Our community of Petrovče was invited by the Dominican fathers mainly to receive the pilgrims who come from far and near. Most of them arrive in groups and others came as individuals. But apart from this apostolate we are mainly dedicated in the teaching of catechism in different parishes. We also receive invitations to give talks and also teach what we know here as praying with the body.
I got inspired to praying with the body after meditating on the nine ways of prayers of Saint Dominic. Owing to the fact that I love music and I like to listen to the meaning of what a song is trying to communicate to me even if it is a secular song. I felt the nine ways of prayers of Saint Dominic can be interpreted through music.
From then, I started meditating on the fact that Saint Dominic's teaching was to preach the word not only by words but also by living and action (incarnation of the word just like Christ). So to me a song does not have to just be listened to, but has to be incarnated and interpreted. For this reason I started trying to interprete the music I listen to with gestures and movement of the hands, head, legs etc.
I feel a great joy whenever I have workshop with groups and individuals. I believe that Praying with the body is a good way of expressing what you find difficult to express with words. As psychologists themselves would confirm, the body language determines what a person is living inside. In the bible we read 'Show me your faith by words and I will show you mine by action'.
Anyway, my intention is not just to talk about this but rather about how I came to understand the importance of music.
Often before starting my workshop on dance, I made the people to lay down or take a comfortable position, turn on a slow meditative music and give them a relaxing exercise for the whole body to relieve tension from the muscles.
I observed that after the musical relaxation, people felt great relief.
With Sr. Jamila we noticed that since the catechism is always after school hours and our children are already so tired and very hyper we had to be able to help them (and ourselves too). So we came up with the idea that we can try to dedicate five minutes to musical relaxation.
At the beginning of the catechism year, we took our cd-player and an instrumental meditative music. We made the children sit straight, with their backs on their chairs, hands on their laps and eyes closed. Our voices soft and movements totally quiet, music was low to create an environment of silence in order to hear the music playing.
As the music came up, they knew they had to be silent so they can hear it. And with a soft voice one of us invited them to relax their heads, then eyes, ears, mouth, legs... This was done by calling the parts of the body one after the other. Even our thoughts were invited to be calm and relaxed. At the end of this exercise, we invited them first to send a message or a positive wish to someone who has not been so nice to them, and then a positive wish to someone they love. Then we concluded with two or more of the classical traditional prayers (Our father, Hail Mary..)
In one of the parishes we teach catechism, a group of children usually arrive on time while others come in late and often angry with their teacher for insisting all the children tidied up before they were allowed to leave therefore causing them to arrive late for catechism. I invited them to do our usual relaxation and meditative exercise. Which they did so perfectly. At the end I invited them to send a beautiful wish to their teacher telling her they love her.
Some of them woke up and asked, why, almost protesting and refusing. I smiled and encouraged them to do this to relax more. They did. I then explained the importance of forgiveness and reacting positively to what we feel and think unjust. By the next time, the children came 15 minutes before time and said, 'The good we sent to our teacher has made her to be good to us'.
I must say that this exercise has helped the children to be more relaxed, calmer and a little more optimistic in listening. They always demand for the exercise on days it is omitted.
So we can see that music does miracles. If you choose the right ones, it can transform your mood, take you back memory lane, console and calm you. But the wrong ones will agitate you, make you nervous... Music really does miracle!
The Dominican sisters in Slovenia are very few compared to the population of people here, so we try to preach the Word first and foremost through fervent prayers. We are also conscious of the fact that we have given our lives to God to become instruments of salvation for every man. So we often pray novenas and night vigils bringing the problems of the world, the intentions of those who ask and write us, those related to us in anyway, the departed souls, and many other intentions to God.
We teach catechism in our parish and in three other parishes of our diocese. We assist the catechists in the lower classes (pry. 1-3). We also like to be present at bible studies of the parish, assist in the children choir, participate in the adult choir, help in the Caritas and ensuring the environment of the catechism and of the parish is always perfectly clean. We prepare everything for the mass in the absence of the sacristans and we are always at the disposal of the parish priest, collaborating in mission and any person that needs our attention and help in one way or the other.
Serving the Lord is beautiful! Our unity notwithstanding the diversity in nationality and culture, prayer life, the serenity we have among ourselves, the smile we try to transmit to all, the love we share among us, are all ways we want to continue to preach the word and the kingdom of God in this beautiful land.
God bless our mission!
Sr Felicitas (Petrovče, Slovenija) - 27th January 2017