Team Day attendees told to spend quiet time each day with God

By Patricia Kasten | The Compass | March 12, 2015

ASHWAUBENON — Do you think of your life’s work as a mission? Do you think of recharging your batteries for that work by going into a desert for at least five minutes each day?

Team Day keynote speaker was timone davis, formation director at the Augustus Tolton Pastoral Ministry Program at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. (Submitted Photo | For The Compass)
Team Day keynote speaker was timone davis, formation director at the Augustus Tolton Pastoral Ministry Program at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. (Submitted Photo | For The Compass)

If not, you might be missing the chance at a deeper relationship with God.

On March 5, 160 persons who work or volunteer at parishes across the diocese gathered for the Green Bay Diocese’s annual Team Day at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center and heard just that advice.

The event speaker was timone davis, formation director at the Augustus Tolton Pastoral Ministry Program at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. This fall, she will become a full professor at Loyola University’s Institute of Pastoral Studies in in her native Chicago.

Team Day is sponsored by Ministry Formation of the Green Bay Diocese. Ministry Formation receives two-thirds of its funding through the Bishop’s Appeal.

As one director of religious education from a Fox Valley parish said, as the day began, “My staff told me they were too busy to come. I told them, ‘You’re coming. We need this.’”

It turned out her order fit the theme of the day.

“Separation (time) from the work of our lives is important,” davis noted, adding that what often happens is that people in ministry keep telling themselves that the extra work they take on “is for the building up of the kingdom of God,” but they then soon find themselves without any down time.

“That is false. It is our ego,” davis said. “Jesus stepped away,” going alone on a mountain or sending the disciples ahead in a boat. This showed the importance of Sabbath time, of rest, she added.

“We seem to gloss over those passages to justify our working non-stop,” davis said. “But where are you getting inspiration? If you are not taking time to sit with our God during Sabbath time — who is inspiring you? … Holiness starts with us. We cannot give people what we don’t have ourselves.”

Her words echoed the introduction to the day given by Bishop David Ricken.

Part of an ongoing series about ministries that receive support for the Bishop's Appeal.
Part of an ongoing series about ministries that receive support from the Bishop’s Appeal.

“There is no end to the depth of the relationship that each of us can have with the Lord,” the bishop told attendees. “The Lord is inexhaustible.”

He added that, by taking time to pray and become fully engaged and alive, “we step out of the way and let Christ work.” In so doing, Bishop Ricken added, “we facilitate that friendship (with Christ) for others” and “we can be the light in the midst of darkness.”

Keeping with Bishop Ricken’s six-year plan for the diocese, “Disciples on the Way,” and its first two-year focus of prayer, Team Day began with an experience of lectio divina, an ancient prayer exercise developed by St. Benedict in the sixth century. Lectio divina allows a person to withdraw into contemplation of a reading from Scripture. The exercise involves listening, sitting quietly and waiting for God to speak in our hearts.

However, as davis noted, sitting quietly is not something people are comfortable with — at least not without practice. Instead, while they might pray, people usually fill that prayer time with their own words, prayer lists, prayer intentions — more often “telling God” rather than “listening.”

“It’s one thing to pray to God, quite another to experience God face to face: that’s a sacrament,” said davis, touching on the theme for the day: “The Sacrament of Living.”

Her main focus was that, before we can lead others to Jesus and prayer, we need to be in a relationship with Jesus ourselves. To do that takes work. One really good way to start, davis suggested, is to find a desert in our lives.

She noted that a desert place allows us to do several things:

? Acknowledges the current situation — and this often amounts to “that there is chaos in my life”

? Admit that we need Jesus Christ

? Surrender to God’s will.

Davis asked her audience for descriptions of deserts, and the expected responses came: “hot, dry, rocks, sand, barren, temptations.”

Instead, she suggested other “deserts”: mountain, lakeshore, forest, porch, park, even the back yard.

“The idea here,” she said, “is that each of us can create a place which we have made barren for ourselves, where we can go and not be distracted. It’s different for each of us. And different, at different times. The desert says, ‘step away.’ This takes the Sabbath just a little deeper.”

However, before we can even reach the desert to be alone with God — even it’s only for five minutes a day, alone in our room — we need to get back to that time of Sabbath.

Davis asked, “How many of you take time for Sabbath?”

Not many hands went up. Those that did were raised hesitantly, as if afraid to acknowledge taking time “for themselves.” Several people protested, “My busiest day is the Sabbath.” Others pointed out that ministers are involved in Sunday liturgy; volunteers lead weekend programs; and parish staff must answer questions.

But davis noted that Sabbath is not just about being in church on Sunday, or even about Sunday itself. She quoted Wayne Muller, author of the book, “Sabbath,” that “without rest, we lose our way.”

“To really embrace our holiness, we have to submit to the Sabbath,” davis said, “We must rest, not on the sofa, but sitting in God…. We have to acknowledge that we are holy and worthy of rest.”

Davis asked her audience to be truthful: “What is so important that you need permission to rest?”

Yes, she admitted, giving up things and responsibilities is hard, “part of our psyche.” We also believe that only we can do it best; only we can make certain it’s done right, so we really have to be there.

But, she said, what truly happens with this attitude is that our ministry suffers and “doesn’t have life beyond us. We have to step away and allow (others in the parish) to come to their own growth and fullness.”

A woman from Oshkosh sat up straighter at those words: “Why, it sounds like when your kids first leave home,” she exclaimed.

Davis assured her listeners that, Sabbath and desert time — “and really being truthful, surrendering one’s will — will have God doing things in our lives that we cannot imagine for ourselves.” (Not unlike a parent with a child.)

“I invite you to go into the desert,” she said. “Use it at least five minutes a day. Allow yourself to be stripped of one thing that impedes your progress to God.”

She added that, “God is going to tell you things you don’t want to hear. But you already know them.”

So instead of the usual patterns — complaining to God, telling him our faults, the faults of others, our worries and fears — and yes, our sins — which “stop the flow that is coming and, on the back end, forgiveness,” davis said, we need to listen and let Jesus go on to tell us he has already “taken it all away.”

“That’s the God we serve,” she said, “who takes it all away. But do we take time to really know that, if we don’t take time to sit with him?”

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