Leader: May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

All: May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Week Four – The Forth Movement


“A sense of general goodness”


Wednesday May 2nd. 7 pm to 9 pm


Opening Prayer


Leader: Let us bow before the Lord our God, and ask him to bless us.

Leader: May Almighty God keep you from all and bless you with every good gift.

All: May Almighty God keep you from all and bless you with every good gift.

Leader: May he set his Word in your heart and fill you with lasting joy.

All: May he set his Word in your heart and fill you with lasting joy.

Leader: May you walk in his ways, always knowing what is right and good, until you enter your heavenly inheritance.

All: May you walk in his ways, always knowing what is right and good, until you enter your heavenly inheritance.

Leader: May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

All: May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


Presentation of the Fourth Movement


The presentation will start by making the group aware of a sense of general goodness through their surroundings (comfort, colour, food and drink) It will demonstrate how each person can experience the Good. There is a certain openness to recognize the goodness of all, seeing everyone as a child of God. When one does this collectively, there is what the Church calls the ‘common good’; which is the ability of people, as individuals and community to achieve their true perfection more completely and readily.


Group activity


The focus will be on the goodness of the persons present, recognizing their heartfelt desire to be fully open and lovingly engaged to everyone else in the group. The group comes to recognize that their goodness is actually part of the goodness of God, exemplified fully in the goodness of Christ. 'From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace..... No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known' (John1:16-18).


The group demonstrates the shared sense of their very own goodness in light of their physical reality. God made it and it was good. It is through a sense of general goodness that nature becomes a shared experience of joy. A divine loving creator would have it no other way.

Individual Meditation


Time is put aside for individual group members to meditate on their sense of General Goodness. They may, if they wish, bring back their thoughts to the group.


Group Reflection on experiencing a sense of the general Goodness of the Divine


The group will come together to reflect upon their experiences over the evening. They will gather their thoughts and ponder the question: What does it mean to have a sense of Goodness? Perhaps it is the things around us. Our surroundings, if they are comfortable or pleasing, well that is certainly good.

Perhaps we become part of that goodness when we enter into our environment with feeling of joy and thanksgiving. Perhaps the group will discover that goodness is part of the divine plan. The group may now sense the general goodness of the divine.


Individual Meditation on Experiencing the Divine


Time is put aside for individual group members to meditate on how they both sensed and experienced the Divine over the last four weeks.


Assessing the Four Movements of Experiencing the Divine


The group will come together for the last time after a period of brief meditation to reflect on the four movements of experiencing the Divine. It is important that the participants understand that all four movements have been in action during their time together.


With the help of the facilitator and with some discussion the group may now sense the beauty of the divine imprint of God, the divine Truth as members of the Body of Christ, Oneness with Christ as head of the body; and the absolute goodness of being part of God’s divine plan.

Closing Prayer


Leader: Let us Pray: God, of your goodness give us yourself, for you are sufficient for us. We cannot properly ask anything less, to be worthy for you. If we were to ask less, we should always be in want. In you alone, we have it all. We ask that you place in us, your Goodness, your Truth, your Beauty and your Oneness. We ask this in Christ Jesus’ name, who with you and Holy Spirit is One God, now and forever.

All: Amen.

Farewell Lunch


During these last moments of fellowship our small group will continue to share their stories. When they leave for home they may very well take with them a personal experience of God, sensing God's pres­ence through not only themselves, but through others. They may also take with them a commitment to the work of Christ by bringing the Word to the world.

It is my deepest desire that their hearts will be open to the knowledge of God’s beauty, truth and goodness; and that they can be experience the unifying love of the Blessed Trinity.

Sources used

1. Spiritual Intimacy and Community. An Ignatian View of the Small Faith Community, Paulist Press, New York, John English SJ, 1992. 2. The Faith of the Catholic Church edit by the Rt. Rev. David Konstant, Novalis, Ottawa, 2001. 3. Prayers New and Old, revised edition, Forward Movement Publications, Cincinnati, 1993. 4. Pilgrims Guide, Cursillos in Christianity, Natural Ultreya Publications, Dallas, 1976. 5. A book of blessings, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Ottawa, 1981. 6. Ignatius of Loyola and The Spiritual Exercises by Dr. John Sumarah, Wolfville, 2006.



Original Paper entitled The Four Movements of Experiencing the Divine submitted as a course requirement for D.Min. 8796 - Spiritual Direction/ Formation - to Dr. John Sumarah - Acadia Divinity College - Published on March 14th, 2007 (Revised on July 31st, 2023)


© Dr. Charles Warner 2023

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