Week 10 beginning January 31, 2021

  1. Opening Prayer: Heavenly Father, as we prepare to see Simeon and Anna welcome the Christ Child in the temple, let us open our hearts to a visit from our King. We ask fro the grace to truly welcome Christ into our hearts and to make his love the center of our lives. In Jesus' name, Amen.
  2. Group Check-in: A burden and a blessing from each person, and/or one place you saw God this week (go around in a circle).
  3. Watch the video for Oriens Bible Study WEEK 10
    1. This past week focused on light and darkness.
    2. I share a little about my 30 day retreat experience, which help to inspire Oriens. I am grateful for the work of the Institute for Priestly Formation and am donating all my royalties to them.
    3. I talk about how men need a relationship with God just as much as women but aren't often as aware of that need as women are.
    4. I posted Oriens Prayer Outlines so you can continue praying.
    5. Two thoughts for continuing your prayer time.
      1. Use the outlines above and pray your way through Mark's Gospel, starting in the first chapter after Sunday's reading (Mark 1:29 and following).
      2. Use the outlines above and pray with the daily readings from the USCCB.ORG website.
    6. I just submitted the manuscript for Oriens 2021 so plan to pray with that for Advent 2021.
  4. Open discussion as time allows. Group leader should write some questions during the video to prompt discussion. Suggested questions:
    1. What was your favorite or most moving prayer time this past week?
    2. What has been the biggest blessing?
    3. What kind of spiritual growth have you experienced? How is your prayer/faith/life different now than it was at the start of Advent?
    4. Would you recommend Oriens to a friend? Would you do it again next year?
    5. How do you plan to continue prayer after the Oriens pilgrimage ends?
  5. Group leader should close with a prayer. Ask your group if anyone has any prayer intentions. Then pray for them from your heart and conclude with an Our Father all together.


Week 9 beginning January 24, 2021

  1. Opening Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gift of your son Jesus, the Light of the World. May his light scatter the darkness in our hearts and fill us with peace. We pray that we might shine brightly as lights in the world and give light to those in darkness. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
  2. Group Check-in: A burden and a blessing from each person, and/or one place you saw God this week (go around in a circle).
  3. Watch the video for Oriens Bible Study WEEK 9
    1. This past week focused on the theme of the Lamb of God. Many people were struck by the faith Abraham had to be willing to offer is only son. Then to realize that God the Father did exactly that when Jesus died on the cross.
    2. If God sent us a burning bush, would we have the faith to say yes? Some participants offer that we are called to give our yes in the moments of our daily life. The little yeses prepare us for something big.
    3. We realize that all the Old Testament saints failed and messed up at some point. And that everyone, even Mary, was afraid at first.
    4. I will be posting some prayer outlines later this week so look for them as a way of continuing your prayer after February 2nd.
    5. This week we will focus on the the light of the world. Let us continue to shine with God's love in our daily lives.
  4. Open discussion as time allows. Group leader should write some questions during the video to prompt discussion. Suggested questions:
    1. What was your favorite or most moving prayer time this past week?
    2. What has God been telling you?
    3. What has God been inviting you to?
    4. Do you find yourself struggling with the daily prayer time, or has it become a more consistent habit?
    5. How do you plan to continue prayer after the Oriens pilgrimage ends?
  5. Group leader should close with a prayer. Ask your group if anyone has any prayer intentions. Then pray for them from your heart and conclude with an Our Father all together.

Week 8 beginning January 17, 2021

  1. Opening Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank you for calling us to be disciples of Jesus. Help us to be a light in the darkness. Give us the grace to wonder more deeply at the gift of human life, to cherish every human person, and to more deeply appreciate the love with which the Lamb of God laid down his precious life for us. In Jesus' name, amen.
  2. Group Check-in: A burden and a blessing from each person, and/or one place you saw God this week (go around in a circle).
  3. Watch the video for Oriens Bible Study WEEK 8
    1. Oriens continues for two more weeks. You might want to start preparing for how you will continue that prayer time after Oriens. There are suggestions on page 267 of your book.
    2. This past week focused on the call of Jesus. I hope you experienced his call in a new way.
    3. As you have received, so you must give. The Spirit of God may have asked you to walk with someone and help them through something difficult. I really encourage you to listen carefully and then direct them to Jesus by prayerfully leading them through Relational Prayer (ARRR).
    4. This week we will focus on the Lamb of God. I encourage you to go listen to my Easter homily: This Blood Donor Stopped a Pandemic. to help set the stage.
  4. Open discussion as time allows. Group leader should write some questions during the video to prompt discussion. Suggested questions:
    1. How did you experience the call of Jesus this past week?
    2. How did you respond to that call?
    3. What was your favorite prayer time, passage, or experience this past week?
    4. Have you felt called to share the love of God with people who are struggling? When or how?
    5. Any suggestions for Fr. Joel on how to improve the book for next year?
  5. Group leader should close with a prayer. Ask your group if anyone has any prayer intentions. Then pray for them from your heart and conclude with an Our Father all together.

Week 7 beginning January 10, 2021

  1. Opening Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gifts and blessings of our Christmas season. As we move into Ordinary Time, open our eyes to your presence in our daily life. Help us to see each moment in the light of our Savior Jesus Christ. Help us to hear his voice calling us to, "Come, follow me." Bless our prayer time and give us the grace to pray each day. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
  2. Group Check-in: A burden and a blessing from each person, and/or one place you saw God this week (go around in a circle).
  3. Watch the video for Oriens Bible Study WEEK 7
    1. Oriens continues for three more weeks. Tracy mentions that it was easy to see God at the birth of her children or when she visited a nature preserve. But it's not so easy to see God in your everyday life.
    2. This prompted a discussion about seeing God in your everyday life. Many people mentioned seeing God in their children or grandchildren. Some find waking up each day to be a miracle they are grateful for. One mentioned being able to see God even in the tragic death of her daughter.
    3. This is the point of Oriens continuing through January. You've been looking for Jesus during Advent and Christmas, times when it might be easier to see his presence. Now you keep looking for him in the ordinary experiences of everyday life. Hopefully you are more attuned to his presence and notice that presence a little more clearly.
  4. Open discussion as time allows. Group leader should write some questions during the video to prompt discussion. Suggested questions:
    1. Did you bless your home for Epiphany?
    2. Have you taken down all the Christmas decorations or did you leave some up yet?
    3. What was your favorite prayer time, passage, or experience this past week?
    4. Did you find new meaning in the Baptism of the Lord?
    5. This week we will focus on Jesus calling his disciples. What do you desire to receive during this next week of Oriens?
  5. Group leader should close with a prayer. Ask your group if anyone has any prayer intentions. Then pray for them from your heart and conclude with an Our Father all together.


Week 6 beginning January 4, 2021

Small Group Outline for Week 6

  1. Opening Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gift of your son, Jesus Christ. We thank you for the blessings of this Christmas season. We pray for a deeper sense of what it means to be your beloved children. Help us to rest in your love for us and allow that love to fill our hearts. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
  2. Group Check-in: A burden and a blessing from each person, and/or one place you saw God this week (go around in a circle).
  3. Watch the video for Oriens Bible Study WEEK 6
    1. Are you praying more or less now? A lot of people are excited for the January portion of Oriens, either to get back into prayer or to continue.
    2. Some have found journaling to be really helpful to pull out the meaning of each prayer.
    3. Remember that quality time with the Lord is the most important part of the prayer. Savor the opening time of your prayer.
    4. Don't forget to bless your home for Epiphany!
  4. Open discussion as time allows. Group leader should write some questions during the video to prompt discussion. Suggested questions:
    1. How has Oriens blessed you? How has Christmas looked different?
    2. What is an image of God's love that has really spoken to you?
    3. How can you continue to savor that image and live in God's love?
    4. What are you hoping for as the journey continues?
    5. Take that time to focus on gratitude at the beginning and the end of your prayer.
  5. Group leader should close with a prayer. Ask your group if anyone has any prayer intentions. Then pray for them from your heart and conclude with an Our Father all together.

Week 5 Beginning December 27, 2020

Small Group Outline for Week 5

  1. Opening Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gift of your son, Jesus Christ. We thank you for the blessings of this Christmas season. We pray for a deeper sense of peace and joy in the birth of Jesus, and we pray that his light will shine in the dark corners of our hearts and our world. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
  2. Group Check-in: A burden and a blessing from each person, and/or one place you saw God this week (go around in a circle).
  3. Watch the video for Oriens Bible Study WEEK 5
    1. Fr. Joel polls the group on how they have been doing (4.a below).
    2. If Advent didn't go as well as you had hoped, what did you find yourself focusing on when you should have been focusing on prayer? How can you use this lesson to focus more on what is important?
    3. A participant asks about how to respond to a situation of darkness. Some suggest gratitude. Sometimes we receive blessings only to turn around and have to share them, or are taught a lesson we will immediately need to put into practice.
    4. The Feast of the Epiphany is coming up. You're encouraged to bless your home on this date. You might plan head for a gathering on Sunday or on January 6th.
    5. As always, keep praying. God has more he wants to give you!
  4. Open discussion as time allows. Group leader should write some questions during the video to prompt discussion. Suggested questions:
    1. How did your last week go? Were you able to keep praying each day, missed a day, just read the scriptures, or nothing at all?
    2. Let's look back to page 23 and the desires you had at the beginning of Advent. As you now know what God had in mind for your Christmas, how were those desires fulfilled?
    3. Where have you found yourself struggling the most?
    4. What were some unexpected Christmas blessings?
    5. How does this Christmas look different as a result of your participation in Oriens?
  5. Group leader should close with a prayer. Ask your group if anyone has any prayer intentions. Then pray for them from your heart and conclude with an Our Father all together.

Week 4 - December 20, 2020

Thoughts from Fr. Joel

This past week we focused on Imaginative Prayer. At first this prayer for can feel like building imaginary worlds in your head. But keep in mind that it is meant to be a springboard for conversation. The imagination can help to disconnect us a little bit from your chair in your corner in your busy house. That can then become an opportunity to connect with the deeper reality of Jesus present with you right now in your prayer time. At the end of the imaginative prayer, spend time having a personal conversation with Jesus (or Mary, or God the Father).

My experience was once you get into it and let things unfold, something would 'pop' and that would be the little gift for your prayer time that day. People reported that having a set prayer space or 'prayer chair' was immensely helpful. Others are finding they enjoy praying when they wake up in the middle of the night.

Now we are preparing to enter into the final Christmas countdown, the nine days until Christmas that start with the famous genealogy of Jesus from Matthew's Gospel. Even though it's a busy time of year, keep up the praying. At the very least, try to read the scripture each day. Don't expect too much at Christmas Day itself. You might have a beautiful and blessed moment that day. But remember that we are on a pilgrimage and the journey continues. God still has more to give you!

Small Group Outline for Week 4

  1. Opening Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for accompanying us through challenging times. Help us to trust every more deeply in your loving presence, in your power to overcome obstacles. Help us to draw close to you that the difficulties and struggles that we face are opportunities to grow closer to you. Help us to open our hearts to the King who became man to save us from sin and death. Help us to know more deeply the presence of Emmanuel, God with us. Amen.
  2. Group Check-in: A burden and a blessing from each person, and/or one place you saw God this week (go around in a circle).
  3. Watch the video for Oriens Bible Study WEEK 4
  4. Open discussion as time allows. Group leader should write some questions during the video to prompt discussion. Suggested questions:
    1. Did you enjoy Imaginative Prayer, or did you find it more challenging?
    2. What was your favorite Gospel or your best prayer time this week?
    3. God doesn't stop talking when we stop praying. Where else did you encounter God?
    4. What are you excited about, or nervous for, as we get closer to Christmas?
  5. Group leader should close with a prayer. Ask your group if anyone has any prayer intentions. Then pray for them from your heart and conclude with an Our Father all together.

Week 3

Thoughts from Fr. Joel

This past week was focused on Relational prayer (ARRR). You may have struggled a little bit. Many people get stuck on the Receive part. Once you have Acknowledged and Related your problems, shift your attention from your problems to Jesus. How does he look at you, what is in his heart for you, want does he want to give you?

God doesn't stop talking just because we ended our prayer time. Stay on the lookout for little moments when God will surprise you with his love, his tenderness, his presence, and the answer to your prayers. In your prayer time, try to just be with God. We often get frustrated when we put expectations on how our prayer time *should* be going.

This week we are shifting into Imaginative Prayer. This form is unique to St. Ignatius of Loyola. Some people love it; some people struggle with it. Again, just look for some little gift from God. Don't try too hard to 'make it work.' In a similar way, don't be disappointed if you don't get a big 'aha' moment on Christmas day. God ultimately wants to give you a relationship that will be with you always. Be open to the joyful surprises of his love.

Small Group Outline for Week 3

  1. Opening Prayer: Heavenly Father, as we experience your love for us, we realize you have put in motion a plan to rescue us from sin and draw us closer to yourself. Help us to feel ourselves as your lost sheep and to be patient as we await the Good Shepherd. Deepen our desire for the coming of Christ and our confidence that you will renew all things in Him. Bless our conversation today and draw us closer to the heart of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
  2. Group Check-in: A burden and a blessing from each person, and/or one place you saw God this week (go around in a circle).
  3. Watch the video for Oriens Bible Study WEEK 3
  4. Open discussion as time allows. Group leader should write some questions during the video to prompt discussion. Suggested questions:
    1. Have you settled on a consistent prayer place and time? When are you best able to pray?
    2. How did you find ARRR prayer? Did you enjoy it, or was it challenging?
    3. Some of the participants today talk about how they experience God more outside of prayer time than inside. Where and how have you experienced God this past week?
    4. How has God surprised you with little moments of his life, his presence, his care?
    5. What have you found most challenging or frustrating this past week?
  5. Group leader should close with a prayer. Ask your group if anyone has any prayer intentions. Then pray for them from your heart and conclude with an Our Father all together.

Week 2

Thoughts from Fr. Joel

Some of you may be just joining us. If you missed a whole week, read the introduction and then the section on Lectio Divina p. 21. Then skip ahead to the Week Two section on Relational Prayer (ARRR) p. 47. Then pick up on the particular day that is today.

Save that image of God's love, p. 42. We will keep returning to it at the beginning of every prayer time. This helps us begin with gratitude. Remember that we should end prayer with gratitude. The goal is a personal conversation (see the bottom of p. 11), not getting nice notes into your journal (p. 34).

Small Group Outline for Week 2

  1. Opening Prayer: Creator God, we thank you for surrounding us with a world full of marvel and mystery. Above all we thank you for creating us out of love and for love. We realize that we have been given the opportunity to choose life or death. We pray for the grace to understand the pain of separation from you and thereby experience a deeper longing for you. Amen.
  2. Group Check-in: A burden and a blessing from each person, and/or one place you saw God this week (go around in a circle).
  3. Watch the video for Oriens: A Pilgrimage Through Advent and Christmas Bible Study Week 2
  4. Open discussion as time allows. Group leader should write some questions during the video to prompt discussion. Suggested questions:
    1. Where did you find evidence of God's love in creation this week?
    2. Was there one particular image or experience of God's love that really spoke to you?
    3. Did you find journaling to be more enjoyable or more challenging?
    4. Did you discover any obstacles to prayer? How did you overcome them, or did they get the best of you?
    5. When were you best able to pray.
  5. Group leader should close with a prayer. Ask your group if anyone has any prayer intentions. Then pray for them from your heart and conclude with an Our Father all together.

Week 1

Thoughts from Fr. Joel

Week One of Oriens focuses on Lectio Divina. See page 21 of the book for an introduction to this prayer form and the grace for the week. Below is a suggested outline for using Oriens in a small group discussion. A couple of links:

Register here for the 10-week virtual Bible study: https://bit.ly/2K1DQOx

Did your book not come yet? Download the first week of Oriens. The book is sold out at OSV but may still be available on Amazon and at your local Catholic bookstore.

Small Group Outline for Week 1

  1. Opening Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for creating the world. Thank you for filling it with life. Thank you for all the things that live and move and have their being. Help us to wonder anew at the marvel, mystery, and miracle of your Creation. Open our eyes to the mystery of your love all around us. Bless our meeting today and our Advent journey this week. Amen.
  2. Group Check-in: Share one burden or one blessing from your prayer time this week. (go around in a circle).
  3. Watch the video for this week: Oriens Week 1 with Fr. Joel Sember
  4. Open discussion as time allows. Group leader should write some questions during the video to prompt discussion. Suggested questions:
    a. What one thing did you hear today that resonated with you?
    b. Do you find yourself focusing more on the Incarnation (Christmas) or the Resurrection of Jesus (Easter)? What difference would it make?
    c. Do you have a designated prayer space? Do you have a designated prayer time?
    d. How do you deal with distractions?
    e. What do you desire to receive during this Advent pilgrimage?
  5. Group leader should close with a prayer. Perhaps inviting others to lift up prayer intentions. Then conclude with an Our Father.