Lightworks: How Christ Fulfills Ancient Customs

By Luke Poczatek

This past Sunday evening, I was able to attend and serve at our Diocese’s annual Lightworks Mass of Thanksgiving. I had no idea what Lightworks, before attending the Mass, but I knew it consisted mostly of our diocesan Vietnamese and Korean Catholic communities. The Mass was a regular English Mass, with the exception of the responsorial psalm and some of the intercessions said in Vietnamese. Still unsure what Lightworks was, we made it close to the end of Mass when before the final blessing, we all sat to listen to testimonies from some of the Lightworks members. They were all talking about how Lightworks helped them grow in a deeper and more intimate relationship with Christ, and really stressed that reading Scripture is one way of praying to God. With the reading of Scripture, they spoke of the practice of Lectio Divina, which is an Ignation method of prayer where one prays with Scripture. One enters into the scenes of the Gospels, or other passages of the Bible, in order to have a unique and beautiful encounter with Christ. Each testimony was powerfully moving, and by each sharing of their experience of prayer, one caught glimpse into their spiritual lives. I saw from them that God is not someone far off and distant, but close and personal.

The next day, I spoke with the Director of the Multicultural Office, Corinne Monogue, about how I was moved by the insight the members of Lightworks had, and how they communicated their relationship with Christ through this type of prayer. Corinne told me that the Lectio Divina method of prayer is positively accepted by these cultures, because it complements well with the ancient methods of Asian meditation, speaking of Confucianism and Buddhism background.  This was awesome to see, and to know how Christ comes to fulfill, here by taking ancient Asian customs and completing them with His blessing and transforming Grace.

Advertisements

Rediscovering God Through the Bible

By Anonymous Lightworks Attendee

Lightworks 2018I want to start off by sharing one of my childhood memories. I grew up under a mother who was a hardcore Catholic who demanded me and my brother to spare at least 30 minutes a day praying the rosary. I remember her dragging us into the house from the playground every day, making sure we complete our daily prayers. At such young age, I honestly dreaded those moments, and even wished that she would skip a few days so we could play without interruptions. At one point, my brother and I got clever and started rounding the “Hail Mary’s” to end the prayer quicker. And it went something like this: within a second into me saying “Hail Mary full of grace”, he would jump start his response of “Holy Mary, Mother of God” shortly after, almost sounding like the rounds of “row, row, row your boat”, and we were basically overlapping each other’s prayer parts… you get the picture. Oddly enough, our mother never scolded us or stopped us from speeding up the rosary, which, by the way, we conquered in less than ten minutes, depending on how competitive we wanted to be as to who can say their parts faster. And I used to think it was because the Virgin Mary was on our side, feeling sorry for us, and put some hypnosis on our mother, allowing us to finish the prayer in such speedy mode without her noticing.  Just kidding… I have no idea why she let us do it, but thinking back, I think our Mother was just happy that we sat through the whole seven minutes of rosary.

During our teen years, my brother served as an altar boy, and I was dragged into being an organist for our small Korean Catholic church we attended. My mother glowed with pride and joy. She cried in every mass! And we never skipped Sunday masses! She used to tell me that it is our duty as Christians to serve and take parts in a Catholic community we belong in. So I did, to satisfy her expectation.

Despite my young adult Christian life style, and a religious mother, I have not always been faithful in terms of living by the Catholic rules. I have defied my own religion, doubted God, hated myself and others, and to sum it all, I just stopped going to church all together. I had my reasons and life events that led me to that stage of life during those difficult days. I wandered around, seeking for answers myself, thinking I didn’t have to be in church to be happy…  Among many other thoughts in my head, I basically excused myself from going to church for many years.

Now, fast forwarding to two years ago, my family of five, including three kids, moved to VA from GA. Two months prior to moving, my husband was in a horrific accident with couple of deep lacerations on both sides of his legs, and one that cut through his tendons by his front ankle, which resulted in an emergency operation. This happened while he was packing his office to get ready to move when one of the mirrors broke in half and landed on him. I’ve never seen so much blood in my life. I remember being so scared as I witnessed the entire ordeal, as it happened right in front of my eyes. We were also in the middle of renovating our house to sell when this happened. I felt a strong sense of hopelessness and fear that shaded my conscious. I had nowhere to turn, and no one to turn to. So, I turned to God.  I remember crying hysterically for hours on end.  I prayed and prayed. I prayed every day for his fast recovery so we could get on with our lives. Unfortunately, we had to fix up our house ourselves with no contractors because we had no savings left.  He had to find a way to work around his crutches and casted legs, with a little bit of my help. Lo and behold, after two months of hard work, it finally paid off when our house was sold on the first day it was listed on the market. We even had three solid offers who asked to pay more than the listed price. We made some nifty profit, which helped with moving and living cost of being in a new state. However, I started to worry again when my husband wasn’t finding a job quick enough.

When I started to feel hopeless, God showed his grace and saved us again from this worrisome and gave us a business that my husband was able to run!  I thank God every day for His blessings and so I decided to give back to Him and started going to church more often, as I haven’t been religiously going to mass for many years until we moved here. Life was just hard, but I realized now that God was always with me, and He always answered my prayers. I wanted to give back and started volunteering more at church and joined some prayer groups and actively attended some retreats as well. In the midst of my journey to serving God and giving back, I have met some great friends, who I believe God sent to me. I am very grateful for them because they are the ones who encouraged me to find God again and helped me see through His grace. And that’s how I was introduced to this Lightworks program.

Before the 14-week program, in fact, all my life up to that point, I probably picked up a Bible less than what I can count with my two hands.  I’ve always been intimidated by Bible and didn’t really know how to interpret scriptures where it meant something to me.  Funny thing is, I always had this notion that I must start reading from Genesis in the Old Testament first before I can even explore other chapters.  But the thickness of the Bible and the size of the small fonts really discouraged me to even challenge myself in reading the entire Bible.  It just overwhelmed me more than anything. And coming from an avid reader myself, who can read 500-page novels in just a few days with no-sweat, I should really be ashamed of not being able to complete one entire Bible!  This program made me realize that my approach to the Bible was completely off.  I don’t know why but it never occurred to me that reading the Bible was one of the ways to talk to God and being closer to God, until now.

This program focuses on using “Lectio Divina” method of meditation.  It’s one of the ways to communicate with God and to increase the knowledge of His words by using four stages of rules and guidelines when reading Bible verses: read; meditate; pray; and contemplate. This ultimately leads to another stage of “action” where we try to imitate Jesus’ life.

The Bible scriptures we studied and prayed together in this program were from various excerpts ranging from the Old Testament to the New Testament. It was recommended that we read assigned passages daily before the following week. At first, I found it to be a bit challenging because I just didn’t know what to say and share during our weekly meetings. But as I listened to other members in our group sharing their experiences with such candidness and openness, I started to express myself more as time went by. Forming a habit to open the Bible every day, and practicing Lectio Divina, has helped me remind myself that God’s words are truly amazing and that His love is so divinely infinite. I know I still have a lot to learn and that 14 weeks isn’t enough to fully understand His divine nature, but now that I know this program exists, I will be actively seeking to join more sessions in the future. I am so grateful for God’s blessings all my life, even if I realized it late, through this program, I learned how much He loved and protected me all along, how He stood by me in every obstacle of my life. I humbly offer myself to Him today and praise Him for all the grace He bestowed upon me and my family. Thank you God, my Lord Jesus Christ, my Savior! I give all myself to you! Amen.

Prayer becomes habit with Lightworks

Lightworks, the Ignation spiritual program, is a 14-week series focused on praying with the Gospels. You can find out more on Lightworks here.

Men and women of all ages gather together at various parishes across the Diocese of Arlington, and meet in groups that speak Vietnamese, Korean, and English.

Here is what folks had to say about Lightworks this year:

  • “[I] feel more intimate with the Bible.”
  • “Prayer became a habit in every day life.”
  • “Sharing and listening in the group became spiritual and enriched.”

Rob, who attends with his wife , shared:

“My wife Maria is a veteran of Lightworks and asked me to participate with her.  I agreed because I thought it would be something good for us to do together.  I’m glad I did.  I look forward to it every Monday night now.  Liem, our leader is great!  He adds so much wisdom!

Lightworks gets two thumbs up from me.  It has been a real positive experience for my wife as well, as she has participated several times.

The results are in! People who participate in Lightworks have nothing but good words to share!

Check out some photos from this year’s participants:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Read more on Lightworks:

A Journey Traveling into my Heart with Jesus Christ

Introduction
By Reverend Stefan Starzynski, Hospital Chaplain, Fairfax Innova Hospital,
In Residence at Saint Ambrose Parish, Annandale, VA

Patricia asked me to do the opening prayer for a group called ‘Lightworks’.  I fully expected to do the opening prayer, eat a cookie or two, and say “Hi” to a few people and then be on my merry way.

Right from the start, I felt in my spirit that this was something for me.  This began a “14” week journey with my fellow pilgrims.  I was learning Christian contemplation using the exercises of Saint Ignatius.  Many saints have said that every renewal of the church began with a renewed love for the Holy Word of God.  I believe that is the Truth!

 

Reflections on my Lightworks Experience
3 Years Contemplating the Words of Jesus

Written by: Patricia Butler, St. Ambrose Parishioner

Four years ago, I would have been the most unlikely person to share my Catholic Faith with anyone- let alone write an article reflecting on the Fire in my Heart for Jesus Christ!  And explaining how that Fire was ignited, is the first of many small and wonderful ever-unfolding miracles put in my life by Jesus…

You see, I left the Catholic Church in the 1980’s and I went on an ardent journey searching for God.  Who is God?  What is God?  Where is God?  I read just about every Holy Book of every world religion, trying to find the answers to these questions.  .  .

Then one day in August, 2013, I realized that the Catholic Church was right.  Every thought in our mind, every word spoken and every deed  can either bring us closer to God or push us further away from God.  At that moment of realization – Confession, examination of conscience made sense. I had received Jesus back in my life. What I was soon to discover however, was Jesus had always been with me on my Journey looking for Him!  It was time to discover what Jesus wanted to teach me, when I was born into a Catholic family in 1950.

Relying on Faith and the inspiration I received from the Holy Spirit, I regist
ered as a member of St. Ambrose parish in Annandale, VA.  I went to confession, began attending Sunday Mass regularly and joined the group Jesus, Mary and a Cup of Joe to participate in the parish community life.

One Sunday, I saw a notice in the St. Ambrose Bulletin for Lightworks, by Fr. Joseph Tetlow, SJ.  The notice jumped off the page at me.  I was very interested in learning about Christian Contemplation (the exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola) with the hope it would deepen my rediscovered Catholic Faith. So, I signed up for the 14 week personal retreat that started in January 2014.  The first 2 weeks, I had a schedule conflict and could not attend the group sessions.  Liem Le, the former President of the Christian Life Community in the USA, scheduled phone calls with me, to go over the materials each week, so I would not miss Sessions 1 and 2.  From the start, I knew in my heart that the spiritual exercises were for me.  The Lightworks journey began with reflections on our lives as gifts from God.  Affirmations that God loves each one of us in an intimate and unique way.  The sessions included scripture passages (words of God’s Love) to pray over and consider, using the techniques of St. Ignatius, taught weekly.  At the group meetings, we would share the Graces that God had given us during week of contemplation, and learn the next lesson – God’s Divine Presence through the scriptures.

All the blessings and graces happened very unexpectedly for me.  While reading the assigned scriptures, listening and talking about the scriptures, I began to feel this wonderful Presence. (A presence you feel when you go to Eucharistic Adoration or receive Holy Communion).  My heart was filled with warmth and love.  God’s Words had become alive for me in my heart.

With this gift from God being given to me, I started to long for more and more of His Presence.  So I began attending Daily Mass, so that I could contemplate the scripture verses of the day (using the Lightworks methods of St. Ignatius) and listen to each of the Father’s talks about the daily readings.

I want to share with you my “Lightworks Session 3 experience” with you.  We were praying to know the Spirit of Life working in the world and in each of us.  While contemplating our assignment,  Isaiah 40: 1-11 in Lightworks manual & various translations in the online Bible Gateway, I realized that the 1599 Geneva Bible translation, was the libretto for Handel’s Messiah, Part 1,which had been part of my musical studies in my youth.  I went online & found the musical version of the Messiah. As I listened to the musical version of our Lightworks assignment, my heart began to open up in a way, I find hard to explain.  The awesome beauty of the music coupled with God’s Words was so amazing!  I got totally lost in the music and in God’s Words.  I found myself playing The Messiah constantly during the entire week, when the music wasn’t playing; the songs were playing in my head, day and night, at home, at work and in the car!  I started to realize that Jesus was teaching me in a personal way the words of Isaiah 40: “the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed to me and to all peoples. All people including myself shall see God’s Love & Glory.  The mouth of God, speaks God’s Words!” God’s Love & Glory is in His Words.

My contemplative prayer experience began to shift from my head to my heart.  I began to discover that God’s love is ever present in my heart. And God’s love is ever present in all hearts and in all creation!  God’s love is all around me. God’s love is in everything.

As we were learning and practicing the wonderful techniques of St. Ignatius, my love experience of Jesus in my heart was deepening.  The contemplations opened my heart’s awareness of Jesus’s love in each moment.  I could hardly wait for the group meetings to share God’s graces.   I looked forward to the group’s sharing and the prayer insights of each participant.

As the weeks progressed, the group’s sharing took on a totally new dimension.  It was as though God’s love in my heart was being amplified through God’s love in everyone else’s heart. Their sharing’s made my heart burn with God’s love. It is hard to describe my group experience. Everything was alive with the fire of God’s love during our group prayer sessions.  My heart, my eyes, my ears and my breath were alive with God’s loving presence.

Following the 2014 Lightworks retreat, I reaped many, many graces: Discovering that Jesus is alive in His Word, that it is Jesus who lives in my heart, discovering how to rest in my heart with the words of Jesus AND experience His Divine Presence during contemplation practices.

After the 2014 Lightworks Retreat, I continued participating in Lightworks 2015, and 2016.  The love experience of Jesus in my heart became stronger and more profound.   Each year, while the material in the manual remained the same, my gifts from Jesus were different.  Like peeling back the layers of an onion, my heart “saw” and “heard” His Words on a new and deeper level.  I found myself falling deeper and deeper in Love with Jesus and falling deeply in Love with my Catholic Faith.

The recognition that it is truly possible to (Philippians 2:5) “let the same mind is in you, that was in Christ Jesus” is incredibly healing.  We do not have to know how to pray, but the Holy Spirit prays within us. (Romans 8:26). We just have to sit with His Word, pray on His Word. Treasuring the presence of His Holy Spirit in our heart.  Sitting in the silence of my heart, praying on His Words, I can go into the depths of my heart. And in my Heart, I find this incredible Peace and Healing Love of Jesus Christ. Jesus share with me your love and blessings- breathing in your Grace, Breathing out your Grace…

In closing, I want to share another wonderful healing which I received as a result of the Lightworks retreat in 2014.  This healing was truly a gift from Jesus to me. I woke up one morning right after the first year.  I realized how happy I was to have come back Home to the Catholic Church. All the burdensome years of doubts & inner conflicts had dissolved into Jesus Christ’s fire of love!  Now, every day, I wonder, how did I ever live this life without my Catholic Faith nourishing me? Strengthening me? And guiding me with the Joy of Jesus?

Today, I am filled with so much gratefulness. I have seen so many participants transform themselves and their lives as a result of the Lightworks Journey. A group Journey learning to Love with Jesus. A Journey where the group realizes, God’s love has always been present.  Jesus is always waiting for us to open up our hearts and take the Journey with HIM.  A personal and group Journey traveling with Jesus who is filling our hearts with the Holy Spirit and the fire of God’s love.  With gratefulness, I invite you to come on the Lightworks Retreat 2017.  Come and discover the wonderful surprises that Jesus has in store for you contemplating His Word. Share in this incredible opportunity to be with God in the silence of your heart, in the presence of Jesus and His Word.  Come on a journey from your head to your heart in prayer, using the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius.  God Bless you. Hope to see you all next year!

Thanks to all the wonderful people who made this Lightworks program possible: Father Andrew Fisher, pastor of St. Ambrose Parish, Corinne Monogue of the Office of Multicultural Ministries of the Diocese of Arlington, Father Joseph Tetlow, S.J., Liem T. Le of the Lightworks Ministry of the Christian Life Community in the USA, and Father Stefan StarzynskI who joined the Lightworks Journey 2016 as a participant in St Ambrose.