By Celine Klosterman
IOWA CITY — Women’s hearts are open in unique ways to love of God and neighbor, Father James Kubicki, SJ, told about 240 people at St. Patrick Church on Nov. 2.
Keynoter at the women’s conference “Journey to the Heart,” he encouraged attendees to eschew a superficial prayer life and strive for a passionate relationship with God. “Love doesn’t ask, ‘What’s the minimum requirement?’” he said. “Love asks, ‘What more can I do to show you my love?’”
A national speaker, retreat director and author, he offered two presentations at the event organized by members of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Iowa City in recognition of the Year of Faith. The day also included talks from Colleen Pasnik of Dubuque and Anne Mallampalli of Pittsburgh, as well as Mass, praying of the rosary, opportunities to receive the sacrament of reconciliation, and discussion on “Nurturing a Life of Prayer.”
There’s a difference between saying prayers and praying, Fr. Kubicki said. To pray deeply, Catholics may need to first take time to slow down from their busy lives and forget distractions.
He encouraged women to make Scripture part of their lives outside of Mass. Approaches to praying with Scripture include Lectio Divina and Ignatian contemplation, which involves imagining yourself at the scene of Bible stories.
In addition to encountering Christ in the Word, Catholics find Jesus in the Eucharist, Fr. Kubicki noted. Pope Benedict XVI observed that just as bread and wine are transformed into Jesus’ body and blood, Christ transformed an act of brutal violence on the cross into an act of love. So should Catholics be transformed by receiving the Eucharist.
But this personal transformation doesn’t happen automatically, Fr. Kubicki said. Catholics must actively participate in the liturgy, which isn’t meant to entertain a passive audience.
Pasnik, president of The Power of Prayer, Inc., and co-founder of Springtime of Hope, later shared her story of personal transformation. After being raised Catholic, she began living as a “practical atheist,” she said. But reading a book about Medjugorje, a site of alleged Marian apparitions, inspired her to renew her faith. Union with Mary leads to union with God, though Catholics don’t have to go through the Blessed Mother, Pasnik noted.
The speaker encouraged attendees to pray the rosary, consecrate their lives to Mary and embrace the five first Saturdays devotion. The latter practice involves receiving the Eucharist and sacrament of reconciliation, reciting the rosary and making reparations to the Blessed Mother.
If you’re just starting to pray, it’s OK to start small, Pasnik said later during a panel discussion on prayer. Joining her were Joan Garrity and Meliza Wise of St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville and Sheryl Schwager of St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City. The women explored the rewards and struggles of their personal prayer lives, noted the importance of persistence and discussed how to influence their families’ prayer habits.
Catholics must strive to fulfill the mission of saving souls, Mallampalli said later. Pope Francis said, “We cannot become starched Christians, too polite, who speak of theology calmly over tea. We have to become courageous Christians and seek out those (who need help most).”
Reach out to people who are forgotten or hard to love, she said. Participate in daily Mass, spend time in eucharistic adoration, read the New Testament and find someone who encourages you on your walk of faith. Conversion is a lifelong journey filled with good years, bad years and lots of waiting, she said.
After the conference, Wise said she appreciated Mallampalli’s reminder that each Catholic can inspire others to strive for holiness — and that you can’t get to heaven by yourself. Wise also enjoyed Fr. Kubicki’s discussion of Ignatian contemplation. “That’s where I’m heading in the way I approach Scripture,” she said.
“I was encouraged to contemplate my prayer life,” said Anne Lamansky of St. Wenceslaus Parish. “There’s always more you can do.”
She said that for women, who are often caregivers, “it was such a treat to be treated so well at this conference… It was beautiful to experience the fellowship of these other women on the journey.”
The event was sponsored by Catholic Daughters of the Americas Court Craigie 94 and the Knights of Columbus councils at St. Wenceslaus and St. Patrick parishes.