Scripture study helps people walk more closely with God

Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org

Letting go of angry feelings isn't easy.

The Cornerstone Catholic Scripture Study branch at Annunziata Parish recently reflected on anger through a story out of Genesis in which Joseph, a son of Jacob, managed his anger after spending 13 years as a slave and prisoner after being sold by his brothers.

A member of the study group referred to a homilist's story about a boy who had his hand stuck in a vase with a narrow center. After the vase was broken to free the boy's hand, it was noticed that he was making a fist in order to hold onto a quarter. If he had let go, he could have slipped out of the vase with ease.

The homilist's point -- letting go of bad feelings brings freedom -- led the speaker to realize that she had to let go of a situation and replace anger with forgiveness.

Cornerstone seeks to foster a love of God through familiarity with Scripture, to develop or enhance prayer life and provide an experience with others on a journey of faith.

Participants in the Scripture study note how it has brought them peace and joy and has made a difference in how they relate to God, family and friends.

Pat Leahy of Immacolata Parish, who meets with the Mary Queen of Peace branch, said she found it difficult talking with God one on one, but since attending Cornerstone realized "He is our friend. Jesus walks by our side. I am growing more comfortable in that shared prayer and talking to God one on one."

In this Year of Faith, Cornerstone is seen as a way to evangelize. It strives to be authentically Catholic in all its material, often citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Cornerstone members are given a common set of study questions focusing on a Scripture passage. Typically they complete each day's lesson of study, prayer and reflection in about 15-20 minutes. At gatherings each week they come together for prayer, a song and informal talk, then break off in small groups to share their answers to the questions. They then gather in one group for a spiritual reflection.

Afterward, members are given a commentary that includes historical and theological background on the passage. The commentary authors have included Father Paul Niemann, pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in St. Ann; Msgr. Greg Mikesch, vice-rector for formation and director of pre-theology at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary; and Father Alfred McBride, author and expert on the catechism. This year the commentaries were written by Lawrence DiPaolo, associate dean of the University of St. Thomas School of Theology at St. Mary's Seminary in Houston.

The commentary provides background and knowledge about Scripture. "Our goal is to get people to fall in love with the Word of God," said Sharon Hartman of St. Peter Parish in Kirkwood. She meets with the group at Mary Queen of Peace Parish in Webster Groves.

Kay Sullivan, who meets with the Annunziata group and is a member of Mary Queen of Peace Parish, noted that in the small groups "people pray for each other and get to know each other in a really deep level" -- from the inside out or "at the heart level."

The questions have no wrong answers, Sullivan noted, and whatever is shared stays confidential.

In an example of a small group discussion on the Genesis story of Joseph, participants discussed how it related to the challenge of having absolute trust; the need to be grateful to God; humility, patience and postponing personal gain; the mystery of God's ways; and more.

Studying the Bible has not always been a common Catholic experience, so Cornerstone fills a need.

Cornerstone strives to create warmth and community, said Mary Ellen Voss of Holy Infant Parish in Ballwin, who meets at Mary Queen of Peace. "We're not coming in as robots but are acting as brothers and sisters to each other," Voss said, pointing out the support system that exists and the spiritual enrichment that occurs.

Typical comments about Cornerstone range from "It enables me to achieve a balance in my life in the midst of my busy-ness" to "It has changed my life."

Marilou Wilson, who attends the branch at Annunziata, said "I have been attending Cornerstone for about 10 years and have grown to love studying Scripture and think that in this Year of Faith more people may appreciate this type of Bible study format."

While there is a serious side with prayer and sharing of joys and struggles, there's always laughter as well, Wilson noted.

Cornerstone started in the early 1980s with a small group in the St. Louis area who had attended a nondenominational Protestant Bible study but missed their Catholic traditions and theology. With spiritual guidance from a local priest, they began a small group that now has 16 branches in six states and more than 1,000 participants.

What is Cornerstone?

The Cornerstone Scripture study is a Catholic Bible study that strives to build, strengthen and deepen a personal relationship with God and His people through prayer and the study of His Word.

Cornerstone has four interwoven study approaches:

• Questions for personal Scripture study each week

• Small-group sharing

• Spiritual reflection with relevant personal application

• Commentaries written by Catholic theologians

Cornerstone welcomes people of all faiths, ages and genders. Branches are throughout the United States and meet in the daytime or evening. In the St. Louis area, there are five branches that meet at several parishes - Annunziata in Ladue, Mary Mother of the Church in south St. Louis County, Mary Queen of Peace in Webster Groves, St. Cletus in St. Charles and St. Monica in Creve Coeur. The Scripture study begins each year in September and concludes in April.

For information see www.thecornerstonescripturestudy.org, emal thecornerstonescripturestudy@yahoo.com or call Jan at (314) 822-2935. 

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