Some feedback from program participants:
"Wow...that was a beautiful lesson and the links were so very helpful and in depth. I want only to be in union with the Lord and these 12 lessons have been something that I have looked forward to reading and studying with great joy and hope. I will continue to practice discernment using the many helpful words from this lesson."
"I HIGHLY recommend Kathy Marcellino's "Seeking Union With God" Online Personal Spiritual Formation Course. This course has really helped me become a better Christian and become closer to God. I am half way through it and will likely go over all the Lessons again when I am done. I recommend planning on covering one lesson a month, that is about 50 cents a week. There is so much to cover, think through, and understand that you should not try to rush through the lessons. Just let what you read sink in and contemplate what the readings mean to you before you move on." Joan
"I definitely have a different mind set on how I going to pray. Everything has a new meaning for me such as having a stronger conviction on what I say and I how I will be talking with God. I'll be making more time for my prayer life and devoting more time in adoration. Even the Our Father, has such a different impact on me now."
"I have finished up this online class that I HIGHLY recommend. There is so much information there - a wealth - for beginners all the way up to advanced. All I can say is it is a wonderful blessing to have so much information in one spot on the web. You can take the course at your pace and go back after you finish to review which ever parts you are called to. The Holy Spirit handed the keys to Kathryn Marcellino, O.C.D.S., the author of this program and the website." from the epiphanyoffaith.blogspot.com
"The lesson shows each of us how important it is for us to understand God's eternal love for us. He loves us so much He has given us Himself, not just in the person of Jesus Christ, but also in the actions of the Holy Spirit within us... The lesson reminded me of how easy we can allow our lives to drown out the One who wants to love us. Careers, family, mortgages, and bills all pulling us into a vacuum because our perspective is wrong, our #1 priority has been shifted to maybe #5 or #6-that priority being a love relationship with God."
"For me prayer is a surge of the heart, it is a simple look towards Heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy." This quote by St. Therese of Lisieux really spoke to me. It seems to mesh with my most frequent style of prayer. The suggestions you offered for A Simple Rule of Life were extremely helpful. The numerous Scriptures on prayer, especially Christ's own prayer for us brought to me yet again how much He loves us."
"The whole process was very enlightening. I will be implementing all the resources given to me. From the different forms of prayer, the sacred spritures, the practice of the love of Jesus Christ, growing in holiness and virtues... to renewing our minds and hearts and developing our spiritual rule of live."
"This program has helped me grow spiritually by guiding me in focusing on several different aspects of spirituality. It has ben a catalyst to further study in many areas."
© Copyright 2012
"He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross (through him), whether those on earth or those in heaven.
"Seeking Union with God"
Online Personal Spiritual Formation Course
The "Seeking Union with God" Online Spiritual Formation Course is a 12-lesson course with information and practical exercises to help a person develop a closer union and a deeper personal relationship with God (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit). It draws from the teachings of the Bible, Catholic Church and Saints.
(Note: This course is not training on how to be a spiritual director, but it can be a helpful course for spiritual directors because it covers topics relevant to spiritual direction that are not covered in most spiritual direction training programs.)
The program consists of the following 12 lessons that you go through online at your own pace:
1. Discovering Our Ultimate Purpose
2. Our Ultimate Decision
3. An Introduction to Prayer
4. Meditation and Contemplation
5. Problems in Prayer including Distractions and "Unanswered" Prayer
6. Growing in Holiness and Virtue
7. Renewing Our Mind and Heart/The Truth Will Set You Free
8. Developing (or Finetuning) Your Own Spiritual Rule of Life
9. Overview of the Stages of the Spiritual Life
10. Importance of the Mass and Eucharist
11. How to Love God and Our Neighbor
12. Discernment and Various Topics related to Spiritual Direction
Lessons include feedback forms for comments to share with others taking the course with the option of private feedback and questions.
How the Online Spiritual Formation Catholic Classes Work:
The lessons are online and accessed through a web page. Each lesson includes a feedback form with a space to share comments about the lesson with others taking the course. These comments are posted on the website for others taking the course to read and benefit from. Feedback forms also include a space for private comments and questions.
The lessons are designed to be worked through at your own pace. This allows time to reflect on the contents of the lesson, to pray about it, to do the suggested exercises and any additional reading that the lessons inspire in you.
When finished with each lesson, the next lesson is accessed by clicking on a link.
Online Payment: To sign up for the "Seeking Union with God" Online Spiritual Formation Program, click below to access the secure payment page. After sending your payment a page with instructions will come up on your screen. (You also be e-mailed the link to the first lesson within 48 hours.) Bookmark the link to the course or write it down for future reference. The payment is processed through PayPal which is a very secure way to make payments online. It is used by E-bay and other large corporations. You don't need to be a PayPal member to use the button below, and you have the option to click on the "Do not have Paypal" link if you prefer to use your credit card or other payment method. (Do not click on "shipping" as there are no shipping charges.)
Registration Fee: $28. To sign up for the "Seeking Union with God" Online Catholic Spiritual Formation Program, click on the "add to cart" button below, then submit your payment and wait a few seconds online until the course instructions appear. You will also be emailed the same instructions within a day or two. Thank you.
Optional payment by mail for USA residents only (i.e. USA checks only): If you prefer to sign up for the online course by mail, send a check or money order made out for $28.00 to: Abundant Life Publishing, PO Box 3753, Modesto, CA 95352-3753.
Please include a note that says "Catholic Spiritual Formation Program" as well as your name and e-mail address and I will e-mail you a link to the class lessons.
More about the Seeking Union with God Online Spiritual Formation Course: This spiritual formation program gives an overview of the spiritual life with lessons on prayer and spiritual growth. It has teachings for different levels from beginner to advanced taken mainly from the Bible, Church teachings and lives of the Saints. The program was developed by Kathryn Marcellino, a Catholic and lay member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites (OCDS). She is a spiritual direction, has taught formation classes on Carmelite Spirituality, and is author of, How to Pray the Rosary as a Pathway to Contemplation. Her training as a spiritual director includes a 15-month internship in spiritual direction through a joint program sponsored by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Stockton and the Mercy Center in Burlingame, CA. She is also the sponsor and creator of CatholicSpiritualDirection.org website.
Optional Certificate for Completion of Class: Some people have asked if there is a certificate for completion of this class. The answer is "yes" a certificate of completion is available. A downloadable printable certificate with your name on it can be e-mailed to you upon completion of the class and assignments. (Certificate format is a .pdf file.) The requirements for the certificate include reading the lessons and reading assignments, and sending in the assignment feedback form for each class. To obtain the certificate there is an additional $16 fee for going over the lesson assignments and emailing the certificate. Instructions on how to obtain the certificate are in the last lesson. (This program has not been submitted for accreditation, and therefore is not accredited.)
If you are interested in knowing more about the lessons, see the first third of lesson one below as an example:
Lesson #1: Our Ultimate Purpose and Happiness
The purpose of this course is to help us develop our relationship with God and to help us come to the union of love with God that He desires and that we were ultimately created for. The first lesson is to help ensure that we have some foundational elements of Christianity and the spiritual life strongly in place. In this lesson, we will take time to reflect on some attributes of God, whose goodness and greatness we can only begin to fathom while here on earth. Plus we'll examine why we would want to pursue a deeper relationship with Him with the purpose of making a firm commitment to follow God ways.
Let's begin with a prayer that God will guide us as we begin this spiritual formation class:
||Prayer: "Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of thy love. Send forth thy Spirit and they shall be recreated and thou shalt renew the face of the earth.
Let us pray.
O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit hast taught the hearts of the faithful, grant us the help of the same Holy Spirit to be always truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolation, through Christ our Lord. Amen."
Taken from the Carmelite Tertiary Prayers for OCDS members
"Rise up, O Men of God!
Have done with lesser things,
give heart and soul and mind and strength
to serve the King of kings."
Text by William Merrill, 1911. From "Rise Up, O Men of God",
Hymn #176 in "Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours"
To begin, let's take time to reflect on how to obtain our ultimate purpose and happiness.
Whether we realize it or not during our sometimes hectic lives, we were created for a special purpose. Each of us has something unique to accomplish in this life. But all of us have something in common that we were created for which is a loving relationship with God which begins here and continues after our death.
No matter what our own unique talents, interests, job, family or friends, the ultimate purpose, happiness and meaning of our life that we can possibly have, comes from our relationship with God. The things of this earth and our very lives here on earth are passing by day by day and will eventually end. But God and our relationship with Him while beginning in this life continues forever. Since God is the greatest good that exists, our relationship with Him is also the greatest good we can possibly have. Compared to this relationship, nothing else really matters in the long run, so this makes what we do regarding this relationship of utmost importance for us.
This class will focus on attaining our highest good which is this relationship with God our creator.
So what is our ultimate purpose?
In the 1950s when I was a child, we memorized catechism questions and answers as part of our religious training. The old Baltimore Catechism #1 had a question, which was, "Why did God make you?" The answer was, "God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next." This sums up, in a short sentence, the reason for our existence and our ultimate purpose and meaning of our lives. We also learned that in order to love God we must first know Him... and that is part of what we will be doing in this lesson, taking time to get to know more about God.
In the first couple of lessons, we will also take time to examine what place God currently has in our lives with the goal to examine what place God could and should have, and to commit or recommit ourselves to putting God in the proper place.
So let's start now with taking time to think about what it is that we are ultimately created for and how to reach our ultimate happiness now and forever.
God is our Ultimate Good
Let's begin by taking a closer look at God and what we can know of Him to help us realize that the ultimate happiness we can have in this life and the next is nothing less than God Himself who is all-good. The purpose of this lesson is to help us to come to realize this to such an extent that we will decide, if we haven't already, to make God truly number one (#1) in our lives. Putting God first is the requirement (in fact it is God's first commandment) in order to have all the good things God wishes us to have, the chief among those being God Himself and everlasting life with Him now and forever.
Most of us have many distractions in life, but let's set all those things aside for a moment and recollect ourselves from all our other concerns. Let's really think about and ponder these ultimate questions of life starting with a thought from the Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena:
Man is placed above all creatures, and not beneath them, and he cannot be satisfied or content except in something greater than himself. Greater than himself there is nothing but Myself, the Eternal God. Therefore I alone can satisfy him... St. Catherine of Siena
In other words, what we are seeking and what we are made for, whether we fully realize it or not, is God. St. Catherine's dialog (in the quote above) with God the Father points out what is also stated in the Bible, that we were created by God and for God. One way to look at it is that God has created us with a space inside just for Him, like a hole inside of us, that only He can fill and nothing else can fill it. Whether we like it or not, we will never be satisfied with anything less than God to fill the "God-void" inside (as my husband calls it). We can try to fill the place in us that God created for Himself (and most of us have tried) with a spouse, money, career, excitement or even sinful things... And those might distract us for a moment but ultimately, even though some of these are legitimate parts of life, they cannot take God's place. Also all these things change and won't always be with us. For us to have the peace, joy and satisfaction in the lives God created us for, we need nothing less than God Himself as our #1 love and focus.
So let's take a look at just what that means. Perhaps God is already in our lives to a greater or lesser degree. We may believe God exists and pray to Him sometimes (especially when things aren't going well which is maybe why they aren't going well). We may go to church on Sundays and try to live a good life. Or perhaps we have been mostly focusing on ourselves, or careers, spouses, friends or even sinful things and haven't given much thought to God. Perhaps we have gotten off track and now is a time to get back on track.
What does God (who knows everything) tell us about how to achieve our ultimate purpose, happiness and eternal life? As our Creator, He has a lot to say and has told us through his dealings with humans throughout history, through his prophets in the Old Testament and through his son, Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Bible (Scripture) and through the truths handed down from the Apostles (Sacred Tradition).
Let's ponder for a moment what Jesus says about the place God should have in our life:
And Jesus answered him: The first commandment of all is, Hear, O Israel: the Lord thy God is one God. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength. This is the first commandment. And the second is like to it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is no other commandment greater than these. Mark 12:29-31
Jesus has told us in the above Bible passage that the main thing that is required, the greatest commandment, is to love God with our whole heart, whole soul and whole mind and whole strength. In other words, we are to put God in the number one spot in our lives... to make God the Lord of our lives. We will examine this idea more in depth as this is of utmost importance.
Lets consider HOW to get our priorities, minds and hearts in the right place...We are going to begin with taking a closer look at God and what we can know of Him. (to be continued in the rest of Lesson One).
(You have just read the first third of lesson one. At the end of each lesson are assignments and an online feedback form for you to share what you have learned with others in the class and for your comments and questions if any.)
Registration Fee: $28. To sign up for the "Seeking Union with God" Online Catholic Spiritual Formation Program, click on the "add to cart" button below, then submit your payment and wait a few seconds online until the class instructions appear. You will also be emailed the same instructions within a day or two. Thank you.