A delightful surprise awaited me at St. Ann’s Parish in Bethany Beach, Delaware last week. While camping at Delaware Seashore State Park, I searched for local daily Masses on the MassTimes app. Nearby, I found St. Ann’s Catholic Church, a parish that serves visitors and locals. A simple structure built in the 1970s, the church pews radiate from a central sanctuary at the front of the church. Colorful abstract glass windows adorn the clapboard walls.
After Mass, a large number of ladies stayed to pray together. As is my custom, I lingered to pray as well. On my way out, one of them introduced herself and invited me to come to the first meeting that year of their Sodality.
“What is a Sodality?” I asked. “It’s a group devoted to Our Lady that prays and does service projects,” she answered. Together we walked over to the hall adjacent to the church and she introduced me to some other members.
There, approximately forty ladies of all ages gathered for coffee and breakfast. During presentations by the Sodality prefect and officers, I learned that Father John Leunis started Sodality in the 1500s by creating altars in classrooms as a devotion to the Virgin Mary. The Sodalist Way of Life outlined on a handout provided at the meeting teaches daily practices to improve its members spiritual lives. Like that of many other church ministries and movements, this way of life includes prayer throughout the day.
Each morning, members thank God for another opportunity to praise Him and live out His Gospel message. They pray acts of faith, hope, and charity and recite the Rosary daily, if possible. Next, they recommend fifteen minutes a day of spiritual reading such as the Bible or Lives of the Saints. At some point, during the day, members are urged to spend five to fifteen minutes in contemplative prayer to converse with God and journal the mysteries that unfold.
In addition, members participate in daily Mass, if possible, or make a short visit to the Blessed Sacrament if they are near a church. Finally, at the close of each day, they examine their consciences and say a “Prayer of Daily Neglect.”
This prayer has three verses that encourage a thorough examination of conscience, covering wrongdoing as well as the omission of opportunities to do good. First, it begins by requesting forgiveness of sins committed that day: “Eternal Father, I offer you, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, with all its Love, all its Sufferings and all its Merits to expiate all the sins I have committed this day and during all my life.” Through the offering of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the second verse seeks “To purify the good I have done poorly this day and during all my life.” Again with reference to Jesus’ love, sufferings, and merits, the third verse asks “To supply for the good I ought to have done, and that I have neglected this day and during all my life.” The familiar prayer “Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be” follows each verse.
Beyond their daily lives, the Sodality members strive for frequent confession, a retreat at least once a year, and consecration as a “Soldier for Mary” in May. Finally, they are urged to join their sisters in Christ (the Sodality) in apostolic works and acts of charity.
This particular Sodality focuses its community service on support for the Dover Air Force Base United Service Organization (USO). Dover is where our fallen military heroes come home. The Honor Guard of the Sodality lines aisles at funerals with votive candles. Members collect items requested by the USO for men and women in uniform. They wear red on Friday to Remember Everyone Deployed.
In addition, the Sodality collects new books to wrap and give as gifts twice a year to children at local elementary schools. A “Sunshine” ministry allows people who are ill to receive a card and a little note letting them know of prayers for their health. The group also creates Valentines for local Emergency Medical Technicians.
I noticed that the Sodality had speakers arranged for most meetings but not this one. The ladies at my table enjoyed the brief stories I shared about life on the road and asked if I would speak to the group sometime. Inspired by their generous spirit, I volunteered to say a few words impromptu. One introduced me to the prefect and we chatted, plus I handed her a copy of my book. Delighted, she invited me to the podium after the meeting presentations. So, I shared my testimony. Just like the women of the Sodality, I live out faith in my daily life, albeit in different circumstances. As sisters in Christ, we can encourage one another.
Thus, meeting these faith-filled women of St. Ann’s Bethany Beach parish was a blessing. Often the Holy Spirit surprises me with such unexpected blessings! Be open to the Spirit’s promptings in your daily life. He yearns to share such blessings with all those willing to receive them.