Written by Michael Fones
Tuesday, 09 January 2007 16:18
Since one of the topics we've discussed on this blog is the difficulty some Catholics have in talking to others about their relationship with God, I thought I'd introduce a new formation program that can help in this area. It's called "Formation for Spiritual Companionship," and I'll give a little more information about it in a moment. But first, a little about the organization that produced it.
The Dominican parish of Blessed Sacrament in Seattle, WA, is not only the birthplace of the Catherine of Siena Institute, but also the Institute for Christian Ministry. The latter was founded by Fr. Leo Thomas, O.P., to help lay people be spiritual companions to one another and to provide and sustain training for spiritual healing. You can click here to go to their website.
When I was director of the St. Thomas More Catholic Campus Ministry at the University of Oregon, several parishioners asked me if they could go through the Ministry of Healing Prayer formation program that ICM produces. At first I was a little nervous about something called "healing prayer," but I trusted the wisdom and faith of the folks who were proposing this, so I supported their initiative. I was very impressed with the thorough two-year program ICM provided that formed members of the Newman Center to pray with and for those who desired spiritual, physical and emotional healing. Their formation was solidly grounded in Catholic teaching, prayer and common sense. I often recommended the ministry to those whom I had anointed in the sacrament of the sick as an ongoing support, and when I had knee reconstruction after a basketball injury, I asked to take part in a prayer service for me. It was a wonderful experience of the love of the Christian community for me.
Now ICM has just produced a new formation program entitled Formation for Spiritual Companions. According to a flyer describing the program, the formation "has elements of spiritual direction, but is a relationship of peers...Over a span of time, the relationship can bless companions in a number of ways as it gives them:
1) Someone to talk to about spiritual things, which gives a sense of being heard.
2) a person to be accountable to for some or several areas of their Christian life.
3) a partner to pray with.
4) a person who provides encouragement and support.
In addition to showing participants how to be companions, this program offers spiritual formation through worship times and some of its presentations. The latter teach elelments of Christian spirituality and give a deeper understanding of the One we worship and trust."
It looks like this formation process has a similar format as the Formation for Healing Prayer, in that video presentations provided by ICM are incorporated in the lessons. While I don't have access to the whole program, if it is produced as well as the Formation for Healing Prayer, it is well worthwhile.