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Rhythm of Knitting Invites Reflection, Prayer

For years, knitting was something grandmothers did while sitting in rockers drinking cups of tea and recollecting stories from days long gone by. In the mid-part of this decade, however, knitting suddenly became "the" thing to do, with commuters pulling out yarn and needles on the Metro and co-workers proudly comparing rows of self-crafted monotone scarves.
Knitting claims a myriad of benefits, from stimulating the brain to lowering blood pressure to, according to Suzanne Harker, founder of Trinity Shawls and a program called Knit-to-Pray, connecting with God through reflection and prayer.
Through knitting, "God is blessing us in silence and love," Harker wrote in the Knit-to-Pray Prayer Guide. "It is our time to be present in loving silence to God who nurtures our minds, bodies, hearts and souls."
Here's how it works. Knit-to-Pray offers three different shawls: The Annunciation (feast day March 25), The Visit (May 31) and The Nativity (Dec. 25). Each piece offers a choice between two color palettes - fall to winter or winter to spring. For example, The Annunciation winter to spring pattern crosses "Mary's blue and God's purest white" to invoke "the brightness and light of spring." Each shawl is accompanied by a Gospel reading, a Gospel reflection and reflection questions, and the kit comes with Aussie wool, bamboo knitting needles, an instructional guide to knitting and praying, and a sizing chart.
"Knitting becomes prayer when we let the rhythm of knitting, a repeat pattern, move our mind and heart into a place of quiet recollection in the presence of God," Harker wrote. "By reading the Scripture slowly before beginning our Knit-to-Pray shawl experience, we will focus ourselves on God and move into prayerful reflection."
Harker, who attends Mass at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, is a trained spiritual director and a veteran of retreat ministry. She developed the Knit-to-Pray ministry six months ago after a year of "intense prayer." She prayed about the colors, related each one carefully to their Scripture readings, and created the patterns in multiples of three to represent the Trinity. Her first series of shawls has a Marian theme, but her next series, this time with four shawl patterns, will focus on Martha and Mary.
Harker is not alone in her praying-while-knitting venture. Members of churches of varying faiths across the country regularly come together to knit during centering prayer or while praying for healing.
Praying while counting stitches and keeping track of rows might be easy for an experienced knitter, but what about for the beginner?
Harker said that in the beginning even an advanced knitter would have to pay close attention to the knitting patterns in order to become comfortable enough to pray while piecing together the wool. But, she said, she created the shawls to consist of four to eight rows that repeat themselves.
"As (the knitters) go on and they repeat that part three to four times it becomes easier," Harker said. "It becomes a rhythm."
Opportunity for prayer is not finished when the wool runs out, Harker said. Instead, the idea is that the knitter wraps him or herself in the completed shawl, take a few deep breaths and cozily turn to the Lord with a "quiet prayerful heart." For more information on Knit-to-Pray go to www.trinityshawls.com. Gretchen R. Crowe can be reached at gcrowe@catholicherald.com.

Copyright ?2007 Arlington Catholic Herald, Inc. All rights reserved.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2007