1. The monthly Meeting
- to experience special times of prayer together and of sharing ;
- to help one another effectively in journeying to the Lord and bearing witness to Him.
In the life of every Christian community one can distinguish three phases :
- The community turns, with Christ, to the Father to welcome His love ;
- The community shares this love in Christ: “The whole group of believers were of one heart and one soul” ;
- The community, moved by the Spirit of Christ, sends its members to reveal this love to the World.
No couple joins a team under pressure and none is forced to remain. But those who do stay are asked to be loyal: to the other couples, to the practise of mutual support and to the formative ways of the Movement, as well being active in the Movement and remaining faithful to the Spirit.
The team meeting
The team meeting is the high point of the life of this little community.
It is a special time of sharing between the team members in an atmosphere of fraternal love. True mutual love is demanding and cannot result from a passive attitude. Sharing requires a climate of mutual trust and discretion from each member of the team.
The team meets once a month at the home of one of the couples. It is very important for all the members of the team to be present in order to promote harmony and preserve the unity of the team.
There are five parts to the meeting and sufficient time must be allotted to each:
- the meal,
- general sharing,
- communal prayer,
- sharing on the endeavours,
- exchange of views on the study topic.
This sequence may change according to the needs of the team.
They broke bread from house to house and took their meal with gladness and simplicity of heart. (Ac 2: 46)
The meeting normally begins with a meal. It is important that it should be simple.
Each couple may bring a plate of food so that everyone takes part and those who may have little time or modest means may feel at ease.
Above all, have unfailing love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Pet 4: 8)
The monthly meeting is a special time of mutual help. The general sharing may begin during the meal. It is a time when couples talk about important events that have happened since the last meeting. They share the concerns of their daily life, their commitments to the Church, their joys, their hopes and their worries. It is only by listening attentively to each person in turn that true mutual love can grow. This general sharing reflects the current state of life of the team members gathered together.
He told them a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. (Lk 18: 1)
“Prayer is the personal dialogue with God of the individual and of the community.” John Paul II – Agenda For The Third Millennium.
Prayer is an essential element of the life of each team. It is the centre and summit of the meeting and may occasionally take the form of a celebration of the Eucharist (after having asked for permission, if it is necessary).
The prayer begins by reading aloud slowly a text from Scriptures followed by a time of silence to welcome the Word of the Lord and meditate on it. Each member then expresses their thoughts on the text in the form of a shared prayer. It is God who speaks to us through the voice of our brothers and sisters. The silence after each moment of meditation is itself a prayer. In this way, we listen to the Word within and through the small “church” which the team forms.
The Team members then offer their prayers of intention so that everyone can join them, in order to give thanks, to request enlightenment, strength, forgiveness or intercession.
The time of prayer ends with a liturgical prayer, the Our Father, the Magnificat, or a hymn, etc.
Sharing on the endeavours
Let your love for each other be real and from the heart. (1 Pet 1: 22)
This sharing is a special time of spiritual mutual help. Assuming responsibility for one another in this way entails three possible elements :
- a persevering search for the will of God,
- a search for truth about oneself,
- the experience of sharing and of communion.
Each team member is invited to share their experience of the Endeavours during the past month.
The sharing on the Endeavours is not an examination of conscience, nor a statement of successes and failures, but a review of the efforts necessary to advance in one’s spiritual life.
Each member of a team is at a different stage of their spiritual life and it evolves at their own pace. It is essential to accept this diversity so that everyone is free to share openly and in confidence. Each member’s experience, progress or difficulties can help others to follow their own faith journey.
The sharing on the Endeavours follows the communal prayer and it benefits from the atmosphere that prayer has created.
Exchange of views on the study topic
It is essential for every Christian couple to strengthen and deepen their knowledge of the faith. This is why the study topic is so important.
Team life is not confined to the monthly meeting. The prayer, in union with the other members of the team and for their intentions, the dialogue, the sharing and mutual help (spiritual and material) continues throughout the month, according to the arrangements of each team. It is the role of the Responsible Couple to ensure this continuation of team life.
It is important that the children of the team also benefit from the deep friendship that is a characteristic of a team of Our Lady and, though not part of the monthly meeting, they feel linked to the team as one big family.
Testimonials on Team Life
“Our Team has been together for more than 30 years. The most recent couple joined us 12 years ago and our chaplain just last year. We all feel that the Team meeting is not just one more chore in our very full diaries, but it is a place of necessary rejuvenation.”
Hereafter are some of what Team members expressed at their End-of-Year meeting.
- “The meeting takes place in a friendly climate, even if we all do not share the same ideas all the time. The sharing about the events that are important to us is the moment when we can illuminate our life with the spotlight of faith. “Lord, what are you trying to tell me in such and such event?”
- The meal that we share and the various exchanges mean that we get to know each other better, while the prayer time during the meeting also helps this as well as visibly demonstrating and building the Team as a community.
- Since it is always a difficult balancing act to give equal time to the different parts of the meeting, our Team meeting has become much better since everyone decided to make the effort to prepare beforehand and to listen more attentively during the Sharing and Pooling, thus allowing everyone to express what was important to them since the previous meeting.
“I am happy with the way everyone participates so truthful at the prayer moment with the Team. This enriches my personal prayer, particularly the sharing of intentions that everyone entrusts to the Team.”
- We prefer to put the Sharing part of the meeting before the Prayer part because we need a ‘decompression chamber’ before the meeting. After the silence and meditative nature of the Prayer moment, the Pooling about the Endeavours, which is the barometer of everyone’s spiritual life, naturally finds its place. When we dodge it, something important is missing. At the moment, it seems to us that in order to better mutual help each other, we ought to be more dynamic and interactive. The goal is to encourage while at the same time respecting everyone’s own particular rhythm.
- Sometimes it is better to deal with the subject topic at the beginning of the meeting, because otherwise the exchanges are constrained by time. At 11pm, the Holy Spirit has gone to bed and this is when the chatty ones and philosophers really get going!
- Furthermore, in order for Team life to be more developed and not just be limited to the meeting, for there to be more connection and fraternity between Team members, be creative: organise a coffee morning, go to the cinema together, go hill walking….”
Team members’ testimonials
2. The Endeavours
To pursue a direction of spiritual and human growth involves making a logical plan and giving oneself the means to follow it faithfully.
“Experience shows that, without precise points of application, guidelines are liable to remain a dead letter”. What is a Team of Our Lady ?
Inspired by monastic life, where the ‘rule’ guides the spiritual and communal life for centuries, the Teams of Our Lady chose six ‘precise points of application’ to be accomplished regularly either personally or in the couple : the Endeavours .
The Endeavours are an essential characteristic of the Movement. They are not tasks to be accomplished, but inner attitudes that have to be awakened and absorbed in order to lead to a new way of life. They are a discipline that helps Teams couples apply the Gospel in their daily life. Being committed to these six endeavours will change the couple little by little, developing a married spirituality, which will draw them closer to God, to their spouse and to others.
Members freely make it an ‘obligation’ on themselves to strive to practise the endeavours.
The decision to make the endeavours part of one’s life comes from the heart and is a specific effort of will.
Through the effort that is required by each endeavour, couples become more open to the Holy Spirit who acts within them and makes them grow.
The endeavours demand, of each spouse and also of the couple, a commitment, which is sometimes difficult to keep. They are not imposed on the members; it is the members who voluntarily commit themselves to the practise of them. Alone, one might be tempted to give up the effort; this is why each person calls on the help and the encouragement of their spouse and of their team.
The endeavours are an invitation to :
– listen regularly to the “Word of God”,
– turn to God daily in silent prayer: “personal prayer”,
– pray together daily as a couple: “conjugal prayer”, and if possible with the children: “family prayer”,
– make time each month for true dialogue together: the “sit-down”,
– choose some specific points of personal effort: the “rule of life”,
– make an annual “retreat”.
LISTENING TO THE WORD OF GOD – to “listen” regularly to the Word
“For the Word of God is living and active” (He 4: 12)
The regular reading of the Word allows team members, not only to know God, but especially to root themselves more deeply into the Gospel. It makes each spouse enter into direct contact with the person of Christ. This personal contact is the pillar of any spiritual life “For ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” (St Jerome)
This is why the Teams of Our Lady invites each member to read the Word of God daily, making time to read a passage of the Bible, especially the Gospels, and meditating on it in silence in order to understand better what God is saying to us through Scripture.
PERSONAL PRAYER – to turn to God daily in silent prayer
“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Col 4: 2)
We are called to make time for the Lord, for an intimate moment with Him, and to live in His presence.
“Daily prayer develops in us the ability to listen to God. It means making time to be alone with God who loves us. It is a time of silent ‘heart to heart’ listening to God, of discovery and of welcoming God’s plan for us.
“Words in contemplative prayer are not speeches; they are like kindling that feeds the fire of love”. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2717)
CONJUGAL PRAYER – to pray together daily, husband and wife, and if possible, as a family “I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one” (Jn 17: 23)
Christ is present in a very special way when the couple prays together. Not only do they renew their “I will” to God, but they achieve a depth of oneness which comes only from the union of hearts and minds in the sacrament of marriage.
Conjugal prayer becomes the common expression of two individual prayers and should come naturally from a life shared together. If the husband and wife each have their own style of prayer, then it is important that they try to develop a common way of praying, in order to discover and experience a new dimension to their married life.
The Magnificat, the common prayer of the Teams of Our Lady, may be part of this daily prayer.
When there are children, it is important to set aside a special time for family prayer.
The home is the first place of learning for children. It is for the parents to pass on the faith to them and to make the home a place where they feel at ease with prayer.
THE “SIT-DOWN” – to make time each month for dialogue between the couple
“Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 2: 21)
The Sit-down helps us to reveal ourselves gradually to our spouse.
It is a time for the husband and wife to speak together calmly and in truth in the presence of the Lord. This time for the couple to express their feelings and thoughts, results in better knowledge of each other and in mutual help. It is an opportunity to review the past, to analyse married and family life, to make plans for the future and to speak of the ideal that they have for their life.
The Sit-down prevents routine setting into married life and keeps their love and their marriage, young and alive. Its value is appreciated by all the couples who practise it.
They find in this coming together the opportunity to love each other more.
It is desirable to begin the Sit-down with a time of prayer or of silence in order to become aware of the presence of God. The silence deepens the thoughts that each one has of the other, bringing them closer to God and creates an atmosphere suitable for sharing.
THE RULE OF LIFE – to choose some personal endeavours
“Let every one see that you are interested only in the highest ideals” (Rom 12: 17)
The Rule of Life consists of one or more points on which each spouse decides to concentrate their efforts, so that they can follow their chosen path of growth and respond with joy to God’s call to love.
The Rule of Life helps the spouses to adhere more personally and more concretely to God’s plan for the person and for the couple. It is one or more practical steps that one takes in order to progress along the path of spiritual and human growth. It is definitely not a case of multiplying resolutions but of reinforcing little by little, with perseverance, some of our weak points or improving some of our qualities.
The progress of our spiritual life is not along a continuous path: we must constantly start again. That is why it is necessary to review our Rule of Life regularly.
THE ANNUAL RETREAT – to make a retreat every year
“You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while” (Mk 6: 31).
Team members are encouraged to make sufficient time each year for a retreat, as couples if possible, so that they can reflect on life in the presence of the Lord.
The retreat is a special time to stop, to listen and to pray. It is an opportunity to be recharged spiritually. It is also a special time for an examination of self and of one’s life in general – particularly the direction of one’s growth.
Couples of the Teams are encouraged to take advantage of the special atmosphere of a retreat to renew themselves. They are invited to leave their home and place of work in order to listen to God and to discern His plan for them as a couple.
3. Fraternity in the Team
Hand in Hand
“Your husband is not well, I’m afraid. He needs to go to hospital as quickly as possible,” the radiologist exclaimed. I had thought as much, but the coup de grace was delivered when the lung specialist in the casualty department thought it necessary to add, “He has several tumours and there’s no way we can operate !”
A new journey was beginning for me, was it the last one ?
“These words had chilled my wife and I, just like a sword piercing us both simultaneously. If only they had been able to put a name to this sickness that had invaded me. A tunnel opened before us. Would we know how to overcome this ordeal ? Thirty-six years of married life flashed by in an instant, but how many more months were left ? Our priority was to pray. Conjugal prayer that used to be so difficult between us before became the cement in our relationship.
I didn’t want to see anyone because I was afraid that my face, disfigured by the sickness, would cause anguish and I didn’t want their compassion. What person, who is well, has any idea of what suffering is? Their prayers comforted me and their silence did not mean that they were indifferent. They knew me well and respected my self-imposed solitude. My wife found solace and support in our Team of Our Lady. Thirty years with practically the same team members from the start creates strong links and the sharing, my wife told me, was a moment of fraternity that had never before been experienced like that in the Team. Holed up at home, I was delighted. Later I was able to be successfully operated upon and followed up by a treatment that worked.
Two months of true happiness for us! Then my wife got leukaemia. Her first cry was to rail against the heavens for such injustice! From her sterile room, we continued our conjugal prayer and shared our suffering… and our hopes. We meditated on the word of God and opened our home to all our friends, who came by to show their affection. A smile, a caress, a drawing are often the only way to tell the person who is suffering how much you are thinking about them. The team members too rose to the challenge.
I never missed a team meeting, just because I knew that I would find rest for my soul there.
When the sickness advanced and palliative care was the last earthly home for my wife, I remember saying to the husbands at a team meeting, “Don’t wait until it’s too late to say ‘I love you’ to your wife.”
Time passed. My wife joined her heavenly Father. I remained attached to the Teams of Our Lady, because after my wife’s death, I didn’t want to go through a second ‘good-bye.’ One day I was asked to be the Liaison person between the movement and various teams. I agreed and I must say that I receive a hundredfold.”