The Ursuline charism is rooted in and draws its nourishment from prayer. As Jesus taught us, prayer begins with God. It is our face-to-face encounter with the living God. The human being fully alive and in conversation with God most glorifies God.
What words or actions are worthy of God? The prayer of the Church, foremost in the Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass. There we join Jesus in the self-giving of his life, death, and resurrection, by making our own gift of ourselves.Ursulines value the Mass and the sacraments as the best expression of the prayer of the people of God.
Our personal prayer readies us for an encounter with God who loves each of us. We can best understand that unconditional love in observing the love of a mother and father for their child. The God who created the universe in all its wonder and complexity is the God who is named Love.
This love of God for each of us is beyond our understanding, and we can only rely on its reality as Jesus tells us repeatedly in the Gospels.
Ursulines set aside a time and a place each day for encountering God. Our prayer is often expressed in the marvelous words of the psalms or in the words given to us by friends of God and prophets. We make their words our own, on our own behalf or for others.
From these prayers said in quiet devotion, or from reading a passage in the Gospels, we are led into meditation, where our own words from our heart reach out to God or enter into Jesus’ story in the Gospels to be nourished for our life journey.
In prayer, God comes to meet us in a direct encounter in which we feel presence and joy without words, the joy of contemplating God. God we experience as creator, savior, Spirit among us. When we pray, we take with us before God the people and events that are part of our everyday lives. Our families and those we love, those we live and work with, those who need our care, wherever they are – these we take with us as we are present before God in prayer.
The Lord’s prayer taught us that our prayers of petition follow his model: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. For our loved ones, friends, those in need, those who have gone before us into eternal life; for peace, reconciliation, healing, the resolution of family conflict; for a home, a job, deliverance from evil: we express our needs to God and these intentions are with us even without words whenever we stand before God.
Rooted in prayer, the Ursuline charism extends its reach as the vine its branches into generative works, our ministries, where we are situated.
The ideal of Ursuline life, found in Angela Merici, is contemplatives in action.
THE MODEL FOR PRAYER
Any discussion of prayer surely includes the words of Jesus (Matthew 7: 1-15):
“And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray like this:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our debts,
As we also have forgiven our debtors;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”