Creating a Toolbox for Prayer

Posted by Kacie Emmerson

June 25, 2022


By Rita Puthenkalam, SCN

Part of the Toolbox for Prayer series

Download in PDF format

My earliest memory of prayer is mother’s short prayers to the Sacred Heart and Our Lady as she woke me up every morning. Our daily family prayer in the evening instilled into me that prayer puts one in touch with the Divine. My understanding of prayer was to say prayers, sing hymns to God and thus to spend time in the presence of God in the church or at home. Silence in between was restful and so was calming. But there was an inner yearning in me to want to understand more about prayer, how the contemplatives spent so much time in prayer… I tried reading books on prayer… my search continued.

Then one afternoon, out of boredom, I searched for a book to entertain myself, and my eyes fell upon a book titled Vipassana. I didn’t know the meaning of vipassana. Now I know vipassana means “to see things as they really are.” It is one of India’s most ancient meditation techniques rediscovered 2500 years ago by Gotama the Buddha, and is the essence of what he practiced and taught. Out of curiosity, I started reading the book and completed it in one sitting and hoped to get a chance to go through such an experience. When God wants one to do something, the whole world conspires to see that it gets done. And that is exactly what happened. Out of the blue, I heard that the formation personnel are going to Nepal for a Vipassana retreat. I lost no time to contact them to travel with them to Kathmandu for a Vipassana retreat.

Of all my prayer experiences, one that I treasure most and one that has helped me to deepen my understanding of prayer more than anything else was making this Vipassana retreat – a ten-day Buddhist rigorous meditation exercise of sitting still for almost ten hours a day, observing one’s breath and body sensations with short breaks in between. As one enters the place of retreat, all religious props like the Bible, rosary or, for that matter, all sorts of religious articles are taken away from you and kept for safe keeping for the ten days of Vipassana. No religious deity is invoked for assistance. Going through this for ten whole days was not easy, to say the least, but rewarding … the words of Jesus: “The truth shall make you free,” became alive for me! I was happy to get a method of prayer where I am just devoid of everything – just being empty and present before the Divine.

Questions for reflection:

What is prayer for me? How do I spend the time of prayer?
Am I happy with the way I spend my time in prayer?

Rita Puthenkalam, SCN is from Kerala, South
India. She made her first vows as a Sister of
Charity of Nazareth in December 1963. Besides
completing an MA in English literature, she has
also done some four years of Pastoral
Theology. Rita spent almost 15 years teaching
Scripture and the English language to SCN
formees at various levels of their formation. She
spent nine years working in collaboration with
the Jesuits in various fields: education, refugee
service, and conducting courses in pastoral
theology. She was the Coordinator of On-Going
Formation first in Patna and then in Bangalore
Provinces for fifteen years. Nurturing feminist
spirituality in religious women remains dear to her
heart. This is what urged her to compile and edit the SCN prayer book,
Contemplate the Heart of God for the use of SCNs of Patna and Bangalore
Provinces. At present, she resides in Snehalayam, where SCNs have St.
Vincent’s Higher Secondary School.

Want to read more from the Toolbox for Prayer series? Click the links below.

Creating a Toolbox for Prayer

As an Indian Christian Religious, the two wings of my prayer life are Biblical and Indian Spirituality. At home, we had everyday family prayer which included Rosary and reading from the Bible. I was responsible to conduct it. It was a vocal prayer that did not touch my heart though there was devotion to do it. After coming to the Congregation too, prayer was mostly a recitation of psalms and singing of songs. Though I was faithful to it there was not much impact on my life. Prayer was like an activity I had to do but I did not enjoy it or experience anything in my heart.

See No Stranger

This Toolbox for Prayer post is a video from Sister Chris Kunze. Sister Chris encourages us all to let our light shine and “see no stranger”. We must look beyond ones outward appearance, and instead see them as a sister or brother that we do not yet know. This allows us to open ourselves up to the possibility of connection, let go of the impulse to view others as different, and enables us to pay attention to others stories.

Feast day of St Louise De Marillac

Sisters in Pittsburgh, along with Caritas Support Services staff and a few VCS employees who work at St Louise Convent, gathered for a festive meal after the 11 AM mass held at the Sacred Heart Chapel on the May 9th feast day of St Louise De Marillac.

Creating a Toolbox for Prayer

Prayer is communication with the divine (Creator, Redeemer, Spirit), a
relationship, like our human relationships, that needs to be nurtured regularly. Just as in a human relationship we find different ways to build our relationships, so it is with the divine.

The Legacy of Mother Catherine Spalding

Catherine believed that God is truly present everywhere – in each person, in each circumstance of life she encountered. Through prayer and reflection she would discern, what is the loving thing to do here, right now? Then with confidence and faith she would daringly utilize all the various means at her disposal to accomplish the task that was before her and always with a gentle spirit and a loving heart.

The Rhythm of Contemplation

Rhythm is known as the repeated patterns of movement or sound while contemplation is known as deep reflective thoughts that form who we are as a person. We each have a rhythm of life and how we contemplate. The rhythm of who we are flows out of us every day. As I stop to contemplate, I have come to realize that my way of contemplation is a rhythm of loving.

Latest issue of ‘The Journey’

The second volume of The Journey Magazine for 2022 will be hitting mailboxes soon and is available to read online.

What Leads me to God?

A quick and easy answer to this all important question, “What leads me to God?” might be, “Everything!” That answer bears much truth in it. Plunging more deeply, however, reveals places and happenings, situations and persons who bring God front and center into my life. It could be a beautiful tree, an imposing mountain, a peaceful, winding river, the discovery of a poem, a passage from Scripture, being alert and finding God wherever the divine may be waiting for me. Places would be where Eucharist dwells and where I sit to pray. The places where I find the beauties of nature bring God right to me. A fragile flower, a singing bird, a lovely cloud call out the Creator’s name.

Using Prose as a Stepping Stone into my Prayer Time with God

I often use my prose that I produce as a creative writer, as a stepping-stone into my prayer time with God.

Praying with Vincent de Paul

Vincent de Paul was a French priest of the 17th century whose legacy continues to this day in all who seek to live the Charism of Charity. In his early days as a priest, Vincent was challenged to discover the true meaning of his life and vocation.
Vincent was an intelligent person, a naturally gifted teacher, and well educated. Vincent was open to and often sought the counsel of others. Through the events of his personal life, his experiences as a priest, his encounters with the poor and
needy, and his openness to the grace of God, Vincent came to recognize the Providence of God leading him as his driving force.


  1. Liz Wendeln

    Thank you Rita for continuing to open us to the awareness of the mystery of God .

  2. Christine Beckett

    Rita, thank you for sharing your experience of prayer, especially the practice of Vipassana. It touched me deeply. Many blessings of peace and stillness.

  3. Name *Joel

    Rita, thank you for bringing to our awareness the ‘ almost forgotten’ Vipassana, one many of us used to practice!!

  4. Maggie Cooper

    Rita, this Is a wonderful article and a interesting one. What an experience of discipline!! Thanks so much for sharing!


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