Prayer and Spirituality Student Seminar
The Prayer and Spirituality assignment for Fourth Academic students aimed to combine the students’ prayer experiences and spiritual journey with their other academic and theological studies. Each student was asked to express how her Sacred Heart education has shaped her over the years.
Please enjoy a few selections from our seniors.
Holding My Stories
For my Integration Paper I choose to draw a picture of my hands joined in prayer. I depicted my hands in a snapshot moment of time. As I approach the end of my time here at Stone Ridge, all of my memories, lessons learned, and experiences combine and are reflected in who I am today. Based on Henri Nouwen’s quote “that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure” out of his novel Way of the Heart I choose to show a moment of prayer and reflection1. Prayer is extremely personal and I like to focus on taking that time to look inwards, because I believe that only through examination of my actions and works can I learn how to grow. It is that silence and solitude found in meditation that has grounded me and shaped me as a person. My Stone Ridge education has guided me in my faith and nourished and encouraged me to be the best that I can be. I included how pertinent and important Stone Ridge has been in forming me by drawing my class ring on my left hand. At the bottom of the hands I drew cuffs of my shirt, in which I wrote key words that have special meaning to me such as “love,” “hope,” and “purpose.” All of these key words I thought were important to incorporate after reading Anne Carr’s Transforming Grace: Christian Tradition and Women’s Experience.2 In her Christian Feminist Spirituality chapter Carr defines spirituality “as broader than a theology or set of values precisely because it is so all-encompassing and pervasive.” I agree that spirituality is all encompassing. The jumble of words at the bottom mimic how there are so many different components that make me who I am. In conclusion Henri Nouwen’s quote “we speak about the events of the world, but how often do we really change them for the better?” motivates me to take action.3 As I go out into the world I am grounded in the knowledge that I am strong enough to take on whatever challenges may arise and that through my spirituality and faith I can truly make a difference in the world.
 Nouwen, Henri. The Way of the Heart. Chicago: Ballantine Books,.
 Carr, Anne. Transforming Grace: Christian Tradition and Women’s Experience. Chicago: 1988.
 Nouwen, Henri. The Way of the Heart. Chicago: Ballantine Books ,
This is Who I Am
Who am I?
What on earth am I here for?
My purpose remains unknown
My path remains un-walked
There stands a garden
Filled with trees and fruits galore
I wish I could walk in this garden forevermore
My time has come to leave this place
My journey is ending at a steady pace
I start walking towards
The trees, that stand 5 pillars strong
Each one has taught me right from wrong
Tree One representative of me
And all that I have come to see
I now choose to be personally and actively involved
Trusting that with faith and knowledge any problem can be solved
Tree Three is all about community
Where would I be?
Had I not learned that everything is not all about me
There is a whole world out there
Waiting for someone to care
Crossing the bridge to the fountain
I reflect on all the past mountains
And obstacles I faced before
And realize these events have shaped my core
A model of kinship1 has become my strength
I am willing to work to such great lengths
So that pain and suffering can be relieved
And greatness achieved
“Some are born great
Some achieve greatness
And some have greatness thrust upon them”2
But greatness has to do with gratitude3
The question of motivation
Translates to our true aspiration
The reason behind the act
Good and bad is more important than the fact
Mellowness of heart 4
Is the place to start?
To do wrong with good reason
May just as well be treason?
For one cannot justify
True good reasons why
“To think of yourself less
Rather than thinking less of yourself”5
Is the ultimate goal for a spiritual state of mind6
The garden seems in an everlasting state
But it is ever changing reflecting ones fate
It grows and shrinks with time
Because life happens no reason no rhyme
The seasons will change
However the garden remains
It will always be
A perfect reflection of me
Who am I?
What on earth am I here for?
My purpose remains unknown
My path is just beginning
 Denis Edwards, Ecology at the heart of faith (Maryknoll, New York:
Orbis Books, n.d.), page 26
 William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night (II, v, 156-159)
 The Holy Longing (n.p., n.d.),
 The Holy Longing (n.p., n.d.), page 57
 Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life: What On Earth Am I Here For?
(Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, n.d.), page 148
 Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life: What On Earth Am I Here For?
(Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, n.d.)
Color Outside of the Lines
For my integration project, I chose to develop my theme through artwork. Throughout my Prayer and Spirituality course this year, I have learned that in terms of finding and determining our moral selves, we must learn to color outside of the lines. Catherine Baxter, RSCJ, defines spirituality as a “the lens through which we see meaning and purpose in life, the ground on which each one of us stands and faces outward to the world and inward to the self.” It was from this reading that I decided to depict my stance on spirituality through the most personal lens, something I like to call a Brain Map. My Brain Map illustrates the journey I’ve embarked on thus far this year. It begins with my obsession with the college application process which detracted heavily from my relationship with God. Small things are included along the way such as my involvement in soccer, basketball, and track. As the path progresses, I decided to illustrate the hardships of this year (i.e. slipping grades, lack of motivation, general anxiety). While all of the stress of my schedule was eating away at my morale, I remembered something I had learned from my spiritual reading book. Henri Nouwen’s The Way of the Heart is a spiritual reflection that delves into the inner workings of silence as facilitator for a greater prayer experience. Silence was exactly what I needed during such a chaotic time. In his book, Nouwen explains that “silence makes us pilgrims”(34); something that coalesces with the Sacred Heart goal V – personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom. In this way, I like to think of my Brain Map as a visual manifestation of my pilgrimage. I personally found concordance in the appreciation for silence due to Stone Ridge’s newly instated “espacio”; however, silent meditation is something easier said than done. So I began to pray: something I had not done in a very long time. I prayed for the courage and the strength to persist despite my seemingly bleak circumstances, for the endurance to continue on through hardship and struggle. I learned another way of coping with my struggles through the teachings of Ignatian Spirituality. “Suscipe” taught me to offer up my struggles to God as gift. Coupled together with espacio, hope then rose – like a silent wave – waiting to crash over me. Once I opened the pathway for communication between God and myself, I was thus able to see the bigger picture. Things started falling into perspective, fitting together like pieces of a puzzle. All the muddled images of my life – when viewed at through a narrow lens – are nothing but a bunch of cramped nonsense; however, when viewed at through a tempered and spiritually encouraged lens, the bigger picture transforms into a beautiful vision. I plan and pray for the knowledge to always have to courage to color outside of the lines: to not accept complacency and continue to push myself in terms of spiritual limitations.
Recognizing the Divine Mark
“If I do not know in my bones that God loves me with an everlasting love, I will not dare to open myself to his gaze and see me as He sees me.”1 Without my Stone Ridge education, I would never have been able to understand the real meaning of these words. My classmates and teachers at school have taught me much more than just academics. At Stone Ridge, I have learned to see the love of God reflected in each person. Although it can be difficult, I have learned that the struggle to find God in every human being is absolutely critical to progress, justice, and peace. I have also learned that in order to find God in others, it is first necessary to find God within oneself.
When I entered Stone Ridge as a five-year-old, I was painfully shy and disliked having to talk to people. I preferred listening to stories and watching movies about Disney princesses. During class, I would immerse myself in daydreams to escape from the teasing of one of my peers. My teacher, Mrs. Keegan, was one of the first teachers to form my perception of spirituality. Despite the tough time I was having adjusting to my new school, I always felt calmed by her explanations of the Bible stories. Jesus and Mary had always seemed completely inaccessible to me, but she made God seem so caring and close. My bedtime prayers began to feel more like a conversation with a friend. The fact that an adult told me that God cared about my problems completely changed my view of religion. Today, I often struggle to reconcile how God could truly care about the problems of one insignificant person compared to the needs of seven billion other people.
When confronted with these doubts, it always re-ignites my faith to consider the different liturgical experiences I have had at Stone Ridge. During every liturgy that I can remember, there has always been an emphasis on personal prayer and reflection on the personal message God has for you. During my last few years in the Upper School, I have benefitted enormously from the quiet reflection time provided in the mornings. It still amazes me how God can simultaneously care for each person in the world, but during these moments of quiet I remember that my experiences with God are not something that I can control. Because God exists in a realm which is completely outside of my understanding and control, I will never be able to understand the mechanics of His omniscience. I will never be able to “master”2 prayer or understand the secrets of God. However, a relationship with God is still necessary and very worthwhile.
My experiences in the Social Action program only solidified my wonder at the incomprehensible love of God for every human person. I spent every other Wednesday working with special-needs children who struggled with autism, Down Syndrome, and limited mobility. Whenever I spend time with the little boys in Room 3, it is impossible for me to deny that each of those children is unique, wonderful, and loved completely by God. I know that God loves them exactly as they are, with all their limitations and incredible gifts and insights. I can honestly say that they are the most genuine, hilarious, sweet individuals that I have ever had the privilege to meet. Knowing them has reinforced beyond a shadow of a doubt that God really does know and care for each one of us. Whenever I spend time in Room 3, I am reminded of the writing of Lynne Lieux, RSCJ. Sister Lieux insists that St. Madeleine Sophie’s “vertical relationship with God” influenced every other “horizontal” relationship in her life.3 For me, God’s love for the boys in Room 3, as well as their unquestioning acceptance of the love of their Creator, inspired me to try and find the imprint of God in every person. It was very easy to love the sweet boys in my classroom at Duckworth, but it took much more determination to love those who had hurt me. I am still working on trying to see the face of Jesus in everyone. Regardless, going to Duckworth has allowed me to experience a whole new level of love. The children I see on Social Action Wednesdays treat everyone the same. They see no differences of class, religion, or race. They simply love everyone because they are human, and they instinctively know that all humans are loved by God.
Barbara Bowe, RSCJ, uses the prophet Hosea as an example of God’s revelation through our own life stories. Just as Hosea learned about God’s inexhaustible compassion through his difficult marriage, a core tenet of the Sacred Heart education is finding God in the midst of everyday life.4 I have been so blessed that my Sacred Heart education has allowed me to encounter so many excellent examples of God’s unique and overpowering love for every individual person. Because we are human, and made in the image and likeness of God, each of us provides a unique window into the reality of the Divine. The only proof we need that God loves us is our own bodies! Not only do we look like God, we can also participate in the act of creation! As William A. Barry, S.J., so brilliantly wrote, all of us are capable of a personal relationship with God. The evidence of this “everlasting love” can be found in our very bones: our own humanity. Armed with this evidence, I am learning to view others, and myself, through God’s loving gaze.
Although my journey through the years at Stone Ridge has certainly not always been easy, I would not change a single moment of journey. Learning to view the world through the eyes of God, the real mark of a Child of the Sacred Heart, is never easy. However, I now that my fellow Sacred Heart sisters and I will never give up. We will keep pushing society as well as ourselves until each person is able to recognize the Divine mark on all human life. Only then will prayer and spirituality have any true meaning.
Barry, William A., S.J. Paying Attention to God: Discernment in Prayer. Ave Maria Press, January 1, 1990. Print.
Lieux, Lynne, RSCJ. Saintes Savantes: Religious of the Sacred Heart in Higher Education. Print.
Bowe, Barbara, RSCJ. Reflections on Contemplation and the Prophetic Dimension of Our Lives. Print.
Simple Prayer. Print.
 Barry, William A., S.J. Paying Attention to God: Discernment in Prayer. Ave Maria Press, January 1, 1990. Print.
 Simple Prayer. 7. Print.
 Lieux, Lynne, RSCJ. Saintes Savantes: Religious of the Sacred Heart in Higher Education. Print.
 Bowe, Barbara, RSCJ. Reflections on Contemplation and the Prophetic Dimension of Our Lives. Print.
Narrative to the musical piece
Click the arrow above to listen to the original piano composition by Vicky and Kathy, while you read their narrative explaining their musical piece.
The clock chimes…the face reads 8:00…and the beginning of a spiritual journey for two girls begins with uncertainty. They are about to understand, learn and embody the idea of being a child of the Sacred Heart. The opening notes of the song symbolize their experience; the scale ranging from low to high notes manifests their confusion. This confusion clouds their heads; the girls are unsure of whether the experience they are about to face is a welcoming or an unpleasant one. The girls quickly realize the Sacred Heart environment they are in is a warm and inviting place…as the sweet melodic notes after the opening portray their mood. The girls are beginning to gain confidence, represented by the song’s quickening pace. The pristine clarity of each high note shows the beginning of understanding what it means to be a child of the Sacred Heart. The light-hearted right hand notes blend in with the soft harmony of the left hand, coalescing together to form a beautiful melody that portrays the beginning of understanding.
The refrain of the song symbolizes the learning process; this musical section repeats in a slight variation, which resembles gaining more knowledge while learning about the same topic. Their journey shows that “It is no easy task to walk this earth, and find peace.”1 Their journey is filled with struggle and frustrations. The notes are more puissant in the refrain than in the introduction, showing that the deep fear the two girls had begun with is slowly disappearing. The range then settles down into mid-range conveying the notion that the girls are able to become comfortable in the Sacred Heart environment. The mid-range octave then rises slightly to indicate the girls’ increasing excitement as they proceed on their journey. At this point, the journey begins to split for the two girls as they begin to conquer their own personal challenges. The playful and carefree tone of the melody captures the spirit of the first girl’s journey. The vibrant trills represent the risks that she encounters as she learns to cope with the struggle of growing closer to God. In high school, she joined Music Ministry and through that she was able to strengthen her faith. Though the opportunity was meaningful, she still faced many difficulties in balancing schoolwork and her spirituality. She encountered great difficulty, realizing that playing the piano was sometimes too stressful along with her loads of homework. She wanted to please everyone, but she ended up feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. She treated the musical pieces with disdain until she finally began to understand that she was not learning the musical pieces just to please others. But instead she was learning and playing the musical pieces to further solidify her relationship with God. “You must stop being a pleaser and reclaim your identity as a free self”2; now each time her fingers touch the keys of the piano or when she receives a new musical piece, she does not feel overwhelmed. Instead, she feels as if she is one step further in her spiritual journey as well as in her journey to being a true child of the Sacred Heart. Though she did ultimately realize that her faith and spirituality were strengthened due to her participation in Music Ministry, the education she received at Stone Ridge also contributed greatly. The theology courses allowed her to understand what a true relationship with God means. The lowering octave after the light trills demonstrates this inner struggle. The symmetrical chords that climb again show her ultimate triumph as she finds harmony between these two diverse aspects of her life.
In the second girl’s journey, she overcomes different obstacles. The ponderous lower octave combined with the graceful higher octave coalesces to depict the merging of her fear of coming from a non-Catholic background and her developing faith in God. The melody then levels out between the two octaves symbolizing the girl’s newly integrated faith and fear as she begins to see the beauty in the relationship with God. “You cannot do it yourself, every time you try, you are more discouraged. So you must acknowledge your powerlessness.”3 This quote fully depicts the second girl’s journey. She could not go about on a journey to strengthen her faith if she did not understand what the journey is about. She was able to learn what being a child of the Sacred Heart meant through the various theology classes and see what being a child of the Sacred Heart was like through her friends. The low notes resemble the struggles that she faced trying to understand the meaning of a good spiritual relationship with God. The combination of the low and high notes is repeated again in a different variation, showing that the second girl is still learning. The music notes go higher in scale as her knowledge and relationship with God strengthens. She still has much to learn but her fear of not understanding has diminished, and she can now explore her own relationship with God
The refrain repeats once again, but this time it signifies reflection. The two girls each had to overcome her individual struggles. However, after the girls reflected on their own journeys, they are pleased to find how far they had both progressed. Their journey is not complete by any means, and their paths will still be filled with obstacles they need to overcome. They both understand that each problem they solve will further strengthen their relationship with God. The slow pace of the music at the end of the composition and the trickling final notes symbolize their understanding of where their relationship with God stands. Their journey will never be complete as they keep learning everyday; nevertheless, their journey at Stone Ridge has taught them about their own faith and what it means to be a child of the Sacred Heart; but most importantly, Stone Ridge has shaped their relationship with God.
 Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing
(New York, Doubleday, 1999), 1
 Henry J.M. Nouwen, A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom
(New York, Doubleday, 1996), 5.
 Henry J.M. Nouwen, A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom
(New York, Doubleday, 1996), 30.