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The desire and practice of praying that create community

 Il desiderio e la pratica di pregare che creano  una comunità    DCM-011
02 December 2023

“I was entrusted to Maria; I am the carter's wife. She is almost a baby, she is tender to me. She is so pale; she does not want to eat. I cover her with my shawl. Maybe she is sick. Alternatively, maybe not, because when we stop she comes down and plays with the children.

-Are you all right, Maria?

-I feel a little nauseous. At night I look at the stars and dream: what will the baby be like?”

So begins one of the stories that form the core of Vangelo a cento voci [Gospel in a Hundred Voices], written by Guia Sambonet and published by Àncora. It reads as a dialogue between two ordinary women.

Instead, one of them is Mary of Nazareth, who is chosen to carry the child of God. She is on her way to tell her cousin Elizabeth, who is also pregnant, the incredible news. Confident that she will understand.

Claudia, who is the author of the short text on the Visitation, is one of the book's “hundred voices.” She is part of the community created for the purpose of praying following the method of imaginative contemplation of Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises, a method of prayer that combines emotions and intellect. When Covid overwhelmed the group in 2021, the sharing of the texts that were the result of praying together remotely and then individually took place mostly in writing.

A collection of short stories of surprising poetic quality has been forming.

However, there is more to the book than just that. Guia Sambonet, a theologian, spiritual guide and for ten years head of the School of Prayer at the San Fedele Center in Milan, illustrates all the steps of a “method within a method” that helps people become “contemplatives in relationship”, in dialogue with God and in dialogue with each other.

In addition to Ignatian spirituality, the techniques adopted are informed by techniques from other Christian and Eastern meditative traditions. Each encounter is then accompanied by a selection of images: from third-century catacomb paintings to Renaissance masterpieces, Monet's quasi-abstract impressionism, and contemporary works.

The book, Guia Sambonet summarizes, tells the stories of what happens “when the desire and practice of praying together come to create a community. Thanks to sharing, people learn to know and esteem each other thoroughly. They bring all their sensitivities and professional skills into play. Silences included.

Praying with the Gospels in such an atmosphere, she continues, little by little becomes ‘embodied life’; spiritual experience is transformed into apostolate that is courageous, creative and open to dialogue with whoever God will place on our path”.

by Federica Re David