Minnesota-based author and speaker Kelly Wahlquist (Facebook photo, livestream snapshot from Saint Patrick Parish, the Catholic Community of Hudson, WI)
Catholic Herald Staff
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to inhibit in-person gatherings and challenge church leaders to use technology as a ministry tool. One of the upsides of this model is that content directed to a specific audience – for example, Catholic women – can be applied to a wider audience.
That is exactly the case with the women’s morning of reflection, sponsored by the Southwest Deanery’s Council of Catholic Women, which was held at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Hudson on Jan. 9.
Bridgette Adler, deanery CCW president and event organizer, shared that invited speaker Kelly Wahlquist was asked to speak about moving from the Christmas season into Ordinary Time.
Adler added that Wahlquist, founder of the women’s ministry WINE (Women In the New Evangelization), would be “reflecting on the feminine perspective of Mary through the Joyful Mysteries” of the rosary, as the recitation of the rosary was included in the schedule.
About 25 persons attended the event in-person, which maintained safety guidelines, with approximately the same number participating via livestream. The livestream video has so far been viewed almost 800 times.
Adler said she was going to watch the video even after having attended the event in person.
“Kelly’s message was so timely,” she said, “And she did an amazing job of delivering a lot of spiritual enrichment in a short amount of time.”
Wahlquist, a nationally known author and speaker, has been invited to speak at other women’s events, mostly in the western region of the Diocese of Superior. The mother of three lives in the Twin Cities area.
Spiritual food for all
Drawing from longstanding Catholic influences like St. Augustine and the Baltimore Catechism, Wahlquist connected with the ongoing experience of COVID-19’s challenges.
“It seems like a heavy time to talk about being joyful,” she said, acknowledging that she had had more quiet time to prepare for Christmas, “but it was different.”
“I felt restless and really wanted to be with the Lord,” Wahlquist recalled, harkening to St. Augustine’s oft-quoted idea of a heart being restless until it rests in God.
“We’re not made for this world,” she affirmed and tied in the well-known lines from the Baltimore Catechism of why God made human beings.
“To know him, to love him and to serve him on this earth, and to be happy with him forever in heaven,” Wahlquist stated.
She added that the joy of Christmas is the unfolding of God’s plan, which comes into the world and individual lives.
“He comes to us, and is always seeking us out,” she noted, emphasizing, “He uses absolutely everything he can to reel us in.”
Wahlquist introduced the primary content of her presentation with the acronym STOP – S for surrender, T for trust, O for one moment at a time and P for prayer – as a tested formula for moving from anxiety to peace, from the scattering and dividing attempts of the enemy of souls to the peace they long for which is found in wholeness.
Bible verses accompanied each concept. For surrender, Matthew 11:28-30. For trust, Proverbs 3:5-6. For one moment at a time, Luke 11:1-4. For prayer, 1 John 5:14-15.
The speaker described surrender as choosing God’s will over one’s own, giving over control to another.
Trust was spoken of as only really possible through a personal relationship with God.
“We have to know him, we have to have a relationship with him,” she said and asked how trusting relationships are built, with God or any other person.
Her answer was through spending time together, with Lectio Divina as a particularly effective tool for spending time with God in prayer.
Wahlquist gave Mary’s example of pondering all things in her heart as the way to live out focusing on one moment at a time.
“Pondering prayer isn’t wondering intellectually,” she said. Rather, it asks, “What does this mean in light of God’s will for my life?”
Again through the witness of personal experience, the speaker shared, “If we are present, we will be amazed and astonished” at all the God and Holy Spirit are carrying out, moment by moment, if one is only attuned to their presence and action.
Finally, prayer was defined with the words of St. Therese of Lisieux – the simple raising of the heart, a glance towards heaven in both trial and joy.
“Worry is a conversation you have with yourself about things you cannot change,” Wahlquist said, continuing, “Prayer is a conversation you have with God about things he can change.”
Parallels were made to connect the four topics to the five Joyful Mysteries, with the Virgin Mary held up at the primary example for living each out.
Wahlquist attested to the power of slow recitation of the Our Father and Hail Mary to expand her soul. She then transitioned to speaking about “a life-changing prayer” she had discovered in recent months.
The surrender novena
“Jesus, you take over,” Wahlquist concisely summarized the prayer of abandonment that has led her to peace these last months.
Describing a graphic a friend had shared, she related what would happen if a person was bumped while holding a cup of coffee.
Coffee would be spilled.
“Whatever is in your cup is what will spill over when life’s road bumps come,” Wahlquist explained.
“What is coming out of you when you hit the hard times in life?” she asked. “Joy? Bitterness? Anger?”
Wahlquist stated, “The human heart is made to surrender to the Lord, but the human psyche fears giving up control.”
She went on to explain that surrender, followed by taking a step back from the worries and concerns, “is where we find peace and joy.”
“The Surrender Novena” was composed by an Italian priest, Servant of God Fr. Dolindo Ruotolo. Known as the mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit, he was a contemporary of Padre Pio, who said of him, “The whole of paradise is in your soul.”
Don Dolindo Ruotolo lived in Naples, Italy, and died in 1970. His name itself – “Dolindo,” meaning “sorrow” – was prophetic. Fr. Dolindo suffered much and was completely paralyzed for the last 10 years of his life.
He called himself the “Madonna’s little old man,” and relied heavily on the rosary and Marian intercession in his own spiritual life.
Although he wrote volumes of theological and psychological commentary, the Surrender Novena, also known as “Jesus, You Take Over,” is the most well-known.
Written as if Jesus is speaking directly to the soul, it follows a traditional nine-day format, each day ending with the repetition of “O Jesus, I surrender myself to you, take care of everything!” 10 times.
Wahlquist has it posted to the WINE website at catholicvineyard.com under “Wine for You,” along with Don Dolindo’s simple Rosary of Abandonment.
More information on the priest can be found at dolindo.org.