Posted in Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Practices

Blowing the Doors off the Vatican Vault – Unleashing Spiritual Practices

In yesterday’s blog, I promised to relieve you of some of the obstacles to beginning and maintaining a spiritual practice.  Today’s blog reveals tools for sound spiritual practice that come to us through the Judeo-Christian contemplative (mystical) traditions. 

Lucas and Spielberg had it right

Remember that scene from the movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, where they show a custodian wheeling the Ark of the Covenant, now locked up and crated deep into the bowels of the Smithsonian Institute’s basement?  The very Ark that Indiana Jones worked so hard to find and rescue from the clutches of the Nazi’s? Well, that scene is exactly how I imagine the rich tradition of Mystical (aka Magdalene) Christianity…..locked up in a steel vault somewhere deep in the bowels of the Vatican.  Some pope, a long time ago, gathered up the richness of these traditions and locked them up….far away from the reaching arms of the hungry laity.  The good news is that the monastic communities of the Christian tradition also had knowledge of the tools and practices of the mystical church and preserved them, keeping them safe and waiting for the days that someone would blow the doors off the Vatican vault, unleashing these tools for the benefit of all….and perhaps for the salvation of “Mother Church.”  (another topic for another day.)  Well, here I am…..the uppity Lay Minister, Lauri Ann Lumby.  I’ve got the keys to the vault and I’m not afraid to use them.  🙂

Dun Da Dun Dun Dun Da Dun (Sung to the opening theme from Raider’s of the Lost Ark)

So, without further ado……below you will find a resource that I developed for the students and facilitators who have crossed the threshold of Authentic Freedom Ministries.   Tools for sound spiritual practice from the Judeo-Christian mystical/contemplative tradition.  Make a copy of this and keep it as instructional material as you begin to develop or deepen your spiritual practice.  And because I’m a huge brat…..a few words to the pope and his cronies in Rome right out of this morning’s scripture:

“Therefore I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit”

Matthew 21: 45 

I’m just sayin’!

So….here are the tools we have all been waiting for:

I.                   Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina is Latin for “divine reading,” “spiritual reading,” or “holy reading” and represents a method of prayer and scriptural reading intended to promote communion with God and to provide special spiritual insights.

A.    Lectio – Reading the Bible passage gently and slowly several times. The passage itself is not as important as the savoring of each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase that somehow speaks to the practitioner.

B.     Meditatio – Reflecting on the text of the passage and thinking about how it applies to one’s own life. This is considered to be a very personal reading of the Scripture and very personal application. Asking the question, how is God speaking to me personally through this passage?

C.    Oratio – Responding to the passage by opening the heart to God. This is not primarily an intellectual exercise, but is thought to be more of the beginning of a conversation with God. This stage can be accomplished through journaling, or offering a silent or spoken prayer to God.

D.    Contemplatio – Listening to God. This is a freeing of oneself from one’s own thoughts, both mundane and holy, and hearing God talk to us. Opening the mind, heart, and soul to the influence of God.



II.                Centering Prayer/Silent Contemplation

Silent Contemplation is allowing oneself to simply rest in God.  The goal of contemplation is “no goal.”  The practitioner is to simply be.  Repeated practice opens the contemplative to the fruits of contemplation – deepening peace, insight, creativity, guidance, consolation and compassion.

A.    Practitioner finds a comfortable place where they can sit in silence.

B.     Practitioner chooses a focal point – the breath, a sacred word or phrase (love, peace, Jesus,Om, etc.)

C.    Practitioner sits in silence.  When they find their mind wandering, they return their attention to their focal point.

D.    Practitioner continues in this manner for the period of time pre-determined for contemplation.

III.             Love Letter from God

This type of practice works best with scripture passages that seem to be God addressing us.

A.    Read through the passage slowly and meditatively.

B.     Re-read the passage as if it is a letter written to us directly from God.

C.    Practitioner allows themselves to receive the words into their heart.

D.    The remainder of the practice follows a similar pattern to Lectio-Divina.

Read, receive, respond, contemplate

IV.             Free-Form Journaling/Automatic Writing

Through this approach, the practitioner brings a question or a thought to the meditation session.   The practitioner offers the question/thought to God, then allows God to speak to them through their pen as they write in their journal.  Through this method, the practitioner allows their own thoughts, etc. to step aside to make room for the words of God.

V.                Mantra Meditation

A.    Practitioner chooses a favorite sacred phrase/mantra.  (Om Mani Padme Om; Hail Mary Full of Grace; Om Shanti; Give us this day our daily bread; Abwoon d’bwashmaya; etc.)

B.     Practitioner repeats mantra silently or aloud, over and over, allowing the mantra to draw them into a place of peaceful calm.

C.    Practitioner continues with mantra until they find it no longer necessary and are able to enter into silent contemplation.

D.    Practitioner returns to mantra when they find their mind wandering.

VI.             Prayer Beads

Practitioner engages in practice above, using prayer beads/rosary to “count” mantra repetitions.  The benefit of using prayer beads is that is adds another sense to the process – tactile touch.  This is especially helpful for those with a restless mind.

VII.          Imagination-Contemplation/Daydreaming Meditation

A.    Practitioner chooses a narrative story from scripture.

B.     Practitioner reads through the story slowly and meditatively

C.    Practitioner chooses a character from the story (named, or unnamed).

D.    Practitioner re-reads the story from the vantage point of their chosen character.

E.     Practitioner enters into their creative imagination, placing themselves as their chosen character in the midst of the story.  They allow the story to unfold in their imagination in great detail, being mindful of thoughts, reflections, emotions that may surface through the process.

F.     Practitioner writes what they witnessed through their imagination, allowing additional details to surface as they write.

G.    Practitioner reflects on two questions:

1. How is God speaking to me through what was revealed in this daydreaming?

2. How is the revealed story reflective of something going on in my current life journey?

VIII.       Art as Prayer

Practitioner is given the task of creating a visual representative of their prayer/reflection.

IX.             Music Meditation

Music is used as a vehicle through which the practitioner can find that place of peaceful calm within.

A.    Choose the musical selection (chant, classical music, instrumental music works well here)

B.     Practitioner listens to musical selection with rapt attention, allowing the movement of the music to draw them into peaceful calm.

C.    Practitioner rests in silent contemplation once music is finished.

X.                Mindful Meditation/Theological Reflection

A.    Practitioner chooses an ordinary activity or object as the focal point of their meditation.

B.     Practitioner observes the object or engages in the activity with rapt attention.

C.    Practitioner becomes aware of the object or the activity in a way that transcends their typical experience of this object/activity.

D.    Practitioner records what they observe in the object or activity, asking what how God is being revealed through the object or activity.

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

Posted in Raised Catholic

Raised Catholic?

In this note, I address the men and women who have been raised Catholic and are searching for spiritual nourishment and acknowledging that 90% of the people that have enjoyed the programs and services of Authentic Freedom Ministries were in fact, raised Catholic.

While Authentic Freedom Ministries is open to people of all spiritual traditions, I have come to realize that of the women and men who seek my services, 95% of them were raised Catholic.  I have not actively pursued this audience, yet I cannot ignore these statistics.  When asked what has brought them here, these are the answers most commonly offered:

  • I love my faith, but feel like something is missing.
  • I yearn for a personal relationship with God.
  • I’m struggling with some of the teachings of the Church.
  • I have been wounded by the Church.
  • I feel disenfranchised by an Institution that does not honor me for who I am as a woman, gay, divorced, co-habitating, a single parent, called to a priesthood that does not welcome me…
  • I left the Church years ago and have not yet found a spiritual home, I’ve looked elsewhere, but even there, something seems to be missing.

If these issues speak to your heart, know that you are welcome to come and explore your spiritual journey in a safe and sacred space where you will be honored for who you are and for where you are in your journey.

A letter to my Catholic brothers and sisters:

“At the sight of the crowds, Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd…

Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.  As you go, make the proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand.’  Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons.”

The above scripture passage has become the foundation and intention of the work of service I do in the world. As I reflect more deeply on this invitation, it has revealed to me the audience that I have been called to feed and I can no longer ignore the fact that  95% of the women and men who have sought my services have been raised Catholic.  This is not due to any specific effort on my part.  This is purely coincidence (or God-cidence!)!

As I reflect on this reality, I have come to recognize some common denominators in those who come to me for Spiritual Direction, Reiki or to participate in the programs that I offer.  The most common characteristic among these men and women is that they are free thinkers, and seeking to find a place where their questions, thoughts, reflections, doubts and explorations can be honored as sacred.  They are seeking a safe place where they will not feel judged or condemned for their questions or for the truths that they have discerned within themselves and the life choices they have made.   These are folks looking for tools to help them know God personally and to learn how to discern God’s guidance in their lives. These are men and women who love much of what they experienced in the Catholic Church, but are looking for something more.  What this something more might be, most of them do not know.  This is what they are seeking….that “something more” that cannot be named.  They have sought this something more inside the Institution and feel they have not found it.  They are enlivened when they discover that the “something more” is deep within themselves and is the Source of peace, joy and love that we call God.

Many of the people who have found benefit in the work of Authentic Freedom Ministries have felt disenfranchised by the Institution- most commonly because they do not feel the questions they have and truths they have discerned are honored by the Church – women and married men called to be priest, victims of abuse who were turned away or ignored, women and men who seek equality within a decidedly hierarchical and male Institution, gay men and women, those who have experienced divorce, single parents, women who have suffered the tragedy of abortion, men and women in abusive relationships, people who have been told their truth is heretical because “it is not explicitly handed down by the magesterium”.  These are the people I have come to call “the lost sheep of Rome,”    These are the people who are looking to be honored and loved for who they are and to know that there is a place where their truth is honored as sacred.  They are seeking to be freed of the guilt-ridden, fear based paradigm many of them experienced in their Catholic upbringing.

To all of these aforementioned men and women, I have tried to provide a safe and sacred space in which they can freely and openly seek to know the Divine within and in knowing God, to know the truth of themselves.  To the best of my ability, and admitting my own attachments to ego, I seek to provide tools that honor people where they are at and to empower them to live out that truth.  I am grateful for the many opportunities in which I have witnessed deep transformation, healing and empowerment in those who have sought companionship and witness through the Spiritual Direction, Reiki and program offerings Authentic Freedom Ministries provides.

I am truly grateful for my own formation within the Catholic faith, eight years of Catholic school, seven years of post-graduate study in Catholic theology and spirituality and ten years of employment within the Institution of the Catholic Church.  I look to Jesus as the model of human empowerment.  He came to reveal the truth of Oneness in God’s love and to show us how to live that out.  I look to Jesus the Christ as teacher, friend, companion, guide, counselor and beloved.  I look to Jesus’ life and teachings as a model for how I too am called to live.  I honor Jesus as being both fully Divine and fully Human and as one who had realized the fullness of this truth. I have a passionate love of the spiritual, liturgical, social justice and scriptural traditions of my faith.  I am deeply moved by the sacred art and architecture and am inspired by the men and women who make up the communion of saints.  I would not be the person I am today without this formation.

At the same time, I cannot deny the transformation that is being called forth and has been ushered in through the work of the Holy Spirit at the Vatican II Council.  The reforms of Vatican II have barely begun, and Vatican II was just the tip of the iceberg.  God is calling forth a new vision of Church, and we are being called to participate in its revelation.  As God said to Moses, “I have witnessed the affliction of my people and have heard their cries of complaint, so I know well that they are suffering.  Therefore, I have come down to rescue them from the land of slavery, into a good and gracious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”  (Exodus 3: 7-8a) Perhaps these are God’s words for us as well as we embark on our own journey toward freedom into a new life that has not yet been revealed.  As the owner of Authentic Freedom Ministries, I humbly offer the space in which discernment of what this new life may be can be safely and freely explored individually and in sacred community.

In humble service,

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries