Centering Prayer and Disabled Adults

Q:  I have a 50 year old sister with Williams’ Syndrome (similar to Downs Syndrome – different chromosome).  My mother and father cared for her, until my mother recently died.  My husband and I are now living with my father (88 years old) and sister and have taken over the care of her. She can read on about a 5th grade level.  She has many challenges, but most of them are emotional.  She has an eating disorder, severe tactile sensitivity, many limitations caused by mental phobias, etc.

I’ve been practicing Centering Prayer for the past 15 years, and would like to share this with her, as I think it could be of immense benefit to her.  She is very resistant to any type of change or new ways of doing things. She has a current prayer life that consists of writing out pages and pages of requests for God’s help for nearly everything in life.  She reads these and also prays verbally before bed. Have you had experience sharing this practice with disabled adults?  I would appreciate any advice you have.  My thoughts were to introduce it to her as something that might help her have more peace and rest.

A:  God bless you for all you have done and for all you hope to do. Consenting to God’s presence and action these many years has been a real source of strength for you and your loved ones. I am not qualified to make any suggestions except in believing that there is a yearning in all of us to be in the oneness of our God. How this is manifested is always a mystery. Your desire to share what you have in whatever way possible is a desire which will manifest the means in time.

Take what she habitually does as prayer and introduce some small addition. It seems to me that her writing of her petitions is her sacred symbol. Could you suggest that she take these pages, hold them to her heart and offer them to God?  This could be her consent to the presence and action of God. Or put them under her pillow at night and let God rest with them. Treat the pages as something that are special and sacred. Or perhaps you can think of some other action what would be a symbol for her. You might consider purchasing from our bookstore the book Journey to the Heart, a guide to Centering Prayer for children, as a tool for your discussion with her. Perhaps you could also pray with her and as she makes her petitions to the Lord, use a vocal affirmation such as “Thy will be done.”

But above all do not underestimate the power of your consenting presence.  It will, so to speak, rub off on her. I have seen it happen in many relationships.

Persevere.  I will bring you and your sister to prayer and ask the CO family to do so as well.

Much love,
Fr. Carl